It is a great honor and privilege to announce Nigeria's first National
participation in the Venice Biennale’s 57th edition, themed Viva Arte
The Venice Biennale is the oldest cultural biennale, started in 1895 and
has gone to become one of the most prestigious large-scale art
exhibitions, with countries officially represented by their pavilions. Every
odd year, Venice becomes the world capital of contemporary art. However, from time, there has been a lack of representation of the.
African ccontinent at the Venice Biennale, even currently only 7
African countries out of 54 will be represented with national pavilions
perseverance, Through our impactful presence, we hope unrepresented countries understand and will begin to place resources
in promoting and celebrating our community of contemporary artists
who are thriving globally.
We express our gratitude to the Edo State Governor, H.E Gov. Godwin
Obaseki who commissioned the Nigerian pavilion in Venice and we
also thank the project’s partners who have embrace its synergistic
approach, knowing that collaborating and creating new opportunities
will add tremendous value to the art scene in Nigeria and Africa.
The Nigerian Pavilion is themed 'How About Now' and will be curated
by Adenrele Sonariwo and Emmanuel Iduma. Representing artists
include: Visual Artists: Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and
Performance Artist, Qudus Onikeku. Which I will allow my collegues to
speak about in greater detail.
So not to go on forever, I would like thank the members of our Steering
Committee (some of who are present with us today) who we owe a lot
of gratitude for bringing us so far in this jouney . Again thank you to our
Sponsors, donors and the Project team.
The exhibition previews on the 10th of May, opens to the public on 13th
of May and runs till the end of November.
Once Again, Welcome to Nigeria in Venice.
-Wunika Mukan – Project Manager
It is my pleasure to curate this exhibition as the lead curator. Emmanuel Iduma – MFA Art Criticism and Writing, School of Visual Arts in NY and also a faculty me
How About Now?
At the 57th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, 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. Their work seeks to use the narrative of the present to interrogate the minefield of societal consciousness in addressing aspects of identity and belonging as it relates to and confronts our past and future.
How We Selected the Artists
We did our research and realized that countries have various approaches in determining who participates on behalf of their respective countries.
We took a cue from the British Pavilion which has participated since 1907. The curatorial team nominated the artists, accomplished artists of repute both locally and abroad, who are able to deliver an exhibition worthy of Nigeria’s first showing.
Paraguay and Tuvalu pavilions also select using this process.
We looked at the artists CV, their track record, where the are career-wise and also how well they can respond and execute on the curatorial direction “How About NOW”?
The Nigerian Pavilion will feature an exhibition of installations and performance, developed by 2 visual artists and 1 performance artist.
Ehikhamenor presents a large-scale work 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.” The installation pays homage to those that came before, their contributions to the art world, from the classicists to the modernists
Alatise presents an installation of eight winged life-size girls, 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, who belongs to no one but herself, and can fly. “Flying Girls” addresses the injustice of the present, but through a vision of a safer imaginary, especially for little girls.
We also felt it important to tell a multi-layered story in the form of performance art
And Qudus Onikeku will showcase a trilogy of performance films, presented as an investigation through dance of the workings of body memory and its connection to national consciousness. exhibited as a triptych—of engagement, of contemplation, and of poetry. “Right Here, Right Now” will provide a window through which time could be altered for a brief moment.
Ultimately, the artists see their work as an immediate conversation with Nigerian time—a time dictated by a colonial past, but also refracted through the lens of what is imaginable besides that.
Since this is an exhibition for visual art, why has a performance artist been included?
We believe strongly that art is not just one thing, and even in the larger sense, the Curator of the Biennale Christine Macel selected a performance artist from here in Nigeria to participate in the Biennale
· Nigeria’s modernist era, spanning the pre- and postcolonial, has shaped the production and circulation of art.
-Adenrele Sonariwo – Lead Curator
Ade Adekola – Steering Committee
“I am here as a spokesperson for the steering committee helping to orchestrate and bring fought to concrete reality Nigeria’s participation at this year 57th Venice Biennale.
“It will be the first-time Nigeria will participate in the Arts Biennale however, what we are all certain of is: this year’s participation will herald a new dawn for Nigerian arts and contemporary culture. It will also make the participation in subsequent Biennales that much more realisable and achievable.
“It is with a spirit of opening opportunities; standing firmly and solemnly behind the vows of the National Pledge; at the vanguard of a roadmap to a bright future of National participation in international contemporary arts events, that I stand here before you.
“On behalf of the steering committee it is my pleasure to let you know that Nigeria fulfilled the conditions of participation in this year’s Venice Biennale and has officially been invited to participate.
“Our participation is spearheaded by a great team, many working behind the scenes; on the organisation, fund-raising, project management, curatorial and production sides. The team have given tirelessly of their time and energies to make this project a tangible reality.
“Ladies and gentlemen; Nigeria will be represented at this year’s 57th edition of the Venice Biennale; we are going to Venice!”
Exhibition Statement / Press Statement
Presenting the multidisciplinary practices of three contemporary Nigerian artists, 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, Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise, and Qudus Onikeku respond to the multifaceted way in which Nigerian contemporaneity may be conceived.
How About Now? evokes “now” as a term that encompasses a range of ideological possibilities, and which implies the new, modern, contemporary, and/or postcolonial. This pavilion is a framework for these possibilities—making a connection between the featured works of art and the milieu in which Nigerian artists work, and linking artistic imagination to the continuum of experience and complexity of national identity.
This exhibition features new and recent work by the three artists. Ehikhamenor (b. 1970) presents a large-scale work fusing abstract shapes with traditional sculpture, informed by an investment in classical Benin art and the effect of colonialism on cultural heritage. Alatise (b. 1975) presents an installation of eight winged life-size girls, 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, who belongs to no one but herself, and can fly. The installation is a concise meditation on the nature of survival, here connoting a defiant journey into the imagination. Onikeku (b. 1984) showcases a trilogy of dance films, presented as an investigation through dance of the workings of body memory and its connection to national consciousness.
The Nigerian pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale is curated by Adenrele Sonariwo and Emmanuel Iduma, and commissioned by Godwin Obaseki (Edo State Governor), with the support of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
Exhibiting Artists’ Profiles
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.
MFA, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA (2008)
MSc, Technology Management, University Of Maryland, University College, Maryland, USA (2004)
BA – English and Literature, Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Nigeria (1991)
selected solo exhibitions:
2012 “Crossing the Line” Bloom Gallery, Lagos
2011 “Entrances & Exits: In search of not forgetting, CCA, Lagos Nigeria
2011 “Artist Experience” Whitespace, Ikoyi Lagos
2010 “Roforofo Fight: Painting to Fela’s Music” Bloom Gallery, Lagos Nigeria
2009 “Mirrors and Mirages” Terra Kulture, Lagos, Nigeria
2008 “Invasion of Privacy” Jennings Gallery, Washington, D.C
2007 “Rocks & Roses” Victoria Crown Plaza, Lagos, Nigeria.
2007 “Labyrinth of Memories” Didi Museum, Lagos, Nigeria.
2006 “Beyond The River” Grenada Embassy, Washington, D.C.
2005 “Body Language” Utopia Art/Grill, Washington, D.C.
2005 “Divine Intervention” Howard University A J Blackburn Center Gallery, Washington, D.C.
2005 “Talking Walls” BB&T Bank, NW Washington, D.C.
2004 “Memories: 2Griot” JoySmith Gallery, Memphis, TN
2004 “Songs and Stories: Moonlight Delight” Utopia Gallery, “Discovering the gods” Monroe Gallery, Arts Club of Washington, D.C.
2000 “Spirits In Dialogue” The Brazilian-American Cultural Institute Gallery, Washington, D.C.
2000 “Beyond The Surface” Utopia Art/Grill, Washington, D.C.
Selected group exhibitions
2008 “Black Creativity” Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL
2007 “Rhythms & Blues” Sarah Silberman Gallery, Montgomery College, MD
2004 “Memories: 2Griot” JoySmith Gallery, Memphis, TN
2003 “Symbols and Metaphors” Underwood Studio, Chevy Chase, MD
2002 Home of African Concepts Gallery, Kent, WA
2001 Patuxent Art League Members Juried Show, Laurel, MD
2001 “Same Tree, Different Roots” Howard University AJ Blackburn Center Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1999 National Geographic Society Staff Show, Washington D.C.
2008 Leon Forrest Africana Scholar Award
2006 Familiar Streets Writing Contest Award - Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival, Washington, DC.
2003 Highly Commended Award for “The Supreme Command”, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, London, UK
2000 1st Place, Arts Club of Washington Juried Exhibition. Juror, Dr. Kimberly A. Jones, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
1999 Finalist for “Palace Dwellers” The Artist’s Magazine Art Competition
Selected Published Works
2010 “A Picture From Ireland” AGNI magazine, Boston University, USA
2008 “Of Money, Friends, and Greed” Hodder Publishers, UK
2008 “Riding Monkey With Pako” Per Contra magazine, USA
2008 “Passport to Heaven” Farafina Magazine, Lagos, Nigeria
2007 “Glory Halleluya” and “Woman in Trance” Stylus Magazine, University of Maryland, University College
2006 “Who Will Bury the Dead” Wasafiri Magazine, University of London, UK
2006 “Echoes From the Valley” NTA Documentary, Nigeria and USA
2003 “The Supreme Command” CBA London, UK “Between The Muse and Love of Fatherland” Daily Independent, Lagos Nigeria. “Homeland in the Eyes of an Exile” Guardian Newspaper, Lagos Nigeria. Multicultural Ethnic Festival, (poetry performance) Dan Hague, Netherlands.
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. Peju 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. Peju has held several solo exhibitions and her works are in private and institutional collections around the world.
BA ARCHITECTURE Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Oyo State,
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2016 PRELUDES, PRETEXT AND PRESUMPTIONS (Kia Showroom, Lagos)
2015 LOST (NEST Gallery, Geneva)
2014 1:54 CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART- FAIR (Somerset House, London)
2013 CASABLANCA BIENNIAL 2014 (Ifitry residency, Essaouira)
2013 WRAPTURE: A STORY OF CLOTH Art Twenty-One, Lagos.
2012 MATERIAL WITNESS Nike Art Gallery, Lagos.
Selected Group Exhibitions
2015 Red Door Gallery
2014: Next Fifty Years: Contemporary Nigerian Art Omenka Gallery
Qudus creates movement identity that fuses dance and acrobatics. He makes my 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.
Ecole nationale Superieur des arts du cirque
2014. "MADhouse," Lagos
2014. "EXILE REMIXED", Southbank Centre London,
2013. Creation of «QADDISH» Festival D'avignon 2013.
2013. Creation of «FLASH» University of California Davis.
2011 – 2012. Was commissioned by Festival d’Avignon and SACD to create « STILL / life » for Festival d’Avignon 2011
2011. Creation of «KADDISH» Torino Danza 2011.
2011. Creation of « we Dance we Pray » Vuyani Dance Theatre – Johannesburg.
2009 – 2012. Creation and touring of « My Exile is in My head » at Le CENTQUATRE in Paris.
2009. Creation of « I must set Forth » at the Bates College – Maine USA
2007. « Do we need Cola-Cola to dance? » Documentary film
2004 – 2006. « Lost Face », toured in Nigeria, Republic of Benin, France and the Dominican Republic.
Group dance projects
2012 till date. Dancer in Levée des Conflit choreographed by Boris Charmatz with various tours in Europe, US and Canada.
2011. Dancer in BABEL choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Followed by a European tour.
2004 till date. Dancer in the works of Heddy Maalem, notably in Black spring The Rite of spring and MAIS LE DIABLE MARCHE A NOS COTE
with several tours in Africa, Europe and in USA.
2009. Participated in the creation of 20e/Premiere, under the direction of George Lavaudent and choreographed by Jean Claude Galotta, the
piece toured in France and in Latin America.
2001 – 2003. Participated in the creations and toured Nigeria, Madagascar, Croatia, Germany and the UK with Alajota Dance Company, in
ONIDUNDUN and ILE. Choreographed by Christopher Abdul Yisa Onibasa
2013. Visiting Professor (Grenada Artist in Residence) at the school of Theatre and Dance. University of Califonia - Davis.
2012. The New Choreographic Talent in France, at the 2012 Prix SACD - The French author's society.
2012. Associate Artiste. MODUL DANCE, a multi-annual cooperation project between 23 European dance-houses from 15 countries.
2012. Associate Artiste ESSONNES DANSE FESTIVAL 2012.
2011. Nominee TED Global fellow, a program designed to bring together young world-changers and trailblazers who have shown unusual
accomplishment and exceptional courage.
2011. Artist in residence, Vuyani Dance Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2010. Nominee Young Person Of The Year at the FUTURE AWARDS 2010.
2010. Artist in residence, at Le CENTQUATRE Paris, an artistic establishment of the city of Paris.
2010. Laureate, Danse L’Afrique Danse prize, an Africa-wide contemporary dance competition.
2009. The Dancer Of The Year at the FUTURE AWARDS 2009, an honorary award for outstanding young Nigerians.
2009. Artist in residence at Bates College - Maine USA.
2008. Youth in Action Grant Award, a European Union honorary program for Youth Initiatives.
2007. Grant Award from the Prince Clause funds of the Netherlands.
2007. Envie d'Agir and DEFI Jeune Grant Awards, an honorary program of the Region of Champagne Ardennes.France.
2006. Full time study Scholarship at the Ecole nationale Superieur des arts du cirque by the French Embassy in Abuja.
2005. The Most Outstanding Dancer Of The Year on the occasion of the Ivory Ambassador’s anniversary award. Lagos.
2002. The Best Acrobatic And Stunt Dancer Curlarts Dance Award on the occasion of the CURLARTS DANCE MEET 2002. Lagos. Nigeria.
2001. Artist in residence with the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture Nigeria.
2000. Best Dancer – Surulere Local Government award on the occasion of the SURUFEST 2000. Lagos. Nigeria.