ARTentive: Nigeria debut’s at La Biennale di Venezia

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The Venice Arte Biennale, considered the world’s most prestigious art exhibition, had a new guest in its 57th year outing. Debuting on May 10, the Nigerian pavilion and exhibition titled ‘How About Now?’ is commissioned by the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the artists selected to represent Nigeria are Victor Ehikhamenor, peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku.

The theme ‘How About NOW?’ considers the notions of time and identity as the starting point for a reflection on the demands made by the present. Invoking themes of history, fantasy, and memory, alongside more fundamental concerns related to nationhood and self-awareness.

The artists respond to the multifaceted way in which Nigerian contemporaneity may be conceived. Each in their own way, they interpret ‘now’ as a term that encompasses a range of ideological possibilities, and which implies the new, modern, contemporary, and/or postcolonial.

Victor Ehikhamenor’s exhibition will comprise large-scale installations fusing abstract shapes with traditional sculpture, informed by an investment in classical Benin art and the effect of colonialism on cultural heritage. ‘The Biography of the Forgotten’ pays homage to those that came before and their contributions to the art world, from the classicists to the modernists.

Peju Alatise will present an installation of eight winged life-size girls. It is based on the story of a ten-year old girl who works as a housemaid in Lagos while dreaming of a realm where she is free, where she belongs to no one but herself, and where she can fly. ‘Flying Girls’ addresses the injustice of the present, but through a vision of a safer imaginary future, especially for little girls.

Qudus Onikeku will showcase a trilogy of performance films titled ‘Right Here, Right Now’. The trilogy is an investigation through dance of the workings of body memory and its connection to national consciousness. It will be a triptych of engagement, of contemplation, and of poetry. It will provide a window through which time could be altered for a brief moment.

The Nigerian Exhibition and Pavilion, which has received positive critical reviews from global art journals and magazines, is curated by art enthusiast and gallery owner, Adenrele Sonariwo. The associate curator is the critically acclaimed writer, Emmanuel Iduma. The exhibition is open until November 26th 2017.