Nigeria unveils “Nigeria Imaginary” for 2024 Venice Biennale, showcasing intergenerational artists

Nigeria has announced its highly anticipated participation in the 2024 Venice Biennale with a captivating exhibition titled “Nigeria Imaginary.” This marks the second time Nigeria has taken part in the prestigious global art event. The exhibition, set to be showcased at a historical palazzo in Dorsoduro, near the Gallerie dell’Accademia, will feature a group of nine Nigerian and Nigerian diasporic artists from different generations.

Curated by Nigerian-British curator and art historian, Aindrea Emelife, the exhibition aims to offer a fresh perspective on Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage while envisioning a brighter future for the nation. 

According to the ARTNews, Emelife explained that “Nigeria Imaginary” seeks to challenge preconceived notions of West African art and presents a diverse selection of artists working in various mediums.

The artists selected for the pavilion include established names like Yinka Shonibare and Toyin Ojih Odutola, along with rising stars like Precious Okoyomon and Tunji Adeniyi-Jones. The exhibition also highlights the works of artists such as Abraham Oghobase, Fatimah Tuggar, Onyeka Igwe and Ndidi Dike, all of whom contribute unique perspectives on Nigerian culture and heritage.

Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Nigeria’s Edo State, expressed his excitement about the exhibition and its potential to shape a positive narrative for Nigeria on the global stage. The pavilion’s exhibition will later travel to the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA) in Edo in an expanded form in 2025, further enhancing Nigeria’s presence in the international art scene.

Emelife’s vision for the exhibition is to redefine what a national pavilion represents and showcase the diverse array of artistic practices in Nigeria and the diaspora. The featured artists’ works range from paintings to groundbreaking approaches like Precious Okoyomon’s exploration of “future possibilities of Land art” and Fatimah Tuggar’s interdisciplinary work examining “new relationships with the digital world.”

One of the key objectives of “Nigeria Imaginary” is to address the underrepresentation of African countries in the Venice Biennale. In 2022, out of 54 African countries, only nine organised national pavilions. Nigeria’s decision to participate for the second time signifies the country’s thriving art scene and its commitment to promoting its cultural heritage on the global stage.

As Nigeria looks forward to making a significant impact at the 2024 Venice Biennale, the exhibition’s curatorial approach is poised to spark dialogues, inspire and foster a deeper understanding of Nigeria’s vibrant art landscape. By showcasing a mix of established and emerging talents, “Nigeria Imaginary” aims to create an enduring impact that resonates with visitors from around the world.

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