Benin Pavilion for 60th Venice Biennale Announces Artists and Theme

The curatorial team around Azu Nwagbogu will put works together by Romuald Hazoumé, Chloe Quenem, Ishola Akpo, and Moufoli Bello under the theme "Everything Precious is Fragile".

Azu Nwagbogu on a research trip to Benin at the Market at Musee Historique D’Abomey (Historic Museum of Abomey). Courtesy of UGO.

Azu Nwagbogu on a research trip to Benin at the Market at Musee Historique D’Abomey (Historic Museum of Abomey). Courtesy of UGO.

For the first time, the Benin Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, will be on view to the public from April 20 through November 24, 2024. The inaugural exhibition will be co-curated by Azu Nwagbogu, Madame Yassine Lassisi and Franck Houndegla. With the global rise of restitution movements, the curatorial team connects the contemporary art production of Benin to explore the importance and dialogue of decolonization, and reclamation, bringing a debut, fresh perspective to the Venice Biennale in 2024.

The exhibition features four Beninoise artists: Romuald Hazoumé, Chloe Quenem, Ishola Akpo, and Moufoli Bello. Each artist will produce unique site-specific work for the exhibition based on the theme, Everything Precious is Fragile.

The concept and topic of the Pavilion are closely aligned with the Nwgabogu’s interest in restoration and the Republic of Benin’s agenda of African artifacts restitution, following the renewed awakening amongst Beninese and other Africans who find inspiration and confidence in the ingenuity of the art of the ancestors. Underlining this booming interest, a groundbreaking exhibition in 2022 ‘The Art of Benin of Yesterday and Today: from Restitution to Revelation,’ presented 26 objects looted by French troops from palaces in Abomey in 1892, returned to the country from the Quai Branly Museum in France, in conversation with works by leading contemporary artists from Benin. With global acclaim, the exhibition paved the way for Everything Precious is Fragile, enabling the contemporary art practice of Benin to connect with ancestral power and legacy serving a new purpose.

Following Nwagbogu’s long-standing devotion to questions of decolonization, restitution, and repatriation, the President of the Republic of Benin appointed him to curate Benin’s inaugural participation. For this inaugural participation, Nwagbogu’s exhibition titled Everything Precious is Fragile, explores the fragility of our world today in connection to concepts of restitution and the restorative power of art. Drawing inspiration from the ancient wisdom of the Gèlèdé, one of the oldest philosophies of Yoruba Feminism, paying homage to the wisdom of the mother (iyami), the exhibition explores various concepts from ecological, political, cultural and social, and channels the resurgence of indigenous philosophies as a means of fostering a deeper connection to heritage. In response to the fragility and delicate state of the world, the Pavilion focuses on a profound reawakening and a shift towards indigenous wisdom. Deeply rooted in Benin and indigenous communities globally, the Gèlèdé philosophy and the notion of ‘Rematriation,’ offer essential insights into care, preservation, and the interconnectedness of all life, with restitution of history at the forefront.




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