Poetry and politics
Flying Girls (pictured), Peju Alatise’s soaring installation of eight winged life-size girls, covers a section of the first-floor space from floor to ceiling. Based on her short story about a 10-year-old girl who works as a housemaid in Lagos but dreams of a realm where she is free and can fly, the work is immediately evocative and elicits sympathy for the girls. Moved by the piece, some guests at the opening were brought to tears. Since her arrival on the Nigerian art scene more than 13 years ago, the mixed-medium artist has used her work to champion social, political and gender issues. All of this culminated in her selection as the 2016 fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, where she explored the ancestry and performance of a Yoruba masquerade. Alatise, whose background is in architecture, is also a poet and author of two novels. In 2013 she combined the visual experience of sculptural installations with short stories for her experimental exhibition Wrapture at the Eko Hotel & Suites in Lagos. Alatise’s work is deliberate. When she debuted at the 1:54 art fair in 2014 she did so with a piece that once again evoked a strong reaction from viewers: Missing featured the silhouettes of some of the 234 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in the same year.