How about NOW?
Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku
Adenrele Sonariwo and Emmanuel Iduma, and commissioned by Godwin Obaseki (Governor of Edo State)
Scoletta dei Tiraoro e Battiori, Campo San Stae, Santa Croce 2059
How about NOW ?
Nigeria is participating for the first time to the Art Biennale in Venice. Three contemporary Nigerian artists, Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku, have been selected to show their unique works. 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 Pavilion will host the works of some of Nigeria’s most prominent contemporary artists. The platform offers us a great opportunity to re-establish our national pride and develop a more positive narrative for the country by showcasing our unique art and rich cultural heritage to the world. The declared aim of the Nigerian Pavilion is to reflect on the question of NOW, and of narratives firmly rooted in the present. The presentation by the artists expands an understanding of Nigerian contemporary life through installations, painting, and performance.”
Adenrele Sonariwo, curator
Victor Ehikhamenor was born in Udomi-Uwessan, Edo State, Nigeria. He is an award winning visual artist, writer and photographer. He lives in Nigeria and the US. He draws influences from traditional African motifs and cosmology. He has held numerous solo art exhibitions. His poetry collection, Sordid Rituals was published in 2002.
“For me, The Guggenheim Experience has to be one of the greatest attractions in the city of Venice. The Peggy Guggenheim museum offers visitors a rare opportunity to appreciate a vast collection of European and American art of the 20th century. For every true art lover, this is one experience you don’t want to miss!”
Peju Alatise is a mixed-medium artist. She has a degree in architecture and is also a skilled poet and writer with several novels in publication. Alatise has practiced as a studio artist for over thirteen years and has addressed several social, political and gender issues as the subject matter. Her works have also captured the joys and pains of womanhood as experienced in modern-life-African traditions with their consequences. Her subject matter has evolved with her continued experiences moving her focus from advocating the equal rights of women to politics and philosophical inclination. Alatise has held several solo exhibitions and her works are in private and institutional collections around the world.
“The best thing about Venice, for me, is that whenever I get lost (which is all the time) I discover beautiful things at every turn. Without a doubt, it is one of the world’s most beautiful cities.“
Qudus Onikeku creates movement identity that fuses dance and acrobatics. He makes the Yoruba traditional culture his basis, combining it with several other influences such as the guiding philosophies of hip hop, capoeira, and contemporary dance, to weave a certain understanding of the human condition.
“As a performance artist, your best works come from a place deep inside, and nothing elicits such strong emotions as nature itself. I love Venice for its beautiful islands and sandy beaches making it an ideal destination to relax and pleasure the senses.”
The Scoletta dell’Arte dei Tiraoro e Battioro was the home of the guild of artists and makers of gold thread and gold leaf. It is located next to the church of Sant’Eustachio, known as San Stae, and dates from 1711. With only 48 members, the guild was rather small and had to close its doors on the eve of the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1798. In 1807, with the Napoleonic edicts and the introduction of the land register, the Scoletta became state property. It was later acquired by a famous Venetian antiques dealer whose family still owns it today.
Viva Arte Viva
In line with the ‘Unpacking my library’ project of La Biennale di Venezia, the books which inspire the Nigerian artists the most are ‘Essays’ by James Baldwin (Victor Ehikhamenor), ‘The Book of Embraces’ by Eduardo Galeano (Peju Alatise) and ‘The Man Died’ by Professor Wole Soyinka (Qudus Onikeku).
The Nigerian artists will participate in the ‘Tavola Aperta’ (Open Table) project where artists and visitors will have a casual lunch together to discuss the artist’s work. You can attend this lunch on July 5, next to the central pavilion in Giardini. Reservations are required. They have also created a video for the ‘Artists Practices Project’.
If you want to know more about the Art Biennale 2017 and the other national participations, this overview page is a good starting point or you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Art Biennale 2017′. If you want to be informed about new pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: Peju Alatise – Flying Girls – 2017 – Photo Courtesy: Peju Alatise)
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