Bayreuth. The Iwalewahaus mourns the loss of Georgina Beier, who died on July 11, 2021 in Sydney (Australia). In 1981 she and Ulli Beier founded the Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth as a meeting place for artists and works. Together they designed the profile of the house and gave it its programmatic name from the Yoruba: Iwalewa, character is beauty. Georgina Beier shaped both the content-related character of the house and its aesthetic orientation significantly - her ideas of artistic community and sensual access to art and culture determine the work of the Iwalewahaus to this day.
Georgina Beier was on friendly terms with many colleagues and maintained close contact with the house until her death. The team of the Iwalewahaus as well as long-time friends and companions in Bayreuth and the world say goodbye in gratitude to Georgina Beier, an impressive painter, graphic artist and sculptor. Our deepest condolences go to her family. In her memory we share an obituary from our colleague Katharina Greven, who spent a lot of time with Georgina Beier as part of her research.
Living together: In Memoriam Georgina Beier By Katharina Greven
Some people live with and in pictures, with the associated memories, emotions and people who have changed their own life and work and made it worth living. Georgina Beier was such a person. In her house in Sydney, the last station in her life, she surrounded herself with images that they associated with their time in Osogbo (Nigeria) and Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea). Her own work hung next to photographs showing her family, works of art next to everyday objects and handwritten notes. Community and participation in the broadest sense were important to her, in fact they were of central importance for her work and her self-image as an artist. The fact that this was only possible to a limited extent, if at all, in her last years strained her very much.
In 1959 the young British artist came to Zaria, in the north of Nigeria, ready to get involved in an art scene that was yet unfamiliar to her. In Osogbo, the place with which her name is usually associated, she found her place of belonging. There she married Ulli Beier and from 1964 to 1967 led a series of workshops that received international attention. She repeatedly rejected the dominant role attributed to her by art history, because for her these workshops were places of collaboration in which all those involved influenced each other and went on an artistic journey together. Her own works, which were created in the following years and show a change in her formal language, testify to this, as do long-term, deep friendships that she kept talking about, even in old age. In 1967 Georgina Beier moved with her family to Port Moresby, another place she longed for, with which she connected many memories and close friendships. In contrast to her husband Ulli Beier, she approached her surroundings in an all-encompassing sense. Smells, taste sensations, feeling the environment on the skin - all of this was part of Georgina's world of experience, which again and again included the community, her steadily growing family. Eating together, creating together, i.e. living together was essentiell for her, that she realized in the Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth from 1981 onwards. Not only here did she maintain close ties to the artists and was responsible for the sensual aspect of every exhibition, every encounter, every house in which the Beier family lived.
I met Georgina for the first time in Bayreuth in 2012 and visited her several times in Sydney in the years to come. I also helped her to pack her husband's photographic estate and her own archive on her career as an artist. Her stories around these images and the long nights on the veranda with a gin and tonic in hand I won't forget. She was a friend, an extraordinary artist and a contemporary witness. Now she has passed away, alone in a time when loneliness and social distance dominate. Her pictures will continue to accompany us and tell her story. I will miss her.
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The Iwalewahaus is part of the University of Bayreuth and is dedicated to contemporary artworks of visual and popular art from Africa, the African diaspora, Asia and the Pacific region. The Iwalewahaus collection includes over 12,000 works of art. It is the largest collection of contemporary African art in Europe. Exhibitions, lectures, films, conferences, parties, artist talks, artist residencies and workshops take place on 2,300m² (office space as well as exhibition and archive space).
Literally translated, Iwalewa means "character is beauty". Iwalewa is a Yoruba proverb spoken by one of the three major cultural groups in southwestern Nigeria.