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In summer 2023, the South London Gallery (SLG) will present ‘Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes’, a major group exhibition spanning both SLG sites on Peckham Road, London.

Adeyemi Michael, Entitled, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

The SLG’s local neighbourhood of Peckham is home to one of the largest Nigerian diaspora communities in the UK and is sometimes referred to as ‘Little Lagos’. Lagos was a significant port during the trans-Atlantic slave trade until it was annexed by Britain in 1861, beginning the British colonial period. Today Lagos is one of the leading commercial and economic centres in Africa.

This landmark exhibition will explore themes that connect Lagos and Peckham in south east London. It will bring together works by over ten Nigerian and British Nigerian artists including Abdulrazaq Awofeso (b. 1978), Seyi Adelekun (b.1993), Chiizii (b.1995), Ndidi Dike (b.1960), Victor Ehikhamenor (b.1970), Onyeka Igwe (b.1986), Adeyemi Michael (b.1985), Christopher Obuh (b.1988), Karl Ohiri (b.1983), Emeka Ogboh (b.1977), Temitayo Ogunbiyi (b.1984), Temitayo Shonibare (b.1995), and Yinka Shonibare (b.1962). The exhibition is co-curated by Folakunle Oshun, founder and director of the Lagos Biennial, together with South London Gallery.

‘Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes’ will focus on contemporary practice, featuring sculpture, installation, photography, and film. London has long been a destination for Nigerians moving abroad. Following Nigeria’s independence in 1960 emigration between Britain and Nigeria steadily increased. Themes explored by the exhibiting artists include transnational exchange, a sense of place, and the contemporary metropolis. Highlights include a newly commissioned large-scale installation by Ndidi Dike. The work will evoke the sights, sounds and smells of the Lagos marketplace and will engage with cultural, social, economic and political issues as they relate to the marketplace.

Emeka Ogboh will collaborate with a south London-based craft brewery to brew a bespoke Lagos-inspired beer for the exhibition, which will feature within the exhibition itself as well as being for sale. The exhibition will also feature a sound work by Ogboh. Temitayo Ogunbiyi will install a new interactive play sculpture on the ground floor of the SLG’s Fire Station. To create the lines for the sculpture, Ogunbiyi looked at the journey from Lagos to London, using map applications. Specifically, she references the path walking from Lagos to South London Gallery; the interpretation of the flight route between London and Lagos; and various paths between Heathrow Airport and South London Gallery. The lines are also inspired by plants that Ogunbiyi observes during her everyday life in Lagos. Victor Ehikhamenor will create a new work from his Rosaries series. Created using plastic rosary beads this piece will explore the rituals and rites of passage that people emigrating may engage in.

Margot Heller, South London Gallery Director, said: “The SLG has for many years wanted to stage an exhibition that reflects on Peckham’s status as home to one of the UK’s largest Nigerian diaspora communities, and provides a platform for some of the most interesting Nigerian and British Nigerian artists working today. We are delighted to be working with Folakunle Oshun towards this exciting project, which will bring together many different strands of our artistic and education programmes, from newly commissioned works, artist residencies and performances, through to a film screening as part of our long-standing programme of contemporary African cinema, South by South.”

Folakunle Oshun, exhibition co-curator, said: “The exhibition explores the idea of ‘pilgrimage’ as a journey to fulfil a specific ritual or intention; in this case, a quest to find and make a new home – reducing the necessity for return – but equally initiating a cycle of sojourns.

In his 1993 publication The Black Atlantic, Paul Gilroy expounds on the theory of double consciousness, initially posited by W.E.B Dubois in The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Notions of place usually suggest defined geographies as monoliths that can be imagined as origins within contexts of identity and belonging. This migratory loop premised on slavery is anchored on the very basis for which Lagos – meaning Lakes – exists. Christened in the 18th century by the Portuguese after Lagos, a coastal city in the south of Portugal, the city originally known as Èkó had also historically been a West African trade Mecca for centuries, owing to its intricate waterways and access to the Atlantic.

In an attempt to capture this double consciousness, the plurality of place, and the rationale behind post-independence migration by Nigerian migrants, the exhibition ‘Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes’ will document the experiences of selected Nigerian artists whose practices have been shaped by their personal journeys.”

The exhibition will be on view from the 5th of July until the 29th of October, 2023. For more information, please visit South London Gallery & Fire Station Galleries.

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