This year’s Oyekan Owomoyela lecture, “Semioptics of Yoruba Language: Word as Image”, delved into the confluence of spoken and visual word in Yoruba painting sculpture, installations, proverbs, tales and songs. Professor Moyo Okediji, professor of art and art history at the University of Texas, Austin, immersed the audience in an exploration of the Yoruba language as an articulation of visual expressions couched as sounds, and the Yoruba image as a thesaurus of oral artistry viewed as visual forms. Okediji’s photo and video interactions with artists, trauma survivors, diviners and others in the Yoruba community who “speak with their eyes and through which images are birthed in words” brought these concepts to vibrant life.
The March 6th presentation was the fourth annual in a series established in honor of Professor Oyekan Owomoyela, a noted Yoruba studies scholar and philanthropist. Owomoyela funds support academic and cultural activities focused on Yoruba culture in Western Nigeria and in other parts of West Africa, as well as throughout the Yoruba Diaspora in such places as the Bahia region of Brazil.
Moyo Okediji, professor of art and art history, is the first director of the Center for the Art of Africa and its Diasporas at the University of Texas, Austin. His books include The Shattered Gourd, and Western Frontiers of African Art. He was curator of African and Oceanic Arts at the Denver Art Museum, where he introduced modern and contemporary African art to the collection. A practicing artist, he has exhibited in Africa, Europe, and America.