Arts & Design

What You Don’t Know About Lagos Biennial


Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos is abuzz with art enthusiasts and spectators who are experiencing this year’s edition of Lagos Biennial. This on-going cultural event, which has Kathryn Weir and Folakunle Oshun as artistic directors, is a much anticipated one.


Running till February 10, the 2024 edition of the Lagos Biennial takes place on the grounds of Tafawa Balewa Square, a site named in honour of the first Nigerian Prime Minister. 


The Biennial occupies this historical space, linked to political, cultural and commercial events after Independence. The idea is to reflect on its possible meanings in relation to political allegiance, territory, sovereignty, regionality, notions of belonging, encounter, and alliance. 


It moves the cursor away from a history of ‘universal’ exhibitions and biennials towards experiments in non-conventional modes of exhibition making, shifting from the idea of the work as an end in itself towards generative models and prototypes that continue to activate possibilities in the world.


With the theme REFUGE, Lagos Biennial 2024 addresses the concept of the nation-state and critically reflects on the site of the exhibition, Tafawa Balewa Square, the venue of Nigerian independence celebrations in 1960, and also a key venue of the Festival of Black Arts and Culture FESTAC ’77, notably hosting a concert of the great musician an activist Miriam Makeba. 


The important legacy of FESTAC is seen in its ambition to create a planetary-scale project that celebrates and promotes African cultures of the continent and its diasporas. Also important as a point of reference is the 6th Pan African Congress in 1974 in Dar es Salaam, the first of the series to take place on the African continent. 


Indeed, Lagos Biennial brings together artists who explore how to create an operative notion of refuge that can offer alternate paths towards constructing renewable communities and work towards ecological justice in this historical moment of systemic crisis. 


It offers an opportunity to reassess the promises, disappointments in governance. The critical issues of this 21st century – even though global in reach – are played out in local, national, and regional spaces. Their profound implications and effects on our lives are enabled and activated in the present by choices made at the level of the individual or community.


By situating this in Lagos as an international geopolitical nerve point and an international hub for artistic expression, the biennial opens a speculative space for the fabrication of alternate realities.



Lagos Biennial 2024 features REFUGE teams which are a series of autonomous platforms responding in different ways to the theme of REFUGE. Produced by multidisciplinary teams who took part in the online third edition of the biennial in 2021, it was preceded by an open call process with a jury composed of Kunle Adeyemi, N’Goné Fall, and Kathryn Weir.


Another feature of the event are Gregarious architectures. These are special projects and existing works by artists speaking to the theme of REFUGE and notions of informality in building new architectures of community.


There’s also CAPTCHA, an exhibition project curated by Egyptian art historian, curator, and educator Sarah Rifky and Lagos Biennial co-artistic director Kathryn Weir, reflecting on regimes of seeing and strategies of taking refuge in plain sight.


A part called Worldmade communities is curated by Sarah Rifky and Kathryn Weir with an intervention by Romi Crawford and the New Art School Modality.


Meanwhile, entry is free.



You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *