Nigeria makes history as she debuts her National participation in La Biennale di Venezia- Venice Biennale – for the first time since 1895. This year the 57th edition themed Viva Arte Viva translating to Long Live Art hosts the Nigerian Pavilion in an 18th-century building that once housed the Venice’s gold thread and gold leaf guild, located in Scoletta dei Tiraoro e Battioro, San Stae, Santa Croce 2059.
The Nigerian Pavilion exhibition called ‘How About Now?’ features the works of Victor Ehikhamenor (the historian), Peju Alatise (the storyteller), and Dance / Performance Artist, Qudus Onikeku (the performer); these three relate the past, present, and future of Nigeria. Their works give an insight to contemporary Nigerian life through installations, paintings, and performance.
‘How About NOW?’ opened to the public on May 13, 2017, featuring Victor Ehikhamenor installation of wall canvas-covered mural, mirrors and bronze head sculptures that hang from the ceiling filled the ground floor of the Pavilion.
His installation titled ‘The Biography of the Forgotten’ focused on Ehikhamenor’s homage to the forebears and their contributions to the art world. He sourced the sculptures from Igun Street in Benin City, a World Heritage Site that produced the famous Benin bronzes.
Qudus Onikeku with ‘Right Here, Right Now’ shows a live performance; his trilogy of films infused with Yoruba spirituality shows in a darkened room on a mezzanine.
Onikeku combined spoken words and dances during his performances, he includes his audience in his performances by handing them tambourines and maracas. He buttressed his theme ‘Right Here, Right Now’ during his meditation where he pointed out his audience as participants, not an audience.
On the third floor is Peju Alatise’s work, though originally trained as an architect her artistic prowess is daunting.
Her work Flying Girls features a large black-painted sculpture of eight life-size girls with sprouted wings standing in a circle while above them circles a flock of birds.
Based on the story of a ten-year-old housemaid with dreams of flying away, in turn projecting a hopeful future for Nigeria’s women and girls in servitude. She worked over a three-year period, from 2013 to 2016 to bring her work alive.
We are so proud of this significant shift for Nigeria in the art world, with this, participation in subsequent Biennales is much more realizable and achievable.
Follow the journey on @nigeriainvenice.