Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious contemporary visual art exhibition, in its 57th-year edition, titled VIVA ARTE VIVA, welcomes a new guest in 2017, Nigeria.
A press conference was organised on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at Moorhouse house Ikoyi to officially announce Nigeria's participation in the 57th edition.
The conference kicked off with a welcome address from the project manager, Wunika Mukan after which the official announcement of the country's participation was done by a member of the steering committee, Ade Adekola.
His excellency, gov Obaseki who was represented by Femi Lijadu further explained that the government has an intention to build a museum of international standards in Benin. He said this physical infrastructure will be able to bring back the intangible infrastructure and our cultural heritage. Indigenes and foreigners will be able to visit, thereby positioning Edo state as an art and cultural pioneer in Nigeria. It is a vibrant opportunity for culture and artistic identity to through reverberate throughout the world.
Ike Chioke, a steering committee member, to be accepted in the project, we needed an official representative of the government. To that effect, the Edo state governor Obaseki accepted to be made the commissioner of the project.
He described the impact of private sector funding on the project and also added that they have been supportive so far.
"The theme for the exhibition, How about Now, reflects on the question of Now," says the lead curator, Aderenle Sonariwo.
The Nigerian Pavilion will feature installations and performance, developed by two visual artists and one performance artist. The exhibiting artists are Victor Ehikhamenor, painter; Peju Alatise, sculptor; and Qudus Onikeku, dancer.
Ehikhamenor will present 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’ is the title of the installation, which pays homage to those that came before, their contributions to the art world, from the classicists to the modernists.
Alatise will present an installation of eight winged life-size girls, 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, who belongs to no one but herself, and can fly. “Flying Girls” addresses the injustice of the present, but through a vision of a safer imaginary future, especially for little girls.
Onikeku will showcase a trilogy of performance film 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.
Ultimately, the artists see their work as an immediate conversation with Nigerian time-a time dictated by a colonial past, but also refracted through the lens of what is imaginable besides that.
Exhibiting visual artists, Peju Alatise and Victor Ehikhamenor were chosen based on a number of criteria which included their ability to deliver a worthy of exhibition art piece, their accomplishments and reputation- locally and internationally as well as a good CV of the artist.
At this point, a section for questioning was opened to all.
Obinna Emedike of Business day asked, "What will Nigeria gain?"
Femi Lijadu who answered, said it will give us an opportunity to represent our face and voice as against the wrong narratives of Nigeria.
Tajudeen Showole of Guardian News asked, "After this edition, will the commissioners be rotated from state to state?"
Adekola said "No doubt that various individuals will step forward to become the commissioner in subsequent editions. It's a matter of capability and interest.
With no other questions to ask, the conference was brought to an end.