A selection of published essays between 2017-2019
“Victor Ehikhamenor: From the Village to the World, and Back Again”, The Art Momentum, 2019
To the Nigerian, the fear of the “village people” is the beginning of wisdom. They are often believed to hold the key to every “misfortune”. But to Victor Ehikhamenor, these people are his collaborators. He cites his village and ancestral home, Uwesan, in Edo State, Nigeria, as the primary source of his inspiration, and influence. It was there that his journey began, and still continues.
I had been to Ehikhamenor’s studio on many occasions, but this was the first time we were talking about his practice. Going through his entire archive, our conversation went from 1996 when he made his first set of drawings and paintings, made in 1996 while he lived in the US, to 2019 when he has his most recent solo exhibition in Lagos.
Ayọ̀ Akínwándé: First of all, congratulations on your exhibition “Daydream Esoterica,” which showed at Rele Gallery earlier this year.
Victor Ehikhamenor: Thank you my brother.
“Who Art Exhibition Epp?”, People’s Stories Project, 2019
I once read on an online art forum that “sitting and painting in the studio is masturbation if no one outside of your friends see the work.” A crass reference, but one that got me thinking. I believe the debate to show or not show one’s work in any format – exhibition, screening, and talks – is always at the discretion of the artist.
My emphasis in this essay is on the need to make art exhibitions that are grounded in theoretical framework, artistic and curatorial research, and for the theorists, curators and critics to have the space and support to do so. When visual arts organisation CCALagos hosted the travelling exhibition Publishing Against the Grain last year, not many visitors were expecting to see books in the place of artworks. The exhibition took place within the context of the venue’s recent decision to place more emphasis on its library – the most extensive public reading space for visual arts in Nigeria – while scaling down on its exhibition programming.
“Jelili Atiku: Decolonization in Performance”, Somethingweafricansgot, Issue #5, 2018
It was about 10pm, a lifeless body lay on the floor – with no shirts but wearing a green shorts, with one of the shoes missing and the head bandaged in a white fabric, while what seems to remain of the belongings clinched to the feet. As the audience started coming out to the deck, they were confronted by this body, whose sight dislodged some while others remain confused, not knowing what was happening. As they began crossing this body, it slowly dawned on them all that this was a performance piece. This performance “Find Me In The Sea”(2018) by Jelili Atiku was enacted on the Mediterranean amidst a project – “sailing the Mediterranean” during the ship cruise from Palermo to Napoli, led by Prof. Wole Soyinka, and other scholars across the world, who had gathered in Palermo, as part of the conference, “ReSignifications: The Black Mediterranean”
“The Women Who Shaped Nigerian Art History”, Somethingweafricansgot, Issue #7, 2019
There is a growing scholarship on gender equality and bias in the global visual art world. Reports, research and data show gross underrepresentation of female artists in exhibitions, collections and publications, as art organizations, curators, directors and prominent artists are building the momentum needed to overcome this gender disparity and structural inequality.
“The Nigeria (strikethrough) Lagos Art Sin”, Somethingweafricansgot, Issue #5, 2018
Dear Art Historian, forgive me for I know not what I am writing.
It has been one hundred and twelve years since the pioneering Nigerian modern artist Aina Onabolu executed “Portrait of Mrs. Spencer Salvage” a 1906 watercolour painting of Augusta Salvage, a Lagos socialite, which is considered a masterpiece of early modern African art by scholars. This is credited to be where the history of Nigerian modern art begins. And its entire trajectory from the colonial, through the quest for independence, and the post-independence, have been extensively covered in “Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria” by Prof. Chika Okeke-Agulu. And it seems the only visible trace of Aina Onabolu’s existence in the absence of major retrospectives of his.
“Quodus Onikeku: The Journey of the Spirit Child” In Conversation with Ayo Akinwande, Somethingweafricansgot, Issue #5, 2018
Ayo: I’m going to start this conversation from the end, starting with your on-going piece the Spirit child. Can you run us through what the project is all about, the process and your influences?
Qudus: Spirit child is a piece that came to me naturally, as I had been aesthetically exploring making a Yoruba cultural fiction. So when I came in contact with Ben Okri’s book “Famished Road”, I was struck by how much advanced he was thinking in the 1990 - when the book was written and later got the Booker Prize in 1993. This was in the middle of the military era where everyone was talking about one thing – Politics! And this guy jumps, just went ahead – Afrofuturist! The fascinating thing about Famished Road is the main character - Azaro, a spirit child.
“Confronting an Unaddressed Nigerian Reality in the Exhibition ‘Salvage Therapy’”, Sole Adventurer, 2018
Using display strategies, the exhibition curator, Jumoke Sanwo, puts forward the different stylistic approaches of both artists by placing their works side by side, as well as their approach to social commentary. Of the two artists, Ahmed assumes a more confrontational approach. The technical details of his paintings, such as the brush strokes, highlight the urgency in the brutality that engulfs his subjects. Christopher’s works seem subdued by similar experiences. He baits the viewer into slowing down to grasp the hidden messages of his works, and thus become aware of the intense feelings that define the subjects’ everydayness.
“Rewinding Asiko, the Way Forward”, CCA Lagos, ASIKO: On the Future of Artistic and Curatorial Pedagogies in Africa, Pg 106, 2017
A wise woman once advised me, if a photograph tells a thousand stories, you must now begin to start asking yourself a thousand questions before making that photograph. Now imagine being in the company of such wisdom for 35 days, that’s what ASIKO was all about.