Artists From Nigeria And The Diaspora Featured At 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2015

Today, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair officially opens to a large and vibrant crowd at Somerset House in London. This edition of 1:54 promises to be exciting for visitors as well as several other art events happening in London this week. For those visiting or already in London, here is a general guide to enjoying all the events this week and the remaining weeks in October.

This year at the third edition, fourteen galleries out of the thirty-eight exhibiting galleries and art centres are from Africa. This opens up more opportunities and visibility for artists working on the continent. According to 1:54, “this remarkable achievement is the result of dedication on the part of those working to build local art scenes in African countries, as well as the aim of 1:54 to engage in a conversation with cultural production and infrastructure on the continent.”

To bring the numbers closer, here is a list of Nigerian artists featured at the art fair including those in the diaspora.

Adejoke Tugbiyele 

Adejoke Tugbiyele, Kidnapped (2015), October Gallery
Adejoke Tugbiyele, Kidnapped (2015), October Gallery

Adejoke Tugbiyele is a rising Nigerian-American sculptor and experimental video artist. Tugbiyele works with a diverse range of materials including wire, natural fibres, fabric, and wood. Her work responds to the spiritual aspects of Yoruba culture, a cultural group occupying the South West region of Nigeria. Tugbiyele also confronts political subjects related to sexual identity, women’s rights and human rights. She has been exhibited and screened at renowned institutions internationally including the Centre for Contemporary Art, and the Goethe Institute, both in Lagos, Nigeria; Centre for Contemporary Art in Torun, Poland; and United Nations Headquarters in New York.

After studying and practicing as an architect, Tugbiyele went on to receive a MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, USA, in 2013. She is the recipient of several awards including a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellowship in 2013-2014 and the Amalie Rothschild Award in 2013. She has appeared as an artist and queer activist on Arise Entertainment 360, CNN International, and The Huffington Post.

ruby onyinyechi amanze 

ruby onyinyechi amanze, the alien who stole the sun (2015), Mariane Ibrahim Gallery
ruby onyinyechi amanze, the alien who stole the sun (2015), Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

ruby onyinyechi amanze is a Nigerian-born artist whose formative years were spent in Britain. Her practice, which comprises drawings, works on paper, textile design, photography, and printmaking, is a testament to her understanding of cultural hybridity, belonging, and displacement.

She completed her BA (Summa Cum Laude) at Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, USA, in 2004 and her M.F.A. at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, USA, in 2006. amanze was awarded a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholarship, whereby she joined the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Nigeria. amanze has been included in numerous exhibitions in Ghana, Nigeria, the US, the UK, and the Netherlands. Recent group presentations include no one belongs here more than you at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) Lagos, in Nigeria in 2013; and Six Draughtsmen at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) in Brooklyn in 2013–2014. More recently, her solo exhibition a story. in parts. was presented at Tiwani Contemporary in London, UK, in 2015.

Bright Ugochukwu Eke 

Bright Ugochukwu Eke, Portmanteau (2015), Axis Gallery
Bright Ugochukwu Eke, Portmanteau (2015), Axis Gallery

Bright Ugochukwu Eke obtained his MFA at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Nigeria in 2007, where he studied with El Anatsui. Often produced in collaboration with local participants with on-site materials, such as amassed plastic water bottles, Eke’s installation works explore themes of recycling and environmentalism. Focusing on global socio-political issues, Eke imitates social structures that bring people into dialogue and stimulate connectivity.

Eke has exhibited widely on an international scale. In the United States, exhibitions include Environment & Object: Recent African Art at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery in Saratoga Springs, USA, in 2011, among other venues, and The Global Africa Project at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, USA, in 2010. Further afield, Acid Rain / African Spirit was exhibited at the Ursula Blickle Foundation in Kraichtal, Germany, in 2013. In May 2015, Eke’s work will be included in the Africa-Africans at Museu Afro Brasil in São Paulo, Brazil.

Ndidi Emefiele

Ndidi Emefiele, Rainbow XII (2015), Omenka Gallery
Ndidi Emefiele, Rainbow XII (2015), Omenka Gallery

Ndidi Emefiele holds a bachelors degree in painting from Delta State University in Abraka, Nigeria and is currently studying for a masters in fine art at the Slade School of Art, University College London in London. An exciting talent fast emerging on the international scene, Emefiele has been recipient to several awards, including the COJA Art Competition in 2003. She has exhibited internationally, and her work has been published in various magazines and publication.

Emefiele’s work engages with the dominant cultures of consumption and recycling in Nigeria and takes its material cues from discarded materials, such as tulle, fabric offcuts, scrap plastic and compact discs. One of her most significant ongoing series Rainbow, depicts females in sunglasses constructed from used compact discs, that shift in colour according to the light. In Emefiele’s words, a typical ‘Rainbow’ woman is, ‘A reflection of light…an illusion constantly changing. She is as beautiful as you think she is and as toxic as you think she is’.

Nnenna Okore 

Nnenna Okore, Akwa Ocha
Nnenna Okore, Akwa Ocha (2009), October Gallery

Nnenna Okore has emerged as one of the foremost artists of her generation. Working internationally, her largely abstract works remain nonetheless inspired by the textures, colours and landscapes of her local environment. She relies on the use of everyday found objects, which she ‘repurposes’, transforming them into intricate sculptural installations using repetitive and labour-intensive techniques such as weaving, twisting, sewing, dyeing, waxing and rolling. Her works explore the exquisite qualities of detailed surfaces and the surprisingly dramatic exuberance of organic formations.

Okore is an Associate Professor and Chair to the Art Department at North Park University in Chicago, USA. She earned her honours degree in painting from the University of Nigeria in 1999 and a MA and MFA in sculpture from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, USA. She has exhibited worldwide and has received several national and international awards, including a Fulbright Scholarship in 2012–2013, which resulted in Okore undertaking a year-long project in Nigeria.

Otobong Nkanga 

Otobong Nkanga, Alterscapes Playground C (2005 -2015), In Situ Fabienne Leclerc
Otobong Nkanga, Alterscapes Playground C (2005 -2015), In Situ Fabienne Leclerc

Otobong Nkanga’s works variously examine ideas around land and the value connected to natural resources. Activities and performance permeate and motivate her photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and video, though the various works are thematically connected through architecture and landscape. Nkanga reflects metonymically on the use and cultural value connected to natural resources, exploring how meaning and function are relative within cultures, and how an individual product might comprise multiple roles and histories, particularly within the context of the artist’s memory.

In 2014, Nkanga participated in 14 Rooms at the Fondation Beyeler, Art Basel and Theater Basel in Basel, Switzerland; the 8th Berlin Biennale in Berlin, Germany; and the symposium ‘Landings: Confrontation and Confession’ at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Presentations in 2013 include the Sharjah Biennial 11 in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates; and in 2012, Across the board: Politics of Representation, where Nkanga performed a proposal of her ongoing installation series Contained Measures in Tate Modern’s Tanks in London, UK.

Olu Amoda

Olu Amoda, Small Sunflower II (2014), Art Twenty One
Olu Amoda, Small Sunflower II (2014), Art Twenty One

Olu Amoda is a sculptor and mixed media artist who has emerged as a leading voice in the contemporary arts community in Nigeria. Amoda is perhaps best recognised for his metal sculptural depictions of hybrid creatures and entities comprising animals, humans, and flora, culled from industrial detritus. Exploring the relations between mass industry and organic agriscience, his pivotal work Sunflower (2011), earned him the Grand Prix Léopold Sédar Senghor at Dak’Art, the 11th Biennial of Contemporary African Art in Dakar, Senegal, in 2014, alongside Algerian artist Driss Ouadahi.

Amoda graduated in sculpture from Auchi Polytechnic in Auchi, Nigeria, in 1983 and received a Masters of Fine Arts from Georgia Southern University in Georgia, USA, in 2009. He is the founder and Chief Executive of Riverside Art and Design Studios in Yaba, Lagos, and continues to teach Sculpture and Drawing at the School of Art, Design and Printing at Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, having held tenure since 1987.

Demola Ogunajo

Demola Ogunajo, I Love Me (2015), Art Twenty One
Demola Ogunajo, I Love Me (2015), Art Twenty One

Demola Ogunajo is a conceptual artist recognised for his bold pop art aesthetic and cartoonish simplicity. Straddling interests in graphic design and illustration, alongside a more painterly approach, Ogunajo’s depictions reference mythical characters and enigmatic narratives. Predominately working on canvas, Ogunajo’s renders the fantastical – from angels, chimeras, and clowns, alongside the everyday – from urban fashionistas to barbershop goers. Through rich insertions of characters and motifs, Ogunajo’s explores the philosophical complexities of modern life and realigns the humdrum of everyday life.

Ogunajo graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ife, Nigeria in 1994, with a degree in fine arts. He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Nigeria and internationally.

Sokari Douglas Camp 

Sokari Douglas camp, walworth lady (2008), october Gallery
Sokari Douglas camp, walworth lady (2008), october Gallery

Internationally renowned sculptor, Sokari Douglas Camp, renders her works primarily in steel. Her sculptures, often large-scale, reference her Nigerian roots and the ancestral origins of Buguma heritage, amongst other subjects. She has had more than 40 solo shows worldwide and her works have been acquired by the permanent collections of the National Museum of African Art – Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., USA; Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan; and the British Museum in London.

Douglas Camp was one of the winners of the memorial for Ken Saro-Wiwa in London and shortlisted for the Fourth Plinth commission in Trafalgar Square. She has previously collaborated with Ground Force to create an African Garden for the British Museum, as part of Africa 05. In 2005, she was awarded a CBE in recognition of her contribution to the arts. Her recent major work Battle Busis travelling to Nigeria as part of Action Saro-Wiwa, a campaign to clean up the Niger Delta in 2015.

For a complete experience of 1:54 London online, visit 

Artists’ narratives : 1:54 website.

Images of art works : (official media partners of 1:54)

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