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Nigeria unveils first national pavilion at Venice art exhibition


Associate Curator, Nigerian Pavilion, Emmanuel Iduma (left); Lead Curator, Adenrele Sonariwo; Visual Artists, Peju Alatise and Victor Ehikhamenor; Commissioner of the Nigerian Pavilion and Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki; First Lady of Edo State, Betsy Obaseki; Performance Artist, Qudus Onikeku; and Steering Committee member, Yvonne Fasinro, at the opening of the Nigerian Pavilion, La Biennale de Venezia, Italy.

Nigeria has unveiled its first National Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition – Venice Art Biennale. The inaugural pavilion titled “How About Now?” explores ideas of identity and belonging through the work of three top Nigerian artists – Peju Alatise, Victor Ehikhamenor and Qudus Onikeku.

The immersive installation at Scoletta dei Battioro e dei Tiraoro’ Campo San Stae 1980, on the Grand Canal, includes performance film, sculpture and painting, and celebrates Nigeria’s rich artistic heritage and cultural talent.

Each of the three artists has interpreted the overarching theme “How About Now?” exploring the past and present Nigerian identity on art world’s biggest global stage.

Invoking themes of history, fantasy, and memory, alongside more fundamental concerns related to nationhood and self-awareness, the artists’ work is an immediate conversation on contemporary Nigeria – a moment in time dictated by a colonial past, but also refracted through the lens of ideological possibilities.

The pavilion is curated by Adenrele Sonariwo, director of RELE Gallery, Lagos, and acclaimed writer Emmanuel Iduma.Ehikhamenor’s large-scale installations fuse abstract shapes with traditional sculpture.

Alatise presents an installation of eight winged life-size girls, based on the story of a ten-year old girl who worked as a housemaid in Lagos while dreaming of a realm where she was free. “Flying Girls” addresses the injustice of the present, but through a vision of a safer imaginary future, especially for young girls.

Onikeku’s trilogy of performance film entitled “Right Here, Right Now,” explores the workings of body, memory and its connection to national consciousness through dance. The triptych of engagement, contemplation and poetry, provide a window in which time could be altered for a brief moment.

The Nigerian Pavilion was commissioned by Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki with the support of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.At the occasion, Obaseki said: “As a supporter of the arts, I am delighted to open the first Nigerian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The pavilion offers an understanding of Nigerian contemporary life through the unique works of three brilliant artists and we are delighted to offer them a platform on a world stage.”

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