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Odhiambo Siangla (Fredrick Odhiambo Siangla), born in 1961, Kenyan Fine artist, Scholar and Educator. A visual artist who was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania and Temple University.
Life and art
Siangla was born in Gem, a political constituency located in Nyanza Province of Kenya. His father Apollo Siangla was a welding designer in Mombasa, while his mother, Rosebella, is a clay-pottery sculptor with a studio and furnace in the village of Ng’utmbaka. His grandfather, Opondo Owenga, was a well known traditional musician in the Benga tradition where visual communication and spoken word with Nyatiti instrument were used to educate Luo tradition and culture in Gem, an education that was meant to resist Westernization process during the colonial time.
Keeping the long term family tradition in Nyanza, his uncles and aunts would then excel in performing different kinds of musical arts and sciences. The family line of Anyango, therefore, has remained creative by being periodically revitalized in science as well as playing and teaching musical arts in the modern Kenya, more recently being active in mentoring at college level.
Siangla grew up with several brothers, sisters and cousins in the village of Marenyo Ng’utmbaka where he was noticed to demonstrate superior performance in his earlier studies, particularly in the field of fine arts. He is the younger brother of His most reverend Tobias Onyango Opondo of The Great Lake Diocese West, Episcopal Church of Africa. He is a also a brother of the late Photographer of Ochol Studio, Joab Hayogo Ndeda. Siangla is a cousin of Professor of Surgery G.A. Magoha, Vice-Chancellor of University of Nairobi and a cousin of Professor of Political Science, Alex Magoha of Texas, U.S.A.
In 1983, when raising funds for students to study in the United States, the late Shariff Nassir, a former minister for home affairs and representative of a constituency in Mombasa was surprised when he was presented with a highly artistic portrait of a renaissance quality that Siangla executed to the likeness.
Daily Nation reported incorrectly that Odhiambo Siangla was homeschooled in Mombasa, Kenya. While it is true that his mother and his father were both fine artists and were primarily his teachers both in Mombasa and in Gem, Siangla was known to have received formal education firstly at Jina Primary, then at Ramba High where he qualified and went on for advanced studies in science at Friends Kamusinga. He was noted for performing well in biology there at Kamusinga and in his first year was awarded a prize in biological science provincial competition. He would further go on with his education in the sciences to include investigations in the history of science.
Siangla’s home schooling that started earlier continued. It went further to be some more expanded, growing in different stages and often conducted specifically by his artistically talented parents. He was, in addition, homeschooled in the field of Mathematical Analysis and Calculus by a Ugandan professor, Anthony Mirimu. Mirimu worked with the young talented Siangla privately after Siangla had begun losing faith in the orientation of many of his Kenyan instructors.
He later said in his book, Conquering Space (2000),(see Sankofa Publication, Michigan) “without the intervention in my life by a Ugandan professor Mirimu, who carefully supervised me after my high school, I would not have been able to acquire the necessary mathematical language and logic, now enabling me to demonstrate that Gottfried Leibniz and Sir Isaac Newton did not invent calculus”.
After coming to the United States, Siangla attended Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He coordinated his studies with University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with honors from the academy going on to study art and architecture in England, Germany, Austria and France on Cresson Scholarship and came back to the United States.
He continued with his studies under a famous African American professor who encouraged him to write a PhD dissertation in education based on his ten year studies of a conference named after a historian from Senegal of which he successfully submitted. He would then focus his research on the nature of anthropology at Temple University. Siangla also studied philosophy of art in the The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museumin New York. He submitted to Cosmopolitan University on the Art of a Continent, shown in 1996, and again successfully defending a PhD in aesthetics on the e-gallery studies totally based on the archival work in aesthetics. Upon successful completion of his studies in philosophical aesthetics, Siangla taught aesthetics before accepting his current position as director of education with Pennsylvania Academic Support Services, PASS.
He accepted his first teaching position in America at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, Mercyhurst College in 1992. In 1993 he joined University of the Arts as a lecturer in Humanities. Later he taught African aesthetics as an adjunct professor at Temple University. He was a member of the National Afrocentric Institute 1995-1996. He presented the first of his series of lectures on the African Origin of Knowledge to the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, ASCAC, at the International House in Philadelphia, in 1996. He has been active in what he calls 'forensic epistemology', serving as a subject and being expert-witness in the anthropology department at Temple University by joining and studying their PhD program through action research. He is a co-developer of a popular educational organization, Charter School Services, CHSS, a leading academic support services in the Delaware Valley region.
Siangla taught mathematics and physics at Mombasa School in Kenya (1984-1985). He still mentors these subjects as a continued community service in the Church of the Atonement in Germantown, Philadelphia, U.S.A.
Siangla has been the recipient of numerous academy honors and awards. Among them are:
- Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship
- Samuel David Memorial Prize
- The Watkins Memorial Grants
- The Charles Toppan Prize
- The Thouron Prize
- The Mindel Caplan Kleinbard Award
- The Alexander Prize
- The William Emlen Cresson Memorial Traveling Scholarship.