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Peju Layiwola, Leitmotif, Polyester resin, Installation view (2018-2019)
Peju Layiwola, Leitmotif, Polyester resin, Installation view (2018-2019)

Exactly one year after the Inaugural exhibition of the Raw Gallery at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, Layiwola returns with another solo exhibition titled, Indigo Reimagined, 13 June - 30 July, 2019. J.F. Ade Ajayi Auditorium Gallery, University of Lagos, Nigeria. This exhibition revisits the indigenous clothing tradition of dyed fabrics known as adire in south-western Nigeria. 

Peju Layiwola earned her BA in 1988 at the University of Benin, Benin City; an MA and Ph.D. in Art History at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 1991 and 2004 respectively. She has followed her mother, Princess Elizabeth Olowu-daughter of Oba Akenzua II of Benin in a career as an artist, adding art history to the mix. Layiwola’s work, in a variety of media ranging from metalwork and pottery to textile and sculpture, addresses diverse strains of the postcolonial condition. She focuses on personal and communal histories which centralize Benin as both an ancient kingdom and a contemporary city. In Layiwola’s teaching, writing, and art, there is continuous engagement with themes of artifact pillage, repatriation and restitution; history, memoryand cultural imaginary; gender and cultural heterodoxy; the continually mutable processes of production. Her work moves from the emotive space of art pillage in Africa captured in previous exhibitions: Benin Art and the Restitution Question (2010), Whose Centenary ? (2014) and Return (2018) into a gentler engagement with cloth and its multiple significations. 

She began her teaching career at the University of Benin in 1991 and joined the employment of the University of Lagos in 2002. Within the academy and beyond, Layiwola has instituted practical interventions and initiated new pedagogical methods that extend into local communities through the non-profit organization, Women and Youth Art Foundation (Wy Art) that she founded in 1994. One remarkable innovation is the creation of the first DVDs on teaching arts and crafts in Nigeria. 

Layiwola has received several awards at almost every step in her career- Departmental prize in Applied Arts 1987; Best graduating student at the University of Benin art school in 1988; NYSC Merit Award, Lagos State (1989); Distinguished Researcher’s Award, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, 2007; two Central Research Grants of the University of Lagos; and Commendation for teaching at the University of Lagos, in 2005. She is Professor of Art History and current Head of the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos. 

At the International level, Layiwola was recently selected as a Tyson Scholar at the Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, USA (2019-2020) and to share her time as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar, University of Arkansas; Terra Foundation grantee for American Art 2018; CAA-Getty Alumni grantee (2018), Nominated, US International Leadership Programme (IVLP) 2011; Partner with Bronx Museum of the Arts on the Hilary Clinton US State Department SmARTpower programme, 2012; US Lagos State Consulate Grantee 2017; US Alumni Exchange Award 2018; Goethe Resident Artist grantee,  Kunstsamlung NorthreinWestafalen, (KNW), Dusseldorf, 2017. 

Layiwola is President-elect and Vice President of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA), USA and member of various distinguished associations; Board of the Lagos Studies Association; Art Powa Publishing Network(ARTPOWA), South Africa; International Committee of Museums; College Arts Association (CAA); Nigerian Field Society, Ibadan Branch (NFS) and other organisations. 

This exhibition brings together her overall experience and engagement with cloth. some of her article on textile include ‘Lace Culture and the Art of Dressing Well in Nigeria; African Lace: A History of Trade, Creativity and Fashion in Nigeria, Eds. Barbara Plankensteiner and Mayo Adediran, Museum of Ethnology, Vienna (Museum fur Volkerkunde,);

New Forms of Commemoration; Royal Textiles of Benin, The Nigerian Field, Vol. 74, 1 and 2, Pp.5-19.  

Her hands on experience leading workshops on tie dye, batik, silk painting at her women’s centre for art in Surulere, Lagos extend her trajectory. Added to this is the designing of costumes for the public art project Whose Centenary? Igun Street, Benin City in 2014. 

Indigo Reimagined highlights the multidimensionality of this artistic practice whilst simultaneously providing us with a window into the beauty and functions of other indigenous crafts like pottery andmetal work associated with dyeing. These installations are not limited to the dyed textile as a site of adornment and signification. Instead, they redirect our gaze at the very process of ‘art as art’ in their own right; in a sense, the process, methodology and labour of making art is itself conceived of as art. This conceptual, yet tactical, engagement with cloth compels the viewer to look at the often neglected but important aspects involved in the process of this long-standing tradition of indigo dyeing. The show stands as a reflection of modern urban culture in the introduction of new themes, techniques, and materials.  It ultimately challenges the viewer to see cloth in its multiple sociocultural and political dimensions.  

Exhibition catalogue:

The catalogue contains short articles by leading academics and artists, many of whom have publications on African textile traditions.  Articles are by Jean Borgatti, Janine Sytsma, Patricia Oyelola, Ayo Adeduntan, Emmanuelle Speisse, Tobenna Okwuosa, Pheonix Savage, Nengi Omuku with a foreword by Ayo Olukoju. 

Forthcoming events:

a) A panel to discuss this exhibition is scheduled to hold at the next Lagos Studies Association conference, June 27-29, 2019.

b) Gallery talk with the artist

c) Discussion with Elizabeth Olowu, mother of the artist, who is celebrated as the first female to specialise in the art of bronze casting in Nigeria. She will speak about the early career of her daughter and about her artistic practice as a pioneering student of the Department of Creative Arts, University of Benin.  She will also provide insights into her inroad into the art of metal casting in Benin whilst working with the guild of Benin bronze casters. 

This exhibition is supported by the University of Lagos Research CRC grant 2018. 



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