Contemporary art in Nigeria is rising to a new dawn. Beyond the studios of individual artists to the galleries that represent them, art in Nigeria has moved to international scenes via summits and fairs, and now the long-awaited biennial hosted within its own borders.
The Lagos Biennial, taking after cities beyond the continent like Venice and Sao Paulo and African cities like Dakar, Cairo, Marrakesh, Bamako, Kampala and Addis Ababa, is in its inaugural edition. Though for a city as Lagos this development might be considered as kicking off long after the guns have been fired, the timing is far from being out of place. It comes at a time when the nation is awakening to new trends in intellectual artistic expressions and revolutions and this is palpable not just in the field of visual art but also in performance and literary festivals that have enjoyed a growing audience and robust followership with each passing year. With art, Nigerian voices are being heard, ideologies on the verge of extinction are being revived, misinterpreted narratives are corrected and narrow perceptions, widened.
The biennial, an exhibition of art performances, installations and discussions runs with the theme: Living on the Edge. At its core is the opening of cultural, artistic, and political conversations from Lagos to the rest of the world. However, with the participation of 40 international artists from 20 countries, the Lagos Biennial seeks to encompass a broader focus on the unifying simplicity of the human experience through the lens of contemporary artists within and beyond Africa. With Lagos as its canvass, this project aims to depict multicultural representations of what it means to exist on the verge of society.
Behind the realization of this feat is Folakunle Oshun, the artistic director and curator. He is driven by a blend of passion for art and a sense of duty for the city of Lagos. In a chat with the art enthusiast Jess Castellote, Mr Oshun remarkable points out, “As a Lagosian, I feel a sense of responsibility and ownership of this space and I’ve always wondered why it took this long for Lagos to have its own Biennial.” Hosted by the Akete Art Foundation and led by Folakunle Oshun, the project comprises an international team co-curated by Amira Paree and supported by the curatorial platform Perpetuum Mobile Collective, an academic conference at the University of Lagos co-ordinated by Erin Rice from the Freie Universität, Berlin and Akor Opaluwah from the Nottingham Trent University, UK, and a film program which will take place at the Old Film Unit of the Nigeria Film Corporation in Ikoyi.
Exhibitions at the Lagos Biennial are located within venues in the compound of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Ebute Metta, and are ongoing through November 22, 2017. Visit lagos-biennial.org for a list of exhibiting artists, detailed events and registration.