Harvard grad student Chrystel Oloukoï named inaugural Yamamoto Fellow

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Harvard Ph.D. candidate Chrystel Oloukoï has been awarded an inaugural Irene Yamamoto Arts Writers Fellowship for outstanding contributions to the art world. Oloukoï, who is completing a Ph.D. in African American Studies, is one of two emerging cultural critics of color who received the award this year.

Oloukoï is an art writer, researcher, artist, and curator interested in experimental moving image works, queer cinema, and Black continental and diasporic cinema. Their dissertation “Night/life: Maroon Ecologies of the Night in Lagos” and series of experimental short films titled “black nocturnal” explore imaginations of the night in Lagos and the afterlives of colonial technologies of temporal discipline. Oloukoï works across text and video essays, with a focus on moving image works that straddle a range of spaces — from the theater to the gallery to public spaces and the virtual. Their writing has appeared in Film Comment and Sight & Sound, and the journal World Records, among other places.

A rare funding opportunity for arts writers, the Yamamoto Fellowship was launched this year by the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum to encourage diverse cultural and political perspectives that enrich and broaden arts writing as a practice and profession.

“This unique fellowship recognizes that writers of color have knowledge and experiences that differ from dominant Eurocentric ones, and that their perspectives can give art produced by marginalized communities the depth of attention and consideration it deserves,” said Democracy Center Director James E. Herr. “By providing support to arts writers of color, this fellowship ensures that their voices and perspectives are heard and valued too.”

Fellows are selected by a panel of jurors, and receive a $5,000 award to support their work over a six-month period.

“This fellowship will help strengthen the portfolios of writers of color, expand the stories that are told about contemporary art created by marginalized communities, and broaden the scope of contemporary art nationwide,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum.