El Anatsui, Playing with Chance

Centre for contemporary Art, Lagos , Nigeria
14 Mar 2014 - 06 Apr 2014

El Anatsui, Playing with Chance

'El Anatsui: Playing with Chance,' 2014. Installation view, CCA, Lagos, 2014. Photo: Jude Anogwih.

The Centre for contemporary Art, Lagos presents El Anatsui: Playing with Chance to mark the 70th birthday anniversary of one of Africa’s most acclaimed contemporary artists.

The exhibition is shaped primarily through archival material in an attempt to present new insights into the making of his works as well as the development of his career. Through this presentation an array of disparate materials are brought together from his studio, his study and his library including sketchbooks, drawings, letters, exhibition planning and instruction documents, books he reads, books he features in as well as brochures and exhibition publications to which he has contributed especially of Nigerian artists. Also included are a few photographs taken during and just after his university education in Ghana, videos about him, fragments of the bottle top works ‘salvaged’ from his studio, his chainsaw wood sculptures and his early tray hangings and even a selection of his payslips from the University of Nigeria over a 36-year period. El Anatsui was a consummate teacher who made an indelible mark on his students, many of whom are now enjoying increasing national and internationally visibility. His concerted efforts in encouraging the visibility of female artists is highlighted by inviting three of his former students Nnenna Okore, Lucy Azubuike and Amarachi Okafor to participate in the exhibition.

El Anatsui was born on the 4th of February 1944 in Ghana. Since 1975 he  has lived and worked as an artist and lecturer in Nigeria, based at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Since retirement in 2011 from the University, he lives between Ghana and Nigeria. Anatsui has taken part in over 100 solo and groups exhibitions, several biennales and triennales in Nigeria, across Africa and internationally. Over the last decade he has been the subject of important solo exhibitions including Gawu, which toured in the UK and USA from 2003 to 2008 and the extensive retrospective When I last spoke to you about Africa, organised by the Museum for African Art, New York which toured to several institution in the USA and Canada from 2010 to 2012. Anatsui’s work is to be found in prestigious private and public collections locally and around the world.

El Anatsui: Playing with Chance acknowledges his spirit of experimentation and his creativity, and celebrates a dedicated teacher, a committed mentor, a sincere person, a generous man and a quiet leader. In her contribution to his exhibition catalogue A fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui, that toured in Japan from 2010 2011, CCA, Lagos director Bisi Silva asserts, “He has engaged profoundly with his cultural, political and social history. He has imbued the spirituality of his forefathers. In the final analysis Anatsui stands tall before the ancestors.”

El Anatsui:Playing with Chance is curated by Bisi Silva and assistant curator Taiye Idahor.

(1) Olu Oguibe, “El Anatsui: The Early Work” in El Anatsui: When I last wrote to you about Africa, Museum for African Art, New York 2010, pg 23.




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