56 editions after, Nigeria debuts at Venice Biennale

Wunika Mukan (Project Manager), Prince Yemisi Shyllon (Steering Committee Member), Adenrele Sonariwo (Lead Curator, Nigeria In Venice), Ike Chioke (Steering Committee Member), Femi Lijadu (Representative of Governor Godwin Obaseki, Commissioner, Nigeria In Venice), Kavita Chellaram (Steering Committee Member) Ade Adekola (Steering Committee Member)

Three talented Nigerian artists, Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku, have been selected to showcase their unique works centered on the theme “How About NOW?” at the 57th Venice Biennale.

Nigeria will also be making her debut at the world’s most prestigious contemporary visual art exhibition, which holds on May 13 in Venice, Italy.

The project manager of Nigeria in Venice, Wunika Mukan, disclosed this at a press conference held in Lagos on Friday.

In her speech, Ms Wunika said that Nigeria’s journey to the event, themed Viva Arte Viva, has been one of great perseverance in reference to the efforts it has cost the steering committee to realise the dream.

“Nigerian Pavilion is themed How About Now and will be curated by Adenrele Sonariwo and Emmanuel Iduma. Two visual artists, Victor Ehikhamenor and Peju Alatise, and performance artist, Qudus Onikeku, will represent Nigeria at the exhibition which previews on May 10, opens to the public on May 13 and runs till the end of November.

“I will like to acknowledge the support of the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, who commissioned the Nigerian pavilion in Venice, partners and the steering committee for “knowing that collaborating and creating new opportunities will add tremendous value to the art scene in Nigeria and Africa.”


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On how the three artists were selected, Miss Wunika said, “We did our research and realised 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. We looked at the artists’ CV, their track record, where they are career-wise and also how well they can respond and execute on the curatorial direction How About NOW?”

The lead curator,Adenrele Sonariwo, disclosed that the aim of the Nigerian Pavilion in Venice “is to reflect on the question of now, and of narratives firmly rooted in the present.”

The Nigerian Pavilion will feature an exhibition of installations and performance, developed by two visual artists and one performance artist.

Ehikhamenor will present “The Biography of the Forgotten,” 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, on her part, will present Flying Girls, an installation of eight winged life-size girls, based on the story of a 10-year-old girl, who works as a housemaid in Lagos while dreaming of a realm where she is free and can fly.

Onikeku will showcase Right Here, Right Now a trilogy of performance films, presented as an investigation through dance of the workings of body memory and its connection to national consciousness.


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On why performance art was included in Nigeria’s presentation, Mr. Sonariwo said, “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 [Jelili Atiku] from Nigeria to participate in the Biennale.”

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 continent at the Venice Biennale, currently only seven

African countries out of 54 will be represented with national pavilions at the Biennale.

The Nigerian pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale is curated by Adenrele Sonariwo and Emmanuel Iduma, and commissioned by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State with the support of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

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