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SOAS Professor receives award for best multi-authored book on African Arts

12 February 2014

Richard Fardon, Professor of West African Anthropology and Head of the Doctoral School at SOAS, University of London, has shared the Triennial Award for the best multi-authored book on African Arts published between 2011 and 2013 from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.

Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley (2011) is the catalogue of an exhibition that toured from UCLA, to the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, Stanford, and the Musée du quai Branly in Paris.

Together with Dr Marla Berns, Director of UCLA’s Fowler Museum, and Professor Sidney Kasfir of Emory University, Professor Fardon divided curatorial and editorial responsibility for this first survey of the entirety of the valley of the River Benue that runs through Central Nigeria.

The catalogue and the exhibition were reviewed in the USA as a revelatory experience, providing the public with insights into the arts of central Nigeria, which are relatively little known by comparison with those of southern Nigerian societies, like Benin, Yoruba, Igbo, or Kalabari.  

Professor Fardon commented: “Given their drama, as well as their importance to European modernism, the arts of central Nigeria deserve to be as familiar as any in West Africa. The book and exhibition have taken a quarter century to bring to fruition, and the ACASA award is a wonderful vindication of our work."

Along with the exhibition in Paris, the book, previously selected as the outstanding publication on non-Western art at FILAF 2012 in Perpignan, was also widely and positively reviewed in the French media. Jeune Afrique summed up its impact nicely: "There are revolutions that do not call themselves such."

More on Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley on the Fowler Museum at UCLA's website.