• Traces of Ecstasy
    Nolan Oswald Dennis, Evan Ifekoya, Raymond Pinto, Temitayo Shonibare, and Adeju Thompson
    KJ Abudu
    Lagos Biennial Fourth Edition, Lagos, Nigeria
    Feb 2024
    KJ Abudu

Nigerian independence ceremonies including the new Prime Minister of Nigeria, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Princess Alexandra, 1960. Courtesy the BBC

Located in Tafawa Balewa Square—a stadium in central Lagos named after Nigeria’s first prime minister, which hosted the country’s independence ceremonies in 1960—this pavilion-cum-exhibition project responds directly to the material historicity of the site, using the space’s imbrication in the project of postcolonial nation-building as a point of departure. In gathering five artists from Africa and its diasporas—Nolan Oswald Dennis, Evan Ifekoya, Raymond Pinto, Temitayo Shonibare, and Adeju Thompson—the pavilion aims to unsettle the colonial epistemological supports that legitimate and secure the violent reproduction of the nation-state model, especially in post/neo-colonial contexts. By drawing on the oft-dismissed insights of indigenous thought systems (as seen in spatial practices, divination practices, masquerade performances, polyrhythmic drumming patterns, and textile dying traditions), the fluid, non-identitarian logics of queer methodologies, and the deterritorializing potential of digital technology, the pavilion hopes to illuminate decolonial forms of African collectivity for the twenty-first century.

KJ Abudu is a critic and curator based between London, Lagos, and New York. Informed by anti/post/decolonial theory, queer theory, African philosophy, and Black radical thought, his writings and exhibitions focus on critical art and intellectual practices from the Global South (particularly Africa and its diasporas) responding to the world-historical conditions produced by colonial modernity. Abudu holds a master’s degree in modern and contemporary art: critical and curatorial studies from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University where he studied philosophy and political science. He is currently a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program and will be cocurating Clocking Out: Time Beyond Management at Artists Space and e-flux Screening Room, New York, in May 2023. Abudu recently curated Living with Ghosts at Pace Gallery, London, 2022, and the Wallach Art Gallery, New York, 2022. He is the editor of Living with Ghosts: A Reader (Pace, 2022). He is also curator of Traces of Ecstasy, for the fourth edition of the Lagos Biennial in 2023.

Nolan Oswald Dennis is a paradisciplinary artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. Their practice explores what they call “a black consciousness of space,” the material and metaphysical conditions of decolonization. Dennis’ work questions the politics of space (and time) through a system-specific, rather than site-specific approach. They are concerned with the hidden structures that pre-determine the limits of our social and political imagination. Through a language of diagrams, drawings, and models they explore a hidden landscape of systematic and structural conditions that organize our political subterrain. This sub-space is framed by systems which transverse multiple realms (technical, spiritual economic, psychological, etc.) and therefore Dennis’ work can be seen as an attempt to stitch these, sometime opposed, sometimes complimentary, systems together. To read technological systems alongside spiritual systems, to combine political fictions with science fiction. Dennis is the 2016 winner of the FNB Arts Prize, and has exhibited in various solo and group shows, including the 9th Berlin Biennale (2016); the Young Congo Biennale (2019); Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); Architekturmuseum der TU München; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; and ARoS Aarhus, Denmark. They were the 2020 artist in residence at NTUCCA, Singapore and the 2021 artist in residence at the Delfina Foundation, London. Dennis is participating in the 2023 Liverpool Biennale in June (2023) with their installation, no conciliation is possible (working diagram).

Evan Ifekoya is a London-based artist whose work in community organizing, installation, performance, sound, text, and video is an extension of their calling as a spiritual practitioner. They view art as a site where resources can be both redistributed and renegotiated, whilst challenging the implicit rules and hierarchies of public and social space. Strategies of space holding through architectural interventions, archival and sonic investigation, and ritual and sound enable them to make a practice of living in order not to turn to despair. They established the collectively run Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.) in 2018. They have presented exhibitions, moving image, and performances across the United Kingdom and internationally, including: a solo exhibition at Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich (2022); Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, UK, as nominees of the Turner Prize (with B.O.S.S. 2021); de Appel Amsterdam (2019); and Gasworks, London (2018).

Raymond Pinto is a New York-based multidisciplinary artist. Their practice moves through the African diaspora to create art. Pinto, a graduate of New York University (NYU) Tisch and the Juilliard school, has a master’s degree in performance studies, and a bachelor’s in fine arts in dance. In addition to performance, choreography, and visual art, they are also a DJ. Through a queer lens, their work situates the archives of underrepresented ancestors and creatives who inspire them to persist through the adversity of dispossession. While resistances to the neoliberal regime guide Pinto’s art, they are equally aware of the necessity of relishing in pleasure-based practices. Pinto is currently engaging questions of diaspora in relation to groundlessness, in order to arrive at embodiments of honed abstraction by way of queerness and spirituality. Performances and exhibitions include Ingathered, Judson Church, New York, 2021; In Longing, CUE Art Foundation, New York; and Untitled (Unintelligible), at Participant Inc., New York, 2020.

Temitayo Shonibare is a multidisciplinary designer and artist based between London and Lagos. Shonibare holds a bachelor's degree in interior design and a master’s degree in fine art from Pratt Institute and Goldsmiths University, respectively. Her practice, as a result, is heavily informed by spatial research and interrogations. She considers our world a stage and creates critically engaged interventions to reveal the backstage of the indoctrinated performance that is our everyday life. Conducted as social experiments, she brings the subjective interiority of daily encounters to public space using her body as the medium. Through staging actions that disrupt general socialized norms, she plays with the imagined boundaries between public and private spaces—mentally, physically and digitally—questioning who is and what makes up the public. She seeks to expand the site of art making from a physically grounded space to a relational encounter between individuals, affecting how viewers-cum-participants experience the work. Her interventions have taken place in the Dominican Republic, Lagos, New York and on Instagram. Exhibitions include Bloomberg New Contemporaries, South London Gallery, London (2021), HDL, Xxijra Hii, London (2021), AGAINST MEDIUM, The Treehouse, Lagos, Nigeria (2022) and forthcoming Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes, South London Gallery, London (2023).

Adeju Thompson is the founder of Lagos Space Programme, a conceptual, non-binary design label. Offering intellectual, ready-to-wear, high-end crafted collections, they explore parallel concepts through multidisciplinary collaborative projects. The name of the label reflects their ethos/manifesto, a name grounded in their roots but still looking outward; a theme rooted within the notion of African futures. Founded in 2018, Lagos Space Programme aims to explore African futures through a lens informed by slow fashion and by dissecting the intersection of Thompson’s life experiences, thereby communicating ideas of individuality, and proposing new ways to understand beauty. Thompson aims to continue centuries-old conversations around design practices. This is because the transfer of knowledge and the acknowledgment of cultural and traditional techniques reinterpreted in modern contexts are at the core of their ethos as well as sustainability, reducing inequalities amongst communities, fair pay, local sourcing, responsible production, and consumption. Collaborations are an essential part of Lagos Space Programme’s practice. Thompson won The International Woolmark Prize in 2023 and was an LVMH Prize semifinalist in 2021. Their works are included in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI. Exhibitions include Africa Fashion, V&A Museum, London, and Osun Sèègèsiat, Alara, Lagos.