Unveiling Nigeria: Art, activism and cultural heritage at the Venice Biennale

The anticipation surrounding Nigeria’s participation in this year’s Venice Biennale has reached a crescendo as further details about the Nigerian Pavilion’s lineup have been unveiled, per theartnewspaper.com. According to the outlet, making its second appearance at the prestigious exhibition, Nigeria promises a thought-provoking and multifaceted showcase of its rich artistic tapestry.

Leading the immersive experience is a captivating sound installation by artist Precious Okoyomon. Visitors will be greeted by a radio tower-turned-instrument transmitting poignant confessions from poets, artists, and writers. These recordings, stemming from a confessions booth in Lagos, delve into the dreams and realities of both the Nigerian arts community and everyday individuals.

Ndidi Dike’s poignant two-part work reflects on the 2020 End Sars uprising, highlighting how Nigeria’s youth harnessed social media and unity to advocate for social justice. The artwork encapsulates the spirit of a generation demanding change and challenges the status quo.

The pavilion also boasts a diverse array of works, including a sculptural installation by Yinka Shonibare inspired by the historic art of the Kingdom of Benin, augmented reality explorations by Fatimah Tuggar, and a compelling audiovisual series by Onyeka Igwe examining colonial legacies

Participating artists, left to right, clockwise: Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Ndidi Dike, Onyeka Igwe, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Abraham Oghobase, Precious Okoyomon, Yinka Shonibare and Fatimah Tuggar
Courtesy MOWAA

Abraham Onoriode Oghobase’s work delves into the complexities of colonial history, drawing parallels between landscape exploitation and labour exploitation. Meanwhile, Toyin Ojih Odutola’s exploration of the Mbari house celebrates Nigeria’s cultural heritage in a post-independence context.

Central to the pavilion is the “Nigeria Imaginary Colloquium,” showcasing objects representing Nigeria’s past and present. Additionally, the “Nigeria Imaginary Incubator Project” invites visitors to engage with questions about Nigerian identity and culture, fostering a deeper understanding of the nation’s diverse narratives.

Funding for the Nigerian Pavilion is primarily provided by Qatar Museums, with generous support from private individuals such as lawyer Gbenga Oyebode and financial executive Tope Lawani. Major contributions from institutions like Christie’s and Art X Lagos further underscore the significance of Nigeria’s presence on the global stage.

Commissioned by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Nigeria’s Edo State on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Art, Culture, and the Creative Economy, the Nigerian Pavilion stands as a testament to the nation’s commitment to promoting arts and culture on an international platform. With its compelling blend of artistic expression, social commentary, and cultural heritage, Nigeria’s presence at the Venice Biennale promises to captivate audiences and spark meaningful dialogue for years to come.

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