Performance artist Jelili Atiku from Nigeria has been selected to participate in the much anticipated 57th Venice International Art Biennial VIVA ARTE VIVA, which will run from May 13 to November 26 at the pavilions located in the Giardini and the Arsenale in Venice’s historic centre. 

Atiku, a pioneer of contemporary performance art in Nigeria, is best known for his intriguing public performances usually focused on human rights and justice to provoke community dialogue and debate on local, national and global issues. He received a Prince Claus Award in 2015 for “creating a new artistic language combining Yoruba traditional art forms with international performance practice; for his thought-provoking performances that challenge assumptions and stimulate dialogue in an unconventional and dynamic form of community education; for taking personal and artistic risks in order to open new possibilities and reach wider audiences; and for his pioneering dedication to establishing an atmosphere for contemporary performance art in Nigeria.”

In explaining this year’s biennale theme, the curator, Christine Macel states:

“The art of today, in the face of conflicts and upheavals in the world, witnesses the most precious part of humanity, in a time when humanism is endangered. It is the ultimate arena for reflection, individual expression and freedom, as well as the fundamental questions. Art is the last bastion, a garden to grow beyond the fashions and the specific interests and also represents an alternative to individualism and indifference. More than ever, the role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist appear therefore crucial in the whole of contemporary debates. It is thanks to the individuality that draws the world of tomorrow, a world with uncertain boundaries, of which the artists better than others sense the direction. ARTE VIVA VIVA  is so exclamation, an expression of the passion for art and the artist. ARTE VIVA VIVA  is a Biennial with the artists, the artists and for artists.”
This year, the biennale features 85 national participants and Nigeria is listed as one of the four countries participating for the first time, alongside Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, and Kazakhstan. Although there is no official announcement from Nigeria yet, most observers are hopeful the country will make it through this time.
Top featured image: Jelili Atiku, Street Performance in Lagos. Photo by Tom Saater. Courtesy the artist.