Kelechi Njoku was announced as one of the residents of the Kehinde Wiley founded Black Rock Residency in Dakar, Senegal on July 22, 2019.
Kehinde Wiley is a United States portrait painter who is known for his highly naturalistic paintings of black people. His most famous work is a portrait of President Barack Obama sitting in a chair seemingly floating among foliage for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
The artist recently decided to set up a multidisciplinary residency he called Black Rock Senegal for visual artists, filmmakers, photographers, writers and all the rest of them. The Black Rock Senegal property, which started operations in May 2019, includes a residence and studio space for Wiley along with three single-occupancy residency apartments with adjacent studio spaces.
The first residents were selected by the judging panel of artists Mickalene Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems; Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Christine Riding, head of the curatorial department at The National Gallery in London; Thomas Lax, curator of performance and media art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and Swizz Beatz, the artist, collector, and music producer.
The first cohort of the new residency from the disciplines of painting, photography, sculpture, textiles, writing, film and more from August 2019 and April 2020 are;
- Tunji Adeniyi-Jones (UK, Painting)
- Laurence Bonvin (Switzerland, Film)
- Sonya Clark (USA, Sculpture)
- Yagazie Emezi (Nigeria, Photography)
- Nona Faustine (USA, Photography)
- Devin B. Johnson (USA, Painting)
- Heather Jones (USA, Textiles)
- Grace Lynne (USA, Painting)
- Zanoxolo Sylvester Mqeku (South Africa, Sculpture)
- Kelechi Njoku (Nigeria, Writing)
- Chelsea Odufu (USA, Film)
- Kambui Olujimi (USA, Mixed Media)
- Zohra Opoku (Ghana, Mixed Media)
- Rafael RG (Brazil, Mixed Media)
- Tajh Rust (USA, Painting)
- Ytasha Womack (USA, Film)
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🖤💥🖤💥🖤💥🖤💥🖤💥🖤 CONGRATULATIONS to the inaugural class of Black Rock !! The 16 selected artists are : Tunji Adeniyi-Jones (@tunjiaj), Laurence Bonvin (@laurencebonvin ), Sonya Clark (@sysclark), Yagazie Emezi (@yagazieemezi), Nona Faustine (@nonafaustine), Devin B. Johnson (@devinbjohnson), Heather Jones (@heatherjonesstudio ), Grace Lynne (@bygracelynne), Zanoxolo Sylvester Mqeku (@sylver_art_constant), Kelechi Njoku, Chelsea Odufu, Kambui Olujimi (@kambuiolujimi), Zohra Opoku (@zohraopoku ), Rafael RG (@rafael.rg), Tajh Rust (@tajhrust) and Ytasha Womack (@ysolstar) 🖤 Thank you to our incredible committee of judges : Swizz Beatz(@therealswizzz); Thelma Golden(@thelmagolden); Thomas Lax (@thomaslax); Christine Riding; Mickalene Thomas (@mickalenethomas); Carrie Mae Weems (@carriemaeweems) 🖤 @blackrocksenegal @kehindewiley #dakar #blackrocksenegal #kehindewiley
Looking through this list, we couldn’t help but note a name that we are familiar with in Kelechi Njoku. Njoku is not a new name to followers of the African literary community having been on the shortlists for both the Commonwealth and Writivism short story prizes. We asked the Nigerian a few questions about being selected for this exciting new residency and this was what he had to share.
JM.com: Why did you apply for this residency?
Kelechi: I love the idea of having a residency that could easily have been set up anywhere else in the world brought to Africa, a continent that still struggles to support her artists well. And I want to be a part of that.
JM.com: How did you feel about being selected?
Kelechi: Stunned, as a matter of fact. It’s the first yes I’ve gotten with a residency, so this is quite special.
JM.com: What are you going to do during the residency?
Kelechi: Primarily, I’ll be completing the current draft of a novel. And then, follow up a bit on some early research and interviews I have done for a nonfiction book.
JM.com: How do you feel this residency will help you?
Kelechi: I’m going through a very busy period with my writing now and its direction. I need all the going-away time I can get to do the work.