Lagos Peckham Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes at South London Gallery
Peckham is home to one of the largest Nigerian diaspora communities in the UK and is sometimes known as “Little Lagos”. This exhibition at South London Gallery is co-curated by the gallery and the founder and director of the Lagos Biennial, Folakunle Oshun, and brings together 13 contemporary Nigerian and British-Nigerian artists.
The lead imagery for the show is taken from Adeyemi Michael’s 2018 film, Entitled, in which his mother rides a magnificent black stallion through the streets of Peckham in traditional Nigerian garb of purple and gold. The film captures the reactions from bystanders, some spontaneously kneeling in a cultural sign of respect to an elder. It’s a striking, dreamlike piece of filmmaking.
Temitayo Shonibare’s I’d Rather Not Go Blind is a piece of performance art staged on the overground between Dalston Junction and Peckham Rye, where the artist is covertly filmed as she sits with a cascading strawberry-blonde wig covering her face and fiddles with it the entire journey, oblivious to those around her. It’s 26 mysterious minutes of this and the strangest art in the show. The wig itself becomes a piece of art: we are told what inspired it and that it was styled by Peckham-based hairdresser Solomon Paramour.
The Archive of Becoming (2015-ongoing) is the first series from the Lagos Studio Archives, a cultural preservation project started by Karl Ohiri after he discovered that negatives of studio portraiture were being destroyed or discarded in the shift to digital. The photographs date from the 1970s until after the millennium and are fascinating. Giclée prints on paper are displayed on a lightbox table with the original negatives. They are not well preserved – encroaching corruption lends an extra fragility to the developed photos.
The biggest highlight is Victor Ehikhamenor’s large installation, Cathedral of the Mind (2023). From one side one sees the façade: lace fabric heavily encrusted with plastic, mass-produced rosaries given heightened value through their proliferation. From the other side, the fabric surrounds a display of Yoruba Ibeji statuettes, which celebrate twins and the prosperity they are believed to bring households they are born into. Physically, symbols of Western religion surround articles associated with Yoruba spirituality, but the relationship appears harmonious, possibly even accentuating the spirituality held within.
Some of the art isn’t the most polished in its execution, and the grouping of art geographically rather than conceptually can make for a haphazard mixture, but that is not necessarily negative. It is interesting and, in a canny move, the show even has its own beer available to buy: No Food for Lazy Man, courtesy of Emeka Ogboh and Orbit brewery, which is described as “vibrating to the sound of Lagos”.
Lagos Peckham Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes is at South London Gallery from 5th July until 29th October 2023. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.