Deutsche Bank Involved in Exhibition Project in Lagos

Eko—that is the name given to Lagos by the Yoruba, one of the three largest demographic groups in Nigeria. With an estimated 21 million inhabitants, Lagos is one of the world’s fastest-growing megacities. It was here that Yetunde Ayeni Babaeko created her project Eko Moves, a series of photographs that reflects the entire chaos of this gigantic metropolis, but first and foremost attests to the tremendous courage of its inhabitants. At the same time, the Nigerian artist adds a hopeful counterpoint to the oppressive images that characterized the African continent long before the Ebola crisis.

A selection of 25 works from Eko Moves is now on view at the Wheatbaker Hotel. The small show is sponsored by Deutsche Bank. Since it opened in 2011, the establishment, located in Ikoyi, an island in Lagos lagoon, has shown contemporary Nigerian art on a regular basis. It housed an exhibition of works by the photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi, who was represented in Okwui Enwezor’s trailblazing show Snap Judgments—New Positions in Contemporary African Photography.

For Eko Moves, Yetunde Ayeni Babaeko ventured an experiment: she photographed dancers in the midst of daily life in Lagos – on the beach in front of the city’s skyline, at street markets, at bus stops, and in Dustbin Estate, a slum situated on a giant garbage dump. “This project has challenged me immensely because I had to throw myself and my camera out of my ‘comfort zone’ and make use of what Lagos was willing to give me,” explains the photographer. “It was amazing how the dancers’ performances on the streets were able to build bridges.” She realized the project together with the Society for the Performing Arts of Nigeria, a dance company that for almost ten years has organized workshops for disadvantaged children and youth, among other things.

Ayeni Babaeko’s stagings thrive on the tension between the dancers and their surroundings. It almost seems surreal when a ballerina in a traditional white tutu poses between improvised shacks in Dustbin Estate, or a young street dancer makes a dramatic jump at a bus stop. No matter whether they come from traditional ballet or Hip Hop, for the young people in Ayeni Babaeko’s pictures, dance is much more than a profession. “I want to see dance as an art for change and not just entertainment,” says one. Another explains: “Dance is not my job, it’s my oxygen. I breathe it in … can’t live without it.” In their choreographies, they communicate with the city and its people, express their hopes, longings, and ambitions. And when they are suspended in the air after an energetic leap, they not only defy gravity, but also the tough realities of life in their home city.

Eko Moves
11/30/2014 – 2/15/2015
The Wheatbaker
Lagos, Nigeria