Benin City will be the location of the first exhibition of the project Whose Centenary? on the 6th and 7th of December 2014, featuring nine accomplished artists from Nigeria, a renowned Nigerian poet and an international curator, Ines Valle.Download Invitation
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Whose Centenary? is a two-year long artist-led research and collaborative project initiated by Peju Layiwola. This first presentation is curated by Ines Valle and the various art projects co-ordinated by Jude Anogwih. Artists in this first exhibition include Andrew Eseibo, George Osodi, JeliliAtiku, Elizabeth Olowu, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, TaiyeIdahor, Victor Ehikhamenor,JumokeVerisimmo, Peju Layiwola, Ines Valle and Jude Anogwih.
The art project Whose Centenary? is a critical analysis of significant historical aspects of Nigerian social, political and cultural memory, with a particular emphasis on 1914. The project explores themes around the centennial commemoration of the amalgamation of the northern and southern regions of Nigeria and the multilayered nature and prevalent results of colonialism in Nigeria in the primordial space of Benin. Benin became a place where history played out over a hundred years ago with the exile of Oba Ovonramwen to Calabar in 1897 and the eventual entrenchment of British rule. 1914 brings to mind the passing of the king who stood against British imperialism in defence of his kingdom. In its rhetorical form, several questions emerge: Who and what are being commemorated? In what forms do these memorializations occur?
The multi-series exhibition in Benin will include performance art, poetry reading, songs/choreography, installation art, painting, photography, video art and a collaboration between the academically-trained artists, traditional Edo bronze casters and their wards in a series of community-based projects in Benin City. This ground-breaking art intervention which began with a procession on the 6th of December at 11am, from the King's quarters at Akenzua Street through Airport Road, Ring Road, and the Oba's palace culminated at Igun Street- a world Heritage site and the home of traditional bronze casters in Benin City who for centuries produced the bronze works the city and country are renowned for. At Igun Street there were several art exhibitions and performances.
Whose Centenary? redefines the boundaries of museological spaces in Africa, where places, people and their memories continuously enrich our understanding of life, art and history. Igun Street, conceived as a living museum, becomes an ideal space for this intervention.
A series of other events scheduled for 2015 would include a group art exhibition, video screening, performances, spoken word, round table discussions and a solo exhibition by the initiator of the project.
Jude Anogwih: Emittere, WAITING
Movement is essential in the course of history. Hence, this exhibition by Jude Anogwih is part of a series of works from 2009 to date. It interrogates the concept of movement, mobility, migration and border. Emittere, WAITING (2012) reflects on the dynamics in Africa and Africans' forced, clandestine and more recently, willingness to transverse the versed landscape to new destinations. The instability of our land as well as the fluidity of social, economic and political ideas reflects the perpetual migration of Africans to foreign lands. As the shores set the sail of Africa's resources, her coastlines await your return. We are waiting. Movement is essential in the course of history. Hence, this exhibition by Jude Anogwih is part of a series of works from 2009 to date. It interrogates the concept of movement, mobility, migration and border. Emittere, WAITING (2012) reflects on the dynamics in Africa and Africans' forced, clandestine and more recently, willingness to transverse the versed landscape to new destinations. The instability of our land as well as the fluidity of social, economic and political ideas reflects the perpetual migration of Africans to foreign lands. As the shores set the sail of Africa's resources, her coastlines await your return. We are waiting.
Jelili Atiku: Holy Ovonramwen Cathedral
JeliliAtiku confronts the place of religion in Benin history. This performance explores the intercessory representation of Oba Ovonramwen after his exile and death. Here, Ovonramwen is fully God and His cathedral is powerful. Come lets worship in the Holy Ovonramwen Cathedral: Open My Eyes, That I May See Thee, OmoN'ObaOvonramwenNogbaisi.
Victor Ehikhamenor: My Bits Are Not Your Pieces
Using ancient techniques, where the use of brush and palette are exempted, this work looks at the disregard the colonial invaders of 1897 had for the owners of what was stolen during the sacking of the Benin Kingdom, and the constant appropriation of resources to form/inform their society. It also looks at the bigger picture of the forced amalgamation that happened in 1914, this work questions the authenticity of such yoking together and for whose benefit?
Andrew Esiebo&Ines Valle: Memorical Spaces
Recent reports speculate that incomparable collections of official documentation were removed from former British colonies, however only 8,800 documents where admittedly taken. In reality more than 20,000 files are held in just one building in London. Archives can be seam of evidence of how colonies where really administrated and their absence represent a huge gap of documentary heritage of a country. Memorical Spaces is a visual travel to places in memory, where non-spaces, lost or forgotten by time, are disclosed through the acute eyes of the people of Benin. This project is a kind of a visual palimpsest, a multi-layered record in which individual stories are overlaid to historical colonial facts accessible on several State archives both in United Kingdom and in Nigeria.
Taye Idahor: Ivie
Ivie means beads in Bini. It is a signifier for women and beauty in Benin City, especially the royal family. The Iyoba or Queen mother is a very important title held in Benin. The Queen mother operates with equal power as a senior chief. These women dedicated their entire lives to protecting the king and were instrumental to sustaining the reign of their son. However, wives and mothers of these Benin monarchs are most times left out of history books except Queen Idia who became famous. This project brings to focus women in positions of power in Benin and beyond the palace and can also be seen as a commemoration of Benin women in general in the past 100 years. Using drawings to create an installation of the head adornment worn by Benin queens, the artist explores the ancient city through their coiffure. She appropriates the same adornment worn by Benin women beyond the borders of the palace and the fragility of the material, which brings to light the delicate and sometimes, sensitive issues of women in power cutting across nations and professions.
Peju Layiwola: Face/off
Benin being a highly patriarchal society restricts female participation in the art of bronze casting. As an extension of her Community projects she engages with wards of the casters to provide avenues for further exploration of artistic forms. Layiwola recounts the colonial encounter and the plundering of bronze works from the palace of the king. Her installation of terracotta heads and plaques in the house of the head of the bronze guild, IneN'Igun provides a platform for collaborating with the bronze casters whose works also form a part of the installation.
Elizabeth Olowu: Journeying
Using the project as a contact, journeying becomes a tangent for inventing and reinstituting memories to the evolution of a society, where bronze casting was primarily patriarchal. Elizabeth Olowu, re-enacts her art tutorials under Late Chief Osa of Igun in the 1970s. Also, as one who has remained embedded in Edo Culture, the costuming for the project, recital of praise songs becomes a project to speak into the constancy of a people's philosophy through traditional fashion.
Wura-Natasha Ogunji: Queen Sweep
A performer wears the mask of a Benin head with a worker's paintsuit uniform. The performer sweeps the street for several hours. Cameras are embedded in the eyes of the mask to record this journey through the streets as well as responses by the public. This work couples images of the traditional [Benin head] with the everyday [street cleaner] as a way to both complicate and question the relationship between the sacred and the profane, royalty and the populace. While referencingfor history and the archive does not necessarily sit in opposition to daily economic realities, it is nevertheless important to consider how a citizen's relationship to historical artifacts changes and morphs depending on the current economic, religious and political climate of the nation. Queen Sweep intends to position the worker who sweeps the streets as a sacred trickster figure in order to explore the relationship between history, tradition and sacred space.
George Osodi: Nigerian Monarchs
Nigeria, one of the largest and most important countries in Africa is rich in traditions and customs, both indigenous and modern and having many different monarchies. Featuring formal portraits of each king, in full regalia, NIGERIA MONARCHS introduces us to a way of life rarely glimpsed, with anthropological roots as deep as any on the earth, as they make the transition into a new millennium on the anniversary of the 100th year of the amalgamation of the Kingdoms by the British into the country Nigeria. Through, George Osodis portrait's, we visit the inaccessible through portraits of living and dead Obas of Benin. In this way, the past becomes present in the intervention of the present.
Jumoke Verissimo: No Answer
Poetry is intervention here: No answer becomes memory of independent kingdoms lumped together into a nation seeking a common reason to co-exist, other than the name and forced essence, bestowed on her by the colonialist. Is this a nation? No answer. Travel down to Benin; the place where a King—Oba Ovonramwen— protecting the values of his people was buried after taken into exile. No answer is the bereft look of a tourist at the British Museum, wondering why a Benin Royal Plaque sits under the light of a foreign land. There are many questions, but no answer? No answer. No answer! No answer to the several questions surrounding the Nigerian centenary celebration—for what exactly is being celebrated?
is an independent curator and art critic based between Europe and Africa. She holds a BA in Fine Arts and MA in Curatorial Studies from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon. She has been collaborating with several art institutions, curators and artists across the globe such as Centro Cultural de Belem (Portugal), CCAS (Australia) or TAFETA (United Kingdom). Her curatorial projects function as critical discursive platforms that mostly focus on the relations of power between politics, society and the art practice. Some of her curatorial projects include: Good Morning in Torba starts at 2:53am in Portugal (Turkey); GOD FACTOR (Mosteiro de Tibaes, Portugal); ART STABS POWER: que se vayantodos! (Plataforma Revolver, Portugal/Bermondsey Project, United Kingdom) and Gently I press the trigger (Polaris Gallery, France/ Gallery One, Palestine). (www.inesvalle.com)
is the initiator of this project and Associate Professor of Art History. She is Head, Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos. She received a BA (Metal Design) from University of Benin in 1988, and an MA and Ph.D. Visual Arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Layiwola's co-edited the book, Benin 1897.com: Art and the Restitution Question also the title of her solo exhibition is based on the British incursion to Benin and raises issues that arise from that encounter. She has also authored several papers on African Art history. Some of which appear in Writing African Women: Gender, Popular Culture and Literature in West Africa, Zed Press, London. Benin Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria, Snoeck Publishers, Belgium, African Lace, in Museum fur Volkerkunde, Snoeck Publishers, Belgium, and N. Paradoxa: International Feminist Art Journal, Press UK and the Open Arts Journal, UK. She is the winner of several awards. She was nominated partner for the US State Department smARTpower project initiative by the US Secretary of State in 2012. Her works have been exhibited in Nigeria and beyond. She has facilitated several workshops, given talks across the country and is the founder of the Women and Youth Art Foundation, an organisation committed to empowering women and young girls through the art. (www.pejulayiwola.com, www.wyart-foundation.org, www.benin1897.com)
is a visual artist and curator living and working in Lagos, Nigeria. Anogwih holds a degree in Graphic Design from the University of Maiduguri and a Masters in Art History, University of Lagos (2010). His work interrogates the idea of identity, mobility and migration. They take the form of experimental photo-painting/drawing, video, installation. He has exhibited across Europe and acted as associated curator with Bisi Silva, OyindaFakeye and Martin Baasch. Anogwih was a Goethe-Institut Fellow at the Documenta (13), Kassel, Germany and Goethe-Institut Moving Africa Participant at Salon Urbain de Douala (SUD) 2013. He is a founding member and Co-coordinator Video Art Network Lagos, (www.vanlagos.org) and has taken part in several exhibitions locally and internationally as a practicing artist. These exhibitions include International Artist hosted by David Dale Gallery during the XX Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, Scotland; Film and Video Folkwang. Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany, 5th International Festival of Video-art; FIVAC Camaguey, Cuba; Imaginary Communities, Golden Thread Gallery, Northern Ireland; ConcretaSonho - Resident Artists (Solo Show) GalerieKrinzinger, Vienna, Austria; SAVAC/Monitor 9. New South Asian Experimental Film & Video.South Asian Visual Arts Centre.Toronto, Canada; Art Connect Film, Tiwani Contemporary, London amongst others.
is a Nigerian multimedia artist with political concerns for human rights and justice. Through drawing, installation sculpture, photography, video and performance (live art); he strives to help viewers understand the world and expanding their understanding and experiences, so that they can activate and renew their lives and environments. He was born on September 27, 1968 in Ejigbo (Lagos), Nigeria and trained at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Lagos (all in Nigeria) for Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) and Master of Arts (Visual Arts) degrees. He is the founder of Art Africa Forum, AFiRIperFOMA and Advocate for Human Rights Through Art (AHRA). Jelili has travelled widely and participated in numerous performances/exhibitions/talks in Africa, Europe, America and Asia.
is a Nigerian visual artist, photographer and writer. He was born in Udomi-Uwessan, Edo State. He has BA degree in English and Literary Studies from Ambrose Ali University. He also holds an MS in Technology Management and MFA in Creative Writing from University Of Maryland, College Park, USA. Ehikhamenor has been prolific in producing abstract, symbolic and politically motivated works with unmistakable ties to his old Benin Kingdom background. His works are influenced by a duality of African traditional religion and the interception of Western beliefs, memories and nostalgia. His symbols and motifs are reminiscent of his childhood village shrines art. He has had many exhibitions with strong following in Nigeria, United States and parts of Europe. As a writer he has published numerous fiction and critical essays with academic journals, mainstream magazines and newspapers round the world including New York Times, CNN Online, Washington Post, Farafina, AGNI magazine, Wasafiri magazine and others. His art and photographs have been used as book covers by award-winning authors like ChimamandaAdichie, HelonHabila, Chika Unigwe, and many others. His new book EXCUSE ME!, a creative non-fiction satirical view of life as an African both at home and abroad is a recommended text in two Nigerian universities. Ehikhamenor maintains a studio in Lagos, Nigeria and Maryland, United States.
is a photographer. In his practice he investigates themes as sexuality, gender politics, football, popular culture, migration, religion and spirituality. He was the winner of the 2011 Musee du Quai Branly Artistic creation prize. His work has been exhibited at the Biennale Cuvee (Linz), Dakart (Senegal), PhotoQuai biennials (France), Sao Paulo biennial (Brazil), the Guangzhou Triennial (China), ChobiMela V Photo Festival (Bangladesh), LagosPhoto Festival (Nigeria). His works have been widely published in books, magazines and websites such as New York Times, Courier International, Le Point, Financial Times, Guardian UK, Marie Claire Italia, Time Out Nigeria, Mail & Guardian online, KIT and African style magazine Arise. His attention to social issues has seen him working for several local and international NGO including Action Aids, WHO, UNICEF, Women for Women, MSH Nigeria and several others. He has participated in a number of artistic residencies. He is based in Nigeria from where he works around the world.
studied Fine Art at the Yaba College of Technology Lagos, Nigeria where she graduated in 2007 with a Higher National Diploma (HND) after specialising in sculpture. In the last four years, TaiyeIdahor has worked significantly within the concept of identity and women quite unconsciously using mostly recycled newsprint. Tangled through the issues of trade, beauty, the environment and globalisation, she examines how these factors build the womans identity in todays Africa, but in particular, Lagos Nigeria, where she has lived all her life. She continues to explore and focus on the woman’s identity and its effect through time and memory. She also works part time with the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Nigeria. She has participated in a number of exhibitions and workshops both home and abroad to include Ravy International Art Festival March 2012- Yaounde Cameroon, An Anonymous Tale- Yokohama Japan 2011, October Rain by SNA Lagos, Nigeria our Nigeria Presidential Inauguration Exhibition Abuja Nigeria 2011, 50 Years Ahead through the eyes of Nigerian Women Lagos and Abuja, and the specially curated section the Dubai Art Fair, Marker 2013. She also recently co- curated the exhibition “El Anatsui: Playing with Chance” with Curator Bisi Silva at CCA, Lagos and had her first solo exhibition Hairvolution in Lagos.
is a Sculptress based in Benin. She is a pioneering student of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Benin. She began her carrier as a sculptress earning a BA and MFA from the University of Benin. She is renowned as the first woman bronze caster in Benin, albeit Nigeria. She is a daughter of Oba Akenzua II (1933-1978), who in many ways encouraged her into exploring areas of the art regarded as taboo to women's participation in Benin. Olowu had carried out major sculpture projects in Benin. Her cement and bronze statuary featured prominently in the 1980s. Her most recent engagement as costumier explores the rich traditional and contemporary regalia of kings, chiefs and courtiers of Benin.
Wura Natasia Ogunjiis a Nigerian- American visual artist and performer. Her works include drawings stitched into paper and videos in which she engages her body in explorations of movement and mark-making across water, land and air. As a recent recipient of the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, she has been creating performance works about the presence of women in public space in Lagos, Nigeria. These include the public performances Beauty, Will I Still Carry Water When I am a Dead Woman? and Queens. Ogunji has performed at Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (St. Louis) and the Menil Collection (Houston). She has received grants from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Idea Fund. She is co-founder of the Institute for Performing Justice at the University of Texas (Austin). She has a BA from Stanford University (Anthropology) and an MFA from San Jose State University (Photography).
is a Nigerian photographer based in Lagos. He studied Business Administration at the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, before working as a photojournalist for the then defunct Comet Newspaper Lagos from 1999-2001. He worked with the Associated Press News Agency, Lagos from 2001-2008. Osodi has covered many assignments for both local and international organisations with his photographs. He is published in many international and local media such as the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Guardian of London, The Telegraph, USA Today, the International Herald Tribune, CNN, BBC Focus on Africa Magazine and many more. He has also been commissioned on photo project by several organisations worldwide. He is a member of Panos Pictures U.K, and he is managed by Zphotographic Ltd U.K. George Osodi has also exhibited his works worldwide. some of his works appear in the collections of: Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, NeueGalerie; Martin Marguiles Collection- Miami; EMET- National Museum of Greece 2010; FondazioneCassa di Risparmio di Modena, 2010; ADF collection Paris 2011; Smithsonian Museums, New York USA. 2011.
is the author of a well-received book I am Memory. She has participated in festivals across Nigeria and in Europe. She has a Masters in Performance Studies from the University of Ibadan and BA Literature-in-English from the Lagos State University. She has worked in the past as an editor, sub-editor, copywriter and a freelance journalist for major newspapers like Guardian and NEXT. Some of her poems are in translation in Italian, Norwegian, French, Japanese, Chinese, and Macedonian. Her works have appeared in Migrations (Afro-Italian) Wole Soyinka ed., Voldposten 2010 (Norway), Ann Arbor (USA), Livred'or de Struga (Poetes du monde, sous le patronage de l'UNESCO) and many others. She is a recipient of the Chinua Achebe Centre Fellowship, Bard College, USA.