10 Artists to Watch Out For at The Lagos Biennial

Pheobe Boswell - Lagos Biennial -Omenka Online

The inaugural edition of the Lagos Biennial, themed “Living on the Edge”, is set to hold from October 14 – November 22, in six different locations across Lagos.

Curated by an international team consisting of Ayo Akinwande, Amira Paree, Sola Akintunde, Kelvin Hazel, Kwasi Ohene – Aye, Aminat Lawal Agoro and Michael Enejiso, led by the artistic director Folakunle Oshun, the biennial will attract 45 international artists from 20 countries including France, Iran, Mozambique, Kenya, Norway, Afghanistan, Germany, Switzerland, South Korea, Ethiopia, Angola, Senegal, Greece, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ghana, Spain, Egypt, Russia, and Nigeria.

The biennial is organised by the Akete Art Foundation, a non-profit cultural organisation founded in 2016 with a main objective to promote contemporary art in Nigeria.

Below is a list of 10 artists to look out for at the forthcoming event.

Jelili Atiku

In the red, 2008

Award-winning artist Jelili Atiku holds a Bachelors of Arts (fine arts) and Master of Arts (visual arts) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. For decades, his themes have steadily revolved around contemporary African politics with a focus on human rights, as well as the psycho-social and emotional issues of traumatic events such as violence, war, poverty, corruption and climatic change.

Atiku is widely travelled, performing and speaking on his work in Africa, Europe, South Korea, Japan and Canada. In 2015, he was honoured with the Prince Claus Fund Award for his “provoking performances that challenge assumptions and stimulate dialogue in an unconventional and dynamic form of community education; and for his pioneering dedication to establishing space for contemporary performance art in Nigeria.”

Jelili Atiku is presently the artistic director of AFiRIperFOMA, a collective of performance artists in Africa, and chief coordinator of Advocate for Human Rights through Art (AHRA).

Fati Abubakar

An orphan girl at the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School in Maiduguri, a special school set up for orphans of the Boko Haram insurgency. Image credit: newsweek.com

Visual storyteller, Fati Abubakar was born and raised in Maiduguri, Borno State. Trained as a nurse at the University of Maiduguri, Abubakar holds a Master’s degree in public health from the London South Bank University. Better known as a photojournalist, she has since 2015, interviewed as well as taken pictures of the Borno residents, in a series she calls ‘Bits of Borno’, which captures their resilience and strength, through which they have endured the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Abdulrazaq Awofeso

Constellation of rights and wrongs, 2016. Image credit: stevenson.co.za

Abdulrazaq Awofeso is a Nigeria – based sculptor whose methodology is based on the notion of constructivism; adding to the structural form rather than deducting. His compositions, often figural in form, portray notions of bureaucracy and the constraints within the political, social and economic urban sphere. Awofeso delves into how these societal constructs affect our present experiences. His work responds to his locale as an African contemporary artist while simultaneously highlighting the corruption and deceit that underlines the interconnected, global societal façade.

Phoebe Boswell

Transit Terminal, 2014

London-based Kenyan artist Phoebe Boswell has her history and identity rooted in transient middle points and passages of migration, and her trajectory always anchored to a personal exploration of her home. She combines traditional drawing techniques and digital technology to create animations and installations that communicate global, fragmented narratives. Boswell also explores layered methods of storytelling, focusing on developing new skills around coding and interactivity as part of her practice. She has participated in the Gothenburg International Biennial of Contemporary Art 2015 and the Biennial of Moving Images 2016 at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, Art15, London and 1:54 London and New York.

Kainebi Osahenye

Absense, 2016

Osahenye is one of Nigeria’s foremost contemporary artists. His works deal with issues ranging from life, spirituality and consumerism to identity, and the environment. Osahenye employs recycled objects such as crushed beverage cans, water bottles, newspapers, chicken wire, fabric, juice packs and many objects to create huge installations and sculptures.

In more recent works, Osahenye makes a radical departure from his renowned large-scale installations to intricately layered photo-collages that explore recurrent themes like materiality, spirituality, instability and redemption. For example, some of his digitally manipulated images are derived from specially commissioned photographs of the eyes of carefully chosen people who all share a common thread. They are less than average income earners whose daily existence is determined largely on harsh economic realities and poor social infrastructure, occasioned by a corrupt political class. Osaheneye has participated in major art fairs such as the Johannesburg Art Fair and Art 14, London.

Taiye Idahor

And They Named Her Hope, 2010

Taiye Idahor works significantly within the concept of identity, using women’s hair as a visual language. She untangles factors such as trade, beauty, environment and globalisation while examining how they build a woman’s identity in Africa today, with particular reference to Lagos. Using collage, drawing, sculpture and mixed media, Idahor explores several themes, at once expansive and deeply intimate to express identity, both female and African within broader contexts of history, tradition, memory and globalisation. In many of her works, hair is a recurring motif that carries different symbolic elements, as well as the many facets and contradictions of female identity. Here, newsprint braids overflow from soft canvas and tracing paper surfaces, filled with secrets and memories. Across Idahor’s sculptures, drawings and collages, hair grows, blossoms and transforms, creating new forms and identities.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji

Can’t I Just Decide to Fly?, 2014

A performance and visual artist who works in a variety of media, Wura-Natasha Ogunji is best known for her videos, in which she uses her own body to explore movement and mark-making across water, land and air. Ogunji’s performances explore the presence of women in public space; these often include investigations of labour, leisure, freedom and frivolity. Her work also addresses the landscape, cultural flow and implications of women in the public space of Lagos. Her hand-stitched drawings made on architectural trace paper are inspired by the daily interactions and frequencies that occur in Lagos, from the epic to the intimate.  A selection of her large-scale drawings was most recently exhibited at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

Ogunji has received numerous awards, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2012) and grants from the Idea Fund, Houston (2010), and the Pollock-Kranser Foundation (2005). She has performed at the Centre for Contemporary Art (Lagos),

The Menil Collection (Houston) and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (St.Louis).

Délio Jasse

Schengen, 2010

Angolan artist Délio Jasse often interweaves found images with clues from past lives (found in passport photos, family albums) to draw links between photography and memory. Jasse is also known for experimenting with analogue photographic printing processes, including cyanotype, platinum and early printing methods such as ‘Van Dyke Brown’, as well as for developing his own printing techniques. His recent exhibitions include: Histories: New Photography from Africa at the Walther Collection Project Space in New York, 12th Dakar Biennale (2016), 56th Venice Biennale (Angolan Pavilion, 2015), Milan Expo (Angolan Pavilion, 2015), and the 9th Bamako Photography Encounters (2013).

Ayo Akinwande

Ere Egele, 2015

Nigerian photographer Ayo Akinwande seeks to expand his expressive and thematic scope, by exploring the events of daily life through critical views of the social, political and cultural from a contemporary Nigerian context. In his work, he employs archival materials such as newspaper prints and posters, to engage with memory and history. In 2015, he had two solo exhibitions Women of Africa in Athens, Greece and Boju Boju in Lagos, Nigeria. Akinwande also participated in the What’s Inside Her Never Dies group exhibition at the Yeelen Gallery in Miami, United States.

Ala Kheir

Silent Hills, 2016

Ala Kheir was born in Nyala, southwest Sudan in 1985. He has been obsessed with photography since secondary school, and in 2005 started researching about photography and purchased his first SLR camera. Gradually, Kheir went from just owning a camera, to becoming

a serious photography enthusiast who kept learning and experimenting different styles of photography. He has received several honours including: second place winner of both Our Continent, Our Future (2013) and Connect for Climate (2012) photo competitions, as well as the UN Education Photograph award (2010).



Oyindamola Olaniyan holds a B.sc in Botany from Lagos State University. Broadly experienced in this area, her core expertise includes social media management, content development and brand identity.

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