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Opening this Week: Traces of Ecstasy

Feb 16 - Jun 9, 2024 | Institute for Contemporary Art Curated by KJ Abudu

Traces of Ecstasy is an adaptation of a pavilion and exhibition project which premiered at the Lagos Biennial in February 2024. Guided by the theme of refuge, the Lagos Biennial was held in Tafawa Balewa Square—a site in central Lagos, named after Nigeria’s first prime minister, that hosted the country’s independence ceremonies in 1960. Traces of Ecstasy critically responds to the charged historical residues of this space, taking its constitutive role in postcolonial nation-building as a point of departure. 

Nigerian Independence ceremonies including the new Prime Minister of Nigeria, Abubakar Tarawa Balewa and Prince Alexandra, 1960. Courtesy of the BBC
Nigerian Independence ceremonies including the new Prime Minister of Nigeria, Abubakar Tarawa Balewa and Prince Alexandra, 1960. Courtesy of the BBC

This second, reimagined iteration of Traces of Ecstasy at the ICA continues the Lagos pavilion’s aims to unsettle the colonial capitalist power structures that maintain and reproduce the ideological legitimacy of the nation-state in post/neocolonial Africa and the wider world. Providing a space for critique, repair, and “freedom-dreaming,” it features artists from the African continent and its diasporas including Nolan Oswald Dennis, Evan Ifekoya, Raymond Pinto, Temitayo Shonibare, and Adeju Thompson. The exhibition expands on the scale and breadth of each artist’s contribution to the Lagos pavilion, presenting works that span sculpture, installation, video, sound, drawing, textile, performance, and digital art, in addition to a reading room and a symposium. 

The project is titled after an essay by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, a queer exiled British-Nigerian artist whose photographic works combined Yoruba ritualistic practice and transgressive homoeroticism to destabilize colonial fictions of nationality and positivist rationality. Engaging the diasporic movements of figures such as Fani-Kayode (who studied in Washington, D.C. and New York) and Tafawa Balewa (who visited the United States shortly after Nigeria achieved independence), this recursion of Traces of Ecstasy across the Atlantic both reflects on the structural violence that permeates the African postcolony and considers the historically significant oceanic distance connecting the exhibition’s two sites in Lagos and Richmond. Oriented toward a future horizon of queer, decolonial liberation, Traces of Ecstasy hopes to illuminate alternative, anarchic forms of African collectivity for the twenty-first century. 

The ICA’s exhibition is curated by Guest Curator KJ Abudu and coordinated by ICA Curator Amber Esseiva.

The exhibition’s presentation at the ICA at VCU is made possible by generous support fromThe Monument GroupMrs. True G. Harrigan and Mr. John W. Collier IIIMargo Ann Crutchfield and Kevin ConcannonMs. Suzanne D. Hall and Mr. Joseph G. Willis

For More Information, View The Institute for Contemporary Art


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