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Aindrea Emelife talks to FAD about MOWAA collaboration with Christie's for Frieze Week - FAD Magazine

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Aindrea Emelife talks to FAD about MOWAA collaboration with Christie’s for Frieze Week

We caught up with Aindrea Emelife, Curator for the Nigerian Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia; Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA) to find out about their collaboration with Christie’s during Frieze Week as part of Christies 20/21 Sales Series.

Can you tell us what MOWAA is ? 

The Museum of West African Art (MOWAA) is an independent non-profit dedicated to the preservation of heritage, the expansion of knowledge and celebration of West African arts and culture. We are a catalyst for deepening connections between contemporary arts and culture and the rich cultural heritage of West Africa. MOWAA will be creative campus in Benin City  and as an organization we are seeking to establish a centre of excellence with the goal of creating opportunities for African and Diaspora artists, professionals, and scholars. 

The money raised from the auction will raise money for MOWAA initiatives, can you tell us about those intiatives.

As we accelerate our fundraising campaign, MOWAA is seeking to raise funds for a number of core initiatives, including the the Nigeria Pavilion, which I will curate at Venice Biennale 2024.  The participating artists are Yinka Shonibare, Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Ndidi Dike, Fatimah Tugger, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Onyeka Igwe, Precious Okoyomon and Abraham Oghobase. The exhibition, entitled “Nigeria Imaginary,” is a group exhibition that looks at the many Nigerias that live in our minds: the Nigeria that could be and is yet to be. The exhibition will explore different perspectives and constructed ideas, memories of and nostalgia for Nigeria, with a scope that is cross- generational and inter- geographic.The “Nigeria Imaginary” exhibition will be designed as a homecoming exhibition, returning to Nigeria in 2025 as the inaugural exhibition for the planned Rainforest Gallery in the MOWAA Creative District. This is a valuable part of the exhibition ethos, enabling Nigerian and West African audiences to experience the utopic manifesto that is centred in the evocation of “Nigeria Imaginary.”

The MOWAA Creative Campus is a forthcoming creative complex in the heart of Benin City consisting of research labs, conservation facilities, exhibition space, artisans halls, and education and performance spaces. Designed by young West African architectural firms, including Lagos-based MOE+, Dakar-based Worofila, and Studio Contra, the MOWAA Creative District is seeking to create an arts and culture ecosystem that contributes to the re-establishment of Benin City as a cultural capital of West Africa and a place of opportunity for creatives and academics in arts and culture.  

Which artworks in the auction excite you the most? 

We are particularly excited about Flower Girl (Kid) by Yinka Shonibare and Reverse Dive Red by Tunji Adeniyi-Jones. It is meaningful for artists participating in the Nigeria Pavilion to be impassioned to support our Modern and Contemporary initiatives. I am equally thrilled to see donations from Olafur Eliasson, Oli Epp, Emma Stern – their support shows that this mission is about expanding our world view and is an opportunity for us all, not just for Africa, to learn who we are and have been as humans. 

Artist: Yinka Shonibare CBE Title: Flower Kid (Girl) Date: 2022 Dimensions: Sculpture (including baseplate): 134.5 x 107 x 60cm (HxWxD) Medium: Fibreglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, globe, brass, steel baseplate, painted fibreglass, wire, and silk. Photographer credit, image courtesy: Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, London, Photographer: Stephen White & Co. Copyright Yinka Shonibare CBE.

How did the partnership with Christie’s come about?

Prior to joining MOWAA in December of 2022, I worked as an independent curator and art historian with a focus on?questions around colonial and decolonial histories, transnationalism, and politics of representation. As part of this practice, I partnered with Christie’s in 2021 to curate ‘Bold, Black & British’, a cross-disciplinary exhibition centered around the influence of Black Britons on the country’s creative landscape. Christie’s felt like a natural fit for this  partnership given my past experience with ‘Bold, Black & British’ and their ongoing collaboration with 1-54 and broader support of contemporary African art.

Is it an in-person auction only ? 

All works will be available for online bidding with the 20th/21st Century: Evening Sale opening at 5pm BST on October 13 and the Post-War and Contemporary Day Sale at 1pm BST on October 14. The Evening and Day Sales will also have live auction components. MOWAA also has several works already open for bidding in the First Open Sale that runs through October 17. 

Your aim is to create a cultural ecosystem in Benin City? Why Benin and not Abuja or Lagos? 

Benin City was, and remains, famous for its highly skilled craftsmanship and arts, especially wood carving, weaving and brass casting. MOWAA is seeking to restablish Benin City as a cultural capital of West Africa with the needed infrastructure to support the next generation. Only three hours from Lagos by air, Benin City is?also centrally located and affordable for young creatives, scholars, and heritage management professionals

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