The first commissioned artwork for the Ames Family Atrium, Ámà: The Gathering Place by Emeka Ogboh (Nigerian, b. 1977) is an installation integrating sound, sculpture, and textiles. As you listen to the music that migrates throughout the atrium, we invite to you to relax and consider your experience of this setting.
The work’s point of departure is the social role of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s atrium, used by visitors as a place for meeting and exchange, eating and drinking, working and relaxing. Ogboh describes the atrium as the “heart and soul of the museum,” and compares it to the ámà—or village square—the central force of Igbo life in southeast Nigeria where he was born. “Both sites,” Ogboh explains, “are contact zones, spaces of gathering and ritual activities in their respective settings.”
Ámà: The Gathering Place continues Ogboh’s multisensory approach to interpreting place, which is at the core of his art. Just as memories are not accurate records of the past, Ogboh’s installation does not faithfully re-create an Igbo village square in Cleveland, but rather imports its main elements for visitors to engage with an altogether different setting on the other side of the world. Mirroring the global scope of the CMA’s collection, Ámà: The Gathering Place offers you an immersive welcome.
In the Igbo ámà, music is performed both for entertainment and sacred ceremonies. At the CMA, new recordings of a choir singing Igbo folk songs fill the atrium. These 12 songs address universal human concerns such as relationships, triumphs, hope, beauty, and adversities. The songs are transmitted through multichannel speakers that Ogboh has arranged to create three distinct areas of sound—one in a circle of speakers in the atrium’s center, one beneath the large tree sculpture, and one among the bamboo trees. The music travels unpredictably from one zone to another; for a continuous listening experience, visitors are invited to physically follow the music.
A sculptural rendering of a tree anchors the work at the east end of the atrium and evokes the iroko tree found in the Igbo ámà.
Complementing the music, and sharing its source in Igbo folk traditions, regionally specific akwétè cloth—named after the Igbo community Akwétè—augments this project. One of West Africa’s oldest and most celebrated textile traditions, akwétè’s bold colors and striking patterns are worn on ceremonial and festive occasions. Maintaining its functional role, the akwétè in Ogboh’s project serves as bark on the tree and covers seating on which visitors can recline and listen. The patterns on display, created by Nigerian graphic designers and the weavers themselves, combine traditional patterns and contemporary designs.
AKWÉTÈ CLOTH WEAVERS
Rodah Ajiere, Leticia Akara, Chisom Amaechi, Eziuche Benson, Nne Brown, Comfort Chuta, Edna Chuta, Gladys Chuta, Ruth Chuta, Odinakachi Edward, Monica Ejioffor, Nwanyikanalu George, Nwobiara George, Chijindu Ibeh, Harriate Maduawuchi, Chimezie Ndubuisi, Ngozi Dan Nkwonta (coordinator), Nkechi Nwankwo, Ezinne Nwulu, Chinasa Obi, Ihuoma Obiakwa, Nwanyinna Okerenta, Ibiere Opiah, Chinyere Sopuruchi, Nwamara Ugochukwu
Uche Agbamegbue, Austinmary Ifunanya Eze, Kelechi Eze, Uchechukwu Eze, Justin Geller, Fernandez Muogbo, Jude Nwankwo (lead arranger), Nse Ukpe Udo, Michael Uzomah
Danlami Baba, Chinecherem Ezeonyenche, Uche Iwuala, Vivian Nwachukwu, Evangeline Nwankwo, Nnaemeka Nwokocha, Ugonna Okonkwo, Ezinne Okoye, Chukwuebuka Ozioko, Blaise Uwagu, Ifeanyi Uzoigwe, Michael Uzomah
Agence Clémence Farrell
To learn more about the production of the akwétè cloth used in Ámà: The Gathering Place, visit Emeka Ogboh: Akwétè on view in the Video Project Room (224B). Also visit gallery 108A featuring Ogboh’s Ties That Bind, a sound installation inspired by the CMA’s African art collection.