Lagos Biennial 2024: REFUGE

Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, Nigeria
03 Feb 2024 - 10 Feb 2024

Lagos Biennial 2024: REFUGE

The 2024 edition of the Lagos Biennial takes place in the heart of Lagos on the grounds of Tafawa Balewa Square, a site named in honour of the first Nigerian Prime Minister. The Biennial occupies this historical space, linked to entertainment in the colonial period as a racecourse and to political, cultural and commercial events after Independence, in order to reflect on its possible meanings in relation to political allegiance, territory, sovereignty, regionality, notions of belonging, encounter, and alliance. It moves the cursor away from a history of ‘universal’ exhibitions and biennials towards experiments in non-conventional modes of exhibition making, shifting from the idea of the work as an end in itself towards generative models and prototypes that continue to activate possibilities in the world.

Themed REFUGE, Lagos Biennial 2024 addresses the concept of the nation-state and critically reflects on the site of the exhibition, Tafawa Balewa Square, the venue of Nigerian independence celebrations in 1960, and also a key venue of the Festival of Black Arts and Culture FESTAC ’77, notably hosting a concert of the great musician an activist Miriam Makeba. The important legacy of FESTAC is seen in its ambition to create a planetary-scale project that celebrates and promotes African cultures of the continent and its diasporas. Also important as a point of reference is the 6th Pan African Congress in 1974 in Dar es Salaam, the first of the series to take place on the African continent. How can this cultural inheritance be reimagined in Lagos fifty years later?

The Lagos Biennial brings together artists who explore how to create an operative notion of refuge that can offer alternate paths towards constructing renewable communities and work towards ecological justice in this historical moment of systemic crisis. It offers an opportunity to reassess the promises, disappointments, and ongoing ramifications of the nation-state model with its panoply of modes of governance under the aegis of global capital. The critical issues of this 21st century – even though global in reach – are played out in local, national, and regional spaces. Their profound implications and effects on our lives are enabled and activated in the present by choices made at the level of the individual or community.

By situating Lagos as an international geopolitical nerve point and an international hub for artistic expression, the biennial opens a speculative space for the fabrication of alternate realities.

Lagos Biennial 2024 features

REFUGE teams
A series of autonomous platforms responding in different ways to the theme of REFUGE, produced by multidisciplinary teams who took part in the online third edition of the biennial in 2021 (an open call process with a jury composed of Kunle Adeyemi, N’Goné Fall, and Kathryn Weir).

Gregarious architectures
Special projects and existing works by artists speaking to the theme of REFUGE, the site of Tafawa Balewa Square and notions of informality in building new architectures of community.

An exhibition project curated by Egyptian art historian, curator, and educator Sarah Rifky and Lagos Biennial co-artistic director Kathryn Weir, reflects on regimes of seeing and strategies of taking refuge in plain sight.

Worldmade communities
A convening for participants with a stake in cultural infrastructure that builds capacity and alliances across Africa and elsewhere. Aspiring to reclaim and celebrate contemporary art as a community and worldbuilding practice, the programme is curated by Sarah Rifky and Kathryn Weir with an intervention by Romi Crawford and the New Art School Modality.
Royal Air Maroc is the Official Air Carrier for the next three editions of the Lagos Biennial.


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