OMENKA - ART - INTERVIEW
Artist Dossier on Péju Alatise
By Oyindamola Olaniyan POSTED 21 August 2019
Born in 1975, Péju Alatise is a Nigerian artist, poet, and writer, as well as a fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. She earned her undergraduate architectural degree from Ladoke Akintola University in Oyo State, Nigeria. While earning her degree, Alatise began to explore her interests in art by visiting Jakande, a crafts market in Lagos. There, she practised various media, including painting, sculpting, and jewellery making. This experimentation led her to begin her art career with painting, subsequently branching out to an interdisciplinary practice, using beads, cloth, resin, and other materials in her work. She would later focus on sculpture, using her art to make statements about social issues, while incorporating literature, symbolism, and traditional Yoruba mythology.
Architecture has a huge influence on her work, Alatise says, especially when it comes to space and structure. In a recent interview, she said, “You can’t go through six years of architecture and not feel structure. Architecture makes you obey all the laws. It makes you so aware of physicality.” As a self-taught artist, she appreciates the huge role architecture has played in her artistic development.
Winner of the FNB Art Prize in Johannesburg, Alatise is influenced by leading artists like David Dale, Bruce Onabrakpeya, Susanna Wenger, Anslem Kieffer, Antony Gormley, Ai Wei Wei, Motohiko Odani, and colossal Do Ho Suh. Her practice focuses on the search for truth. To this end, her work explores political and religious issues, as well as issues affecting women. Strongly believing that an artist should depict the world she lives in, Alatise strives to represent her personal experiences and the social issues in Nigeria. Considering the strongly held social views of gender roles in Nigeria, it is not surprising that much of her practice focuses on gender inequality and women’s rights.
Placing a spotlight on social issues and advocacy has always been integral to Alatise’s storytelling and creative process. At a time when works of African artists are sometimes criticised for being too self-consciously political, she believes that art still has a responsibility to comment on such issues.
Over the past couple of years, Alatise’s career has experienced a long spell of success, from winning a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2016 to representing Nigeria at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and scooping the coveted FNB Art Prize in Johannesburg the same year—and Alatise is showing no signs of slowing down.
In January 2018, she established the Alter’NATIVE Artist Initiative (ANAI) Foundation, a residency programme for emerging artists. The foundation provides artist residencies and ceramics training, and its beachfront property in Lagos includes exhibition spaces, an open planned studio, living quarters, and a library.
High Horses, 2015. Photo credit: bonhams.com
Alatise’s growing recognition within the global art world has translated into increasing demand for her work internationally. In 2015, her sculpture High Horses sold for $47,971 at Bonham’s Africa Now: Contemporary Africa auction. Comprising three sculptures of women sitting on pedestals, faces obscured by vibrantly patterned cloths draped over their heads, the work explores the societal notion that women are predestined to be mothers and wives.
Her other high-selling works include Ascension (2011), sold for $25,720 at ArtHouse Contemporary Ltd.’s Modern and Contemporary Art auction in May 2012; Orange Scarf Goes to Heaven (2012), which achieved $29,448 at Bonham’s Africa Now auction in May 2014; See Me (2014), sold for $20,978 at Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African Art auction in May 2017; and Inside They Are Broken (2012), sold for $16,404 at ArtHouse Contemporary Ltd.’s Modern and Contemporary Art auction in May 2017.
Orange Scarf Goes to Heaven, 2012. Photo credit: bonhams.com
Peju Alatise’s artistic ambition transcends a desire to simply create. She is eager to engage with her time and to inspire change. To this end, she has held several solo exhibitions, including Material Witness (2012), Wrapture: A Story of Cloth (2013), and Paradox, Paradigms & Parasites (2018). Her works are in private and institutional collections around the world.
Biography: “Peju Alatise,” retrieved on April 3, 2019 from www.pejualatise.com
Biography: “Peju Alatise,” retrieved on April 3, 2019 from www.reddoorgallery.co
Prices: “Peju Alatise,” retrieved on April 3, 2019 from www.artprice.com
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