The Goethe-Institut in Lagos is located right in the middle of what’s known as the Brazilian Quarter, a district reminiscent of the old towns in Rio de Janeiro or Salvador constructed in the 19th century by a group known as the Retornados. Called Amarôs or Agudas in the Yoruba language, the Retornados were former slaves whom, returning from Brazil, soon became part of the city elite, bearing Portuguese names to this day. For these people, Africa represented a promise of a return of history and of mercy. Their origins lay not behind them, rather before them.
On the far side of the Atlantic, in Rio de Janeiro, construction work for the Olympic Games unearthed the foundations of the former slave market at Cais do Valongo, where more than one million slaves were sold between the 16th and 19th centuries. The Brazilian Quarter of Lagos and the old slave market in Rio form the axis known in English as the Black Atlantic, a complex tapestry of centuries-old political, economic and cultural components on both sides of the ocean, stretching from Rio de la Plata to New York and from Dakar to Cape Town. Strictly speaking, this geographic area should also include Europe, which established the slave trade and profited handsomely from this transatlantic triangle. In cultural terms, the Black Atlantic and its diaspora were without doubt extremely productive for they forged a colossal process of creolization, which led to intense exchanges of and between religions, languages, technologies and the arts.
It is hoping to revisit this delicate relationship between the Americas, the African coast and Europe that “The Atlantic Triangle” opened at Re.Le Gallery last Saturday, April 4th. Organised by Goethe-Institut Lagos and part of a larger project which includes shows at Rio de Janeiro in June this year and at Porto Alegre in April 2018, the exhibition displays works by Nigerian, German and Brazilian artists (Arjan Martins, Dalton Paula, Vivian Caccuri and Jaime Lauriano, all PIPA Prize nominees) hoping not not reconstruct the conditions of the slave exploitation, but to understand from a contemporary view how the cultural dynamic and interdependence between these three regions used to work.
“The Atlantic Triangle”, group show featuring Abdulrazaq Awofeso, George Osodi, Karo Akpokiere, Ndidi Dike, Andréas Lang, Mario Pfeifer, Iris Buchholz Chocolate, Arjan Martins, Dalton Paula, Vivian Caccuri, Jaime Lauriano and selected works of traditional Nigerian sculptures from the Femi Akinsanya collection, Lagos
Curated by Alfons Hug and Paula Borghi
On view from April 2nd to 23rd, 2017