The art project Whose Centenary? is a critical analysis of significant historical aspects of Nigerian social, political and cultural memory, with a particular emphasis on 1914. The exhibition will explore themes around the centennial commemoration of the amalgamation of the northern and southern regions of Nigeria and the multilayered nature and prevalent results of colonialism in Nigeria in the primordial space of Benin. Benin became a place where history played out over a hundred years ago with the exile of Oba Ovonramwen to Calabar in 1897 and the eventual entrenchment of British rule. 1914 brings to mind the passing of the king who stood against British imperialism in defence of his kingdom. In its rhetorical form, several questions emerge: Who and what are being commemorated? In what forms do these memorializations occur?
Whose Centenary? 6-7th December at Igun Street celebrates the rich art and culture of Nigeria through Benin. 1914 is indeed a landmark in Nigeria’s history. In addition to the amalgamation which took place 100 years ago, it marks the centennial commemoration of the passage of Oba Ovonramwen who was exiled to Calabar by the British in 1897. This king fought to protect his kingdom against foreign incursion. This new initiative is influenced by my earlier work titled Benin1897.com in 2010.
It has been a four year journey of research- collecting praise songs of kings of Benin, designing incredibly beautiful costumes for which Benin in known with cloth and paper (all the beads worn on this project were made of paper). This was an event that was packed full with activities. I thank all the artists who have been invited to join on this project, Jude, Victor, Wura, Jumoke, Jelili, Andrew, Jude, Burns, Taiye, Ines, and George. How can we ever thank you enough, Princess Elizabeth Olowu?
The Igun artists were simply incredible- Many thanks to the Ine of Igun, all members of the Igun bronze casters guild. Taye Alabi , Alao Lukman, Greg Odiakose, Sheriff Ojetunde, you remain ever dependable. The students of the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos were also incredible. This was a great learning experience for all of you. Please look out for the several presentations on this project in Lagos, 2015 (Details would be posted on the website soon (Benin1897.com)
This first public art event on this project is supported by the University of Lagos Research Grant.