This is Nigeria's debut pavilion at the Venice Arte Biennale and it is titled, How About Now?
Presenting the multidisciplinary practices of three contemporary Nigerian artists, How About Now? reflects on the notions of time and identity as the starting point for a consideration of the demands exerted by the present. Invoking themes of history, fantasy, and memory, alongside more fundamental concerns related to nationhood and self-awareness, Victor Ehikhamenor (b. 1970), Peju Alatise (b. 1975), and Qudus Onikeku (b. 1984), respond to the multifaceted way in which to conceive Nigerian contemporaneity.
How About Now? evokes a contemporariness that encompasses a range of ideological possibilities, and which implicates the past, new or modern, or the postcolonial. This pavilion takes into cognizance the above timeframes and makes a connection between the artworks featured and the milieu in which Nigerian artists work, while equally linking their artistic imaginations to the continuum of experience and complexities of our national identity.
Through the “now,” we reflect not only on our myths and histories but, equally, on how we choose to relay contemporary narratives in a fragmented, but interconnected, present. To hold time accountable for the present cannot be viewed without the notion of speed—the alacritous; an often-seismic manner in which Nigerian society has evolved. The dilemma of the contemporary is the dilemma of how history impacts the present. Requiring that we ask at what point, does Nigeria’s “now,” begin? In following this inquiry to consider the distinctive nature of Nigerian time and identity—through works of art that insist on elaborating, and tracking the elusive—we place our hopes on the visions of three artists.
A sense of the present always originates in the retrospective, necessarily in connection to the experience of the past. However, a sense of the present is equally prescient; we speak of the present in relation to our expectations for the future. Cognizant of this, How About Now? evokes the present as an avatar: making a recourse to history, and speculating on the future. Neither nostalgic nor escapist, we insist on thinking about Nigeria’s past and future to understand the interrelated nature of time.