Submitted on Tuesday, 8/3/2021, at 12:18 PM

In an interview for the Nigerian blog CompassNG, Abiodun, the John C. Newton Professor of the History of Art and Black Studies, discusses "new, holistic perspectives for the critical interpretation of African art as exemplified by the interrelationship of the visual and verbal arts among the Yorùbá of West Africa."

Abiodun talks about “the quintessential role of language in understanding and teaching Yorùbá art – in particular, the interdependence of the verbal and visual arts through oríkì.” He continues: "While oríkì has been generally translated as 'praise poetry' or 'citation poetry,' broadly speaking, all verbal and visual invocations qualify as oríkì in Yorùbá culture." He points out that colonialism and racism have caused scholars to "drift more towards studying African art solely through the colonizers’ languages ... [and] there is a real danger that Africa’s intellectual contributions through African languages to the study of art in the world might be lost forever." Therefore, in his own scholarship, he seeks to center oríkì and other African linguistics as a key to understanding African art.

Other topics addressed in the interview include  the 80-year-old professor’s upbringing among "artistically gifted relatives and knowledge practitioners"; his cultural education in many different Nigerian towns and cities; his teaching at the University of Ifẹ̀ starting in the 1980s; and his thoughts on Nigeria's "brain drain."