Friday, May 12, 2017

Lai Mohammed Makes History With Nigeria's Debut at the 57th Venice Biennale


Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Honourable Minister for the Ministry of Information and Culture is making history as Nigeria makes her debut at the 57th Venice Biennale; the first time for Africa's most populous nation. This is an unprecedented achievement, because none of Alhaji Lai Mohammed's predecessors achieved this historic feat, due to their ignorance of the importance and significance of the great Venice Biennale to the global appreciation of Contemporary Art and human development in the advancement of modern civilization.

It is still unbelievable that Nigeria known as the cradle of African Art with the greatest cultural heritage of the classic Arts of Igbo Ukwu, Ife, Nok, Benin and Owo has never participated in the previous editions of the Art Biennale since it started in 1895.

The three artists selected to represent Nigeria have now achieved what the greatest Nigerian masters of Contemporary Art did not achieve. But it would have been great if the greatest African printmaker, Bruce Onobraekpeya and Nike Davies joined Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku for Nigeria's presentation, "How About NOW?", 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.


"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 artistsexpands 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”.
~ Adenrele Sonariwo, Curator of “How About Now?".

The 2017 Art Biennale (May 13 – November 26) promises to be very intriguing. Curator Christine Macel puts the artists at the forefront in the ‘Viva Arte Viva’ exhibition. This includes several new initiatives to give the visitors an opportunity to better understand the artist and the way he/she creates art.


"Viva Arte Viva is a Biennale designed with the artists, by the artists and for the artists. It deals with the forms they propose, the questions they pose, the practices they develop and the forms of life they choose."
http://www.artecommunications.com/en/news/3719-viva-arte-viva-announced-the-theme-for-the-biennale-arte-2017-curated-by-christine-macel.html

Title:
How about NOW?
Artists:
Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku
Curators:
Adenrele Sonariwo and Emmanuel Iduma, and commissioned by Godwin Obaseki (Governor of Edo State)
Location:
Scoletta dei Tiraoro e Battiori, Campo San Stae, Santa Croce 2059

How about NOW?
Nigeria is participating for the first time to the Art Biennale in Venice. Three contemporary Nigerian artists, Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise and Qudus Onikeku, have been selected to show their unique works. The theme ‘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, the artists respond to the multifaceted way in which Nigerian contemporaneity may be conceived. Each in their own way, they interpret ‘now’ as a term that encompasses a range of ideological possibilities, and which implies the new, modern, contemporary, and/or postcolonial.


Victor Ehikhamenor’s exhibition will comprise 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. ‘The Biography of the Forgotten’ pays homage to those that came before and their contributions to the art world, from the classicists to the modernists.


Peju Alatise will present an installation of eight winged life-size girls. It is 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, where she belongs to no one but herself, and where she can fly. ‘Flying Girls’ addresses the injustice of the present, but through a vision of a safer imaginary future, especially for little girls.


Qudus Onikeku will showcase a trilogy of performance films 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.

“THE PAVILION WILL HOST THE WORKS OF SOME OF NIGERIA’S MOST PROMINENT CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS. THE PLATFORM OFFERS US A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO RE-ESTABLISH OUR NATIONAL PRIDE AND DEVELOP A MORE POSITIVE NARRATIVE FOR THE COUNTRY BY SHOWCASING OUR UNIQUE ART AND RICH CULTURAL HERITAGE TO THE WORLD. 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.”
Adenrele Sonariwo, curator.

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.


“FOR ME, THE GUGGENHEIM EXPERIENCE HAS TO BE ONE OF THE GREATEST ATTRACTIONS IN THE CITY OF VENICE. THE PEGGY GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM OFFERS VISITORS A RARE OPPORTUNITY TO APPRECIATE A VAST COLLECTION OF EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY. FOR EVERY TRUE ART LOVER, THIS IS ONE EXPERIENCE YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS!”

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. Alatise 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. Alatise has held several solo exhibitions and her works are in private and institutional collections around the world.

“THE BEST THING ABOUT VENICE, FOR ME, IS THAT WHENEVER I GET LOST (WHICH IS ALL THE TIME) I DISCOVER BEAUTIFUL THINGS AT EVERY TURN. WITHOUT A DOUBT, IT IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES.“


Qudus Onikeku creates movement identity that fuses dance and acrobatics. He makes the 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.

“AS A PERFORMANCE ARTIST, YOUR BEST WORKS COME FROM A PLACE DEEP INSIDE, AND NOTHING ELICITS SUCH STRONG EMOTIONS AS NATURE ITSELF. I LOVE VENICE FOR ITS BEAUTIFUL ISLANDS AND SANDY BEACHES MAKING IT AN IDEAL DESTINATION TO RELAX AND PLEASURE THE SENSES.”

Location
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 located next to the church of Sant’Eustachio, known as San Stae, and dates from 1711. With only 48 members, the guild was rather small and had to close its doors on the eve of the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1798. In 1807, with the Napoleonic edicts and the introduction of the land register, the Scoletta became state property. It was later acquired by a famous Venetian antiques dealer whose family still owns it today.

Viva Arte Viva
In line with the ‘Unpacking my library’  project of La Biennale di Venezia, the books which inspire the Nigerian artists the most are ‘Essays’ by James Baldwin (Victor Ehikhamenor), ‘The Book of Embraces’ by Eduardo Galeano (Peju Alatise) and ‘The Man Died’ by Professor Wole Soyinka (Qudus Onikeku).

The Nigerian artists will participate in the ‘Tavola Aperta’ (Open Table) project where artists and visitors will have a casual lunch together to discuss the artist’s work. The date has not been set yet. They have also created a video for the ‘Artists Practices Project’.

The 57th Venice Biennale, the world's oldest international exhibition of contemporary visual art, opens May 13 under the theme "Viva arte viva," or "Long Live Living Art." Founded in 1895, this prestigious art show-of-shows is expected to attract over 100,000 visitors before closing Nov. 26.


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