Benin Pavilion for 60th Venice Biennale Announces Artists and Theme

Bildschirmfoto 2023 08 29 um 11.38.05

For the first time in its history, the Benin Pavilion is set to grace the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. This inaugural presentation, scheduled from April 20 to November 24, 2024, promises to immerse visitors in a novel perspective, bridging both past and present.

The exhibition, co-curated by Azu Nwagbogu, Madame Yassine Lassisi, and Franck Houndegla, taps into the global conversation of decolonization and reclamation. Four distinguished Beninoise artists – Romuald Hazoumé, Chloe Quenem, Ishola Akpo, and Moufoli Bello – will breathe life into the theme, “Everything Precious is Fragile” with their site-specific works.

This initiative aligns with Nwagbogu’s dedication to restoration, resonating with the Republic of Benin’s restitution movement for African artifacts. The Beninese people and Africans at large are experiencing a renewed sense of pride and admiration for their ancestors’ artistry. This resurgence of interest culminated in a 2022 exhibition, ‘The Art of Benin of Yesterday and Today: from Restitution to Revelation.’ This landmark event showcased 26 objects, taken by French troops in 1892, which were repatriated from the Quai Branly Museum in France. Set alongside contemporary Benin artworks, the exhibition garnered global acclaim, paving the path for “Everything Precious is Fragile.”

Nwagbogu’s dedication to addressing decolonization, restitution, and repatriation issues did not go unnoticed. Recognizing his passion and expertise, the President of the Republic of Benin entrusted him with curating Benin’s debut at Venice Biennale. “Everything Precious is Fragile” seeks to uncover the delicate nature of today’s world, tying it to restitution and the healing potential of art. Drawing upon the ancient tenets of Gèlèdé, a pillar of Yoruba Feminism that reveres maternal wisdom, the exhibition dives deep into themes spanning from ecology and politics to culture and society. It amplifies the call for a renewed connection to indigenous wisdom, such as the Gèlèdé philosophy and the concept of ‘Rematriation.’ These notions emphasize care, preservation, interconnectedness, and the critical task of restoring history.

This debut Benin Pavilion, with its meld of ancestral wisdom and contemporary art, will undoubtedly provide a fresh, meaningful narrative for the Venice Biennale 2024 attendees.

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