Photography by Eva Maria Ocherbauer and Artwork by Niyi Olagunju

Lagos Biennial // How to build a lagoon with just a bottle of wine

A sprawling metropolis flanked by two bodies of water. A costal tide sweeps in from the Gulf of Guinea while the adjacent tautological Lagos Lagoon lies far more still. Lagos Island, centered between the two, will host the second edition of the Biennial for Contemporary Arts later this month. It is set to open on the 26th of October until the 30th of November 2019. The intriguing title is adapted from the Nigerian writer Akeem Lasisi’s poem, A Song for Lagos. While on the one hand it may invoke imagery of wine-fueled exhibition openings, on the other, it brings to mind the waterways synonymous with the city. Historically essential to creating trade-routes, they continue to be critical to the urban complex.

Artwork by Yara Mekawei

However, straddled between lagoon and sea, the city faces imminent high risks from climate change. As such, one of the predominant curatorial themes of the biennial is the notion of environment. This includes and extends to the man-made and organic; living and non-living, virtual experiences and inherent belief systems. This edition of the biennial is positioned at the intersections of art, architecture, and urbanism. This focus is reflective in the backgrounds of the co-curatorial trio Antawan I. Byrd, Tosin Oshinowo and Oyinda Fakeye. As collaborators, they have devised the curatorial framework encompassing exhibitions, performances, publishing projects, and public programmes that engage with the city’s spatial development over the last two decades.

Artwork by Obuh Christopher Nelson

In addition, a Curatorial Intensive Programme is scheduled during the biennial. The week-long programme is designed to provide both basic technical and theoretical knowledge to emerging curatorial practitioners. The programme seeks to facilitate new approaches in knowledge production around African narratives and perspectives. This extension seems a worthy pursuit. While the thirty-eight participating artists in the biennial are scattered from all around the globe, I’m certain that this iteration will be representative of the continent. As Folakunle Oshun, the biennial’s founding director says, “You work with what you have and make the most of the culture”.

Artwork by Silas Mensah

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