“Home’s Horizons” by Fatimah Tuggar at The Davis Museum

*Review of Fatimah Tuggar: Home’s Horizons, at The Davis Museum, Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA through December 15, 2019

Eccentricity is an undeniable factor in Fatimah Tuggar’s art. Her most renowned pieces are visually dissonant. Like the inkjet-on-vinyl photomontages Voguish Vista and Lady and the Maid, where she juxtaposes cherry-picked images from the past and the present (the lo-fi and hi-res, understated and glam, the rural and the scenic) in order to confront matters of globalization, unrest, societal roles and the inquisition of what technological advances really entail for humanity. Such as in Robo Entertains, a robot with a Mona Lisa smile is the server of a traditional African gathering.

“Lady and the Maid” (2000) by Fatimah Tuggar

These artworks are a part of Tuggar’s biggest solo exhibition yet, Home’s Horizons, at the Davis Museum. Assistant curator Amanda Gilvin chose to focus on Tuggar’s collages, and along with the commissioned augmented reality project Deep Blue Wells, Home’s Horizons is accompanied by a monograph, a first for the artist.

Divided into six sections, most of the iconoclastically repurposed art has a uniquely African vantage point and a neutral-colored palette. Minus, the bolder installations of Fan-Fan, Broom and the splicing of vintage videos.

Then there’s Fai-Fain Gramophone created in tribute to a woman’s musicianship, workmanship, and clever hacks as it is a crocheted raffia disk that (from an obscured MP3) plays the music of late Hausa singer Barmani Choge (1945-2013). The record’s also in defiance of what’s been reduced to “world music” in the West, a term Tuggar disdains.
“What does ‘world music’ even mean?” she asked with a laugh. “It’s as if there’s everybody else and then there’s ‘Western music’!”

Noticeably, Tuggar has fandom for music and pop art aestheticism. But states to rarely looking at other art while creating. “I try to focus on what I’m trying to communicate.”

Richard Hamilton’s “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?”, from 1956, is the one piece of pop art I immediately thought of as I viewed Tuggar’s artwork.

And while there is a high sense of blackness in her art, for Tuggar, born in Nigeria, she feels that when appraising a woman’s work, and biology and identity are noted, there’s a fine line between genuine acknowledgment and disturbing fixation.

“There is an exoticization of me when you mention my gender, ethnicity and [then] that I’m an artist,” she said. “I’ve earned being an artist regardless of being a woman and what color I am.”

Reviewed and written by C. Shardae Jobson

*The review above is the draft I submitted for publication in the November/December 2019 issue of Art New England‘s The Photography Issue. As what commonly happens to journalists and writers everywhere, sometimes the version that is circulated to readers is not what the writer intended. In the second to last paragraph, I made a specific edit out of courtesy and respect for the artist, Fatimah Tuggar, whose work I reviewed. What I believe happened here was that my review got looked at one last look by a copy-editor and 90% of the time, they have no connection to your assignment and unaware of the heart behind it. 
Tuggar is referred to as a “Nigerian-born” artist, in the final copy I submitted, I made the following GoogleDoc comment as I had changed that part from “Nigerian-born artist” to “born in Nigeria”: “And in mentioning that Tuggar is Nigerian, I prefer that it is mentioned here, out of respect for the quote she offers and that is featured in the review. To me, it would just be dismissive and contradictory to introduce her as a Nigerian artist, when later on she gave interesting insight on how that tends to only happen to women of color artists.” – CSJ

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