UW-Madison launches inaugural First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts and Education Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Madison, Wis. – The Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI), housed in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement (DDEEA) is excited to partner with the Division of the Arts to launch a postdoctoral fellowship program that recruits and retains diverse, talented, and highly qualified post-doctoral fellows across arts disciplines. Tehan Ketema is the inaugural First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts and Education Postdoctoral Research Fellow (“FW Fellow”) in the Art Department, working with faculty mentor Professor Faisal Abdu’Allah, Ph.D. (Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art, Department of Art; Associate Dean for the Arts in the School of Education).


“We are fortunate to have Tehan Ketema,” shares Professor Abdu’Allah, “an artist and scholar versed in the respective mediums of photography and printmaking. Her work explores the territory of immersion and invisibility with a visceral tension, addressing the need for societal change. This inaugural fellowship will be the catalyst to educate, mentor and solicit an environment of inquiry in the arts.”


The First Wave Fellowship is a new initiative of OMAI following years of sponsoring postdoctoral fellows in the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing: First Wave Poetry Fellows (Natasha Oladokun (MFA: Hollins U), 2018-20; Xandria Phillips (MFA: Virginia Tech) 2019-20; Jari Bradley (MFA: U. of Pittsburgh), 2020-21). The poetry fellows were responsible for developing their own creative research and projects, as well as part-time instruction and mentorship of undergraduate First Wave Scholars. After a two-year hiatus, OMAI is elated to re-imagine its postdoctoral support for the arts at UW in partnership with the Division of the Arts, by launching a fellowship program that will rotate to various departments in the arts every two years – beginning with Tehan Ketema in the Art Department.


Ketema is an interdisciplinary artist and educator from the Bay Area, CA. Her work explores the formation of new media archives and their impact on understanding history, territory, and identity. In her practice and research, she pulls from the intersections of her experiences as an Eritrean American. Tehan is an undergraduate alum of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a member of First Wave’s 8th cohort, where she received a Bachelor’s of Life Sciences and Communications with certificates in Studio Art Photography and Digital Studies. She received her Masters of Fine Arts in Photography, Video, and Imaging from the University of Arizona. Tehan’s work has been exhibited and published internationally; this includes the Kampala Art Biennial, The UCLA New Wight Biennial, and the 2023 Arizona Biennial.


Pictured: Tehan Ketema in front of her work Untitled (▯▯▯▯), 2022, (video, 6:28 minutes); Photo Credit: Photographer Julius Schlosburg (instagram: @catsphotoshoot).


“I am so thrilled to be the inaugural First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts and Education Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Art Department,” Tehan shared, “It means so much to be able to come back and work with a community that has been incredibly impactful to me and pivotal to my artistic development. I’m really looking forward to my commitment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the next two years and being immersed in the art that is happening in the city.”


Dr. Raul Leon, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Scholarship Programs in DDEEA, who oversees OMAI as part of the scholarship portfolio shared: “Empowering the arts through multidisciplinary partnerships is the type of strategy that DDEEA seeks to continue to support. We are dedicated to collaborating with individual departments, making sustainable commitments that connect institutional pillars such as teaching, research, and service. We look forward to supporting vital engagement opportunities for students, faculty, and staff at UW-Madison.”


“It is OMAI’s mission to nourish, recruit, retain, enrich, support and platform academics, arts, and activism at UW-Madison,” shares OMAI Director Sofía Snow, “the inaugural FW Fellowship is adding a new dimension to OMAI’s scope of work on campus: providing infrastructure and funding to support and/or initiate postdoctoral programs in academic departments. We are honored that the DDEEA, Division of the Arts, and Art Department were willing to partner in this capacity – bringing an incredible talent, Tehan Ketema, back to our campus.”


“A post-doc in the arts and creative practice is a groundbreaking initiative that invites a broad range of approaches with the potential to diversify arts in the academy,” stated Professor Chris Walker, Director of UW-Madison’s Division of the Arts, Professor in the Dance Department, and founding Faculty Artistic Director of OMAI 2007-2017 and 2019–2021, “We’re excited about this innovative partnership with the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives to invest in the next generation of multi-hyphenate artist scholars whose creative research lives at the intersection of Hip Hop and future studies of the arts in the academy. They are by design interdisciplinary and collaborative.” 


Please join the Art Department, Division of the Arts, and the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives in welcoming Tehan Ketema to UW-Madison with a visit to her inaugural exhibition as the FW Fellow in the Backspace Gallery at the Art Lofts (Art Lofts Building, 111 North Frances Street, Madison, WI 53703) for the week of Mon, October 30 – Sat, November 4, 2023. During the week of her exhibition, there will be a special reception to meet the artist and learn about the aspirations and impact of the First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts and Education Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at UW-Madison. Please RSVP here to receive the reception date and time via email.