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Night Flight of Dread and Delight (work of art)

Artwork Info

Created
1964
Nationality
Ethiopian
Birth/Death
1937-2003
Dimensions
56 5/8 x 62 5/8 inches (143.8 x 159.1 centimeters) Frame:
59 1/4 x 66 x 3 inches (150.5 x 167.6 x 7.6 centimeters)

Credit

Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

Object Number
98.6
Culture
Nigerian
Classification
Paintings
Department
Modern

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • Two winged, wide-eyed, brown animal figures, one with the face of a cat and the other with the face of an owl, rise upward in the center of this painting. The background is a dark sky filled with stars and overlapping layers of blue and brown geometric shapes and patterns that merge with the two animal forms.
  • This painting incorporates ideas of “afro-metaphysics,” a new type of Black spirituality from before Afrofuturism, a movement in art and literature that imagines a future for Africa and Black people, usually with technology and other sci-fi-like themes.
  • Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Armenian and Ethiopian parents. He studied in London and lived in Paris and Ethiopia before settling in the United States in 1972. 
  • Boghossian’s first-hand experience of African diaspora (the communities of people of African descent dispersed throughout the world as a result of the slave trade), European surrealism (an art movement exploring dreams), and Pan-Africanism (the movement for a unified African culture) influenced his work. 
  • Global influences such as Ethiopian scrolls, wall paintings, and European techniques also feature heavily in Boghossian’s work.

Learn More

Born in Ethiopia, Skunder Boghossian grew up immersed in the country’s tradition of Christian religious painting. That heritage was complicated and expanded by the artist’s years studying art in London and Paris, where he was exposed to surrealism and its fascination with dreams and metamorphosis. Night Flight of Dread and Delight, which Boghossian painted in Paris, reveals this influence.

Like many surrealist works, the painting was inspired by literature, in this case the novels of Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola. Tutuola’s books tell stories of spirit beings, supernatural forces, and mystical transformations. Boghossian’s work was influenced by his family background, European modernism, and the Pan-African movement, which encouraged African artists to be inspired by the creativity of the entire continent.

tags: constellation, animals, meaning, place, subjectivity, stars

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Images

  • An oil painting featuring two winged, wide-eyed, brown animal figures, one with the face of a cat and the other with the face of an owl. The background is a dark sky filled with stars and overlapping layers of blue and brown geometric shapes and patterns that merge with the two animal forms.

    Night Flight of Dread and Delight