Nigeria’s debut pavilion at the Venice Arte Biennale
How About Now?
Presenting the multidisciplinary practices of three contemporary Nigerian artists, How About Now? reflects on the notions of time and identity as the starting point for a consideration of the demands exerted by the present. Invoking themes of history, fantasy, and memory, alongside more fundamental concerns related to nationhood and self-awareness, Victor Ehikhamenor (b. 1970), Peju Alatise (b. 1975), and Qudus Onikeku (b. 1984), respond to the multifaceted way in which to conceive Nigerian contemporaneity.
How About Now? evokes a contemporariness that encompasses a range of ideological possibilities, and which implicates the past, new or modern, or the postcolonial. This pavilion takes into cognizance the above timeframes and makes a connection between the artworks featured and the milieu in which Nigerian artists work, while equally linking their artistic imaginations to the continuum of experience and complexities of our national identity.
Through the “now,” we reflect not only on our myths and histories but, equally, on how we choose to relay contemporary narratives in a fragmented, but interconnected, present. To hold time accountable for the present cannot be viewed without the notion of speed—the alacritous; an often-seismic manner in which Nigerian society has evolved. The dilemma of the contemporary is the dilemma of how history impacts the present. Requiring that we ask at what point, does Nigeria’s “now,” begin? In following this inquiry to consider the distinctive nature of Nigerian time and identity—through works of art that insist on elaborating, and tracking the elusive—we place our hopes on the visions of three artists.
A sense of the present always originates in the retrospective, necessarily in connection to the experience of the past. However, a sense of the present is equally prescient; we speak of the present in relation to our expectations for the future. Cognizant of this, How About Now? evokes the present as an avatar: making a recourse to history, and speculating on the future. Neither nostalgic nor escapist, we insist on thinking about Nigeria’s past and future to understand the interrelated nature of time.
Sculpture. Painting. Performance.
“The aim of the Nigerian pavilion is to reflect on the question of now and narratives firmly rooted in the present. The presentation by the artists expands understanding of Nigerian life through sculpture, installation and performance. Their work seeks to…interrogate the minefield of societal consciousness in addressing aspects of identity and belonging as it relates to and confronts our past and future.”
Adenrele Sonariwo, Curator.
The Nigerian Pavilion and its exhibiting artists are proud to announce that its debut participation for the Biennale Arte 2017 will be at one of Venice’s historic venues, erected in 1711.
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 erected right next to the Church of Sant’Eustachio, known as San Stae. The venue has a grand interior space, befitting of Nigeria’s inaugural exhibition in Venice and effortlessly carries the power of the works of all three artists showcasing sculpture, installation and performance.
Nigerian artists set to make history at the 57th Venice Biennale – the most important art exhibition in the world.
The world’s most prestigious and storied contemporary visual art exhibition, Venice Arte Biennale, now in its 57th edition, will welcome a new guest in 2017 – Nigeria.
It may come as a surprise to some that Nigeria, rich in artistic, cultural talent and productivity is just enjoying her debut on art’s biggest global stage. The world has long known, enjoyed and benefitted from our country’s artistic riches. Why else do old Benin empire artefacts sit in museums in Europe and in the Americas today? Why else do works by Nigerian artists sell in international auctions at record-breaking prices? Yet, there’s arguably no fitting reflection of our nation’s cultural progeny.
It is this reasoning that informs the curatorial direction of Nigeria’s inaugural showing and the artists selected to interpret same, aptly titled, ‘How About Now?’
Adenrele Sonariwo, the lead curator explained that “the 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”.
The Nigerian Pavilion will feature installations and performance, developed by two visual artists and one performance artist. The exhibiting artists are Victor Ehikhamenor, painter; Peju Alatise, sculptor; and Qudus Onikeku, dancer
Ehikhamenor will present 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. ‘A Biography of the Forgotten’ is the title of the installation, which pays homage to those that came before, their contributions to the art world, from the classicists to the modernists.
Alatise will present 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 future, especially for little girls.
Onikeku will showcase a trilogy of performance film 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.
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.
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.
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