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Jelili Atiku


"I am a Nigerian visual artist, whose body of works strictly focuses on commitment to social, humanism and the crimes being committed against human life. Through series of performances, Installation Sculpture, drawings, photography and video art I have been relating to life and freedom; and ultimately direct attention to the importance of human values of life, freedom and human rights. In other words, through my art forms I have been taken viewers into a realization of the consequences of crises, human rights abuse, conflicts and wars, direct and involve them in “active participation in the improvement of our collective existence.” Hence, I hold a belief that viewers will upon viewing my works will “participate through visual education and persuasion in the development of popular attitudes which can lead eventually to a better society.” By so doing, my performance would have influenced the mind, feelings, nerves and soul of the viewers for positive thinking and actions."


Congratulations to Jelili Atiku for his inclusion in the 57th Biennale di Venezia, May 13 to November 26, 2017

learn more about the 57th Biennale di Venezialearn more about the 57th Biennale di Venezia




click above image to watch a short documentary on  Jelili Atiku



Jelili Atiku included in Marrakech Biennale
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photograph by Jude Anogwih

Image from the "Journey of the Body: A Performance Art Intensive with Jelili Atiku and Wura-Natasha Ogunji" at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos on the March 19-21, 2013. The workshop was coordinated by Odun Orimolade.

In this inaugural workshop artists Jelili Atiku and Wura-Natasha Ogunji introduced participants to the genre of Performance Art. Tracing the history of performance from its deep roots in Nigeria and Africa to contemporary forms, Atiku and Ogunji facilitated a 3-day course which focused on the body as the primary tool for the creation of art. Journey of the Body took students through an intensive artmaking process that culminated in the creation of 8 public performances which touched on topics including betrayal and trust, loss and death, violence and struggle, fashion and spectacle.

The performances were well attended with an active audience that carefully followed from the Art Department throughout the campus to the final performance which took place in front of the Student Union.

Photograph by King Ishola

This is an image of the performance PORONGODO. It was enacted during the just concluded Lagos Live Art Festival, which was held from Thursday 6 - Saturday 8 December, 2012 at Freedom Park, Lagos, Nigeria. Goethe-Institut Nigeria in cooperation with AfiRIperFOMA commissioned it as part of the events marking the 50th year’s anniversary of Goethe-Institut in Nigeria.

Porogondo, is a performance in public space, which questions the hysterical issues in the Biblical story of Abel and Cain – where God refused Abel’s offering and accepted that of Cain. It projects the cannibalistic nature of humans and how humans have created Gods cannibalistic tendencies. It is series #4 of the body of
performance project, titled FEAST.

It is said in Genesis 4:3-5 of Holy Bible that “And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect…”

“Beasts abstract not” is the phrase used by John Lock in expressing our nature as humans. This nature is indeed the overriding influential elements in all facets of our lives. The beasts in us often manifest in form of cannibalism – where we kill for survival. The cannibalistic tendency also permeates every aspect of our lives including our spiritual lives – where bloodletting has become a means of spiritual atonement and advancement.

In an attempt to justify the beasts in us, we oftentimes go a far distance by warring, maiming and killing unquantifiable amount of people and animals. By doing so, a lot of injustices are committed. Even looking through human documented history, it is very clear that God is also caught up in these inhuman acts of injustice.

Porongodo as an intervention performance in public space will reference the hysterical contents of human history and attempt to show memorials of sacrifice, pains, suffering and callousness. It will set in motion the interaction of organic and inorganic matters through a construction of human abode and the presence of human body in the space. Here, bones stand as a metaphorical statement of destruction and degeneration.

Photograph by Dennis Feser

click on Jelili's portrait hereunder to watch the video of his talk at THE TATE MODERN in London, while participating in Inside/Outside: materialising the social

"(...) Jelili Atiku presents documentation of performance works in Nigeria, touching on Beuysian ideas of social sculpture, discussing how political action and performance can remould society, and talks about the influence of Egungun (commonly mislabelled as Masquerade) on his public interventions and action. (...)"

Photograph by Jude Anogwih


Documentation of the performance, In (ut) Flöde, which was done on the July 3 2012 at Trädgårdspark, Kulturcentrum, Jarna, Sweden. The performance was done in collaboration with Helene Aurell (Swedish artist), Nigel Wells (UK/Swedish artist) and Pål Gunnäs (Norwegian artist).

Photograph by Pål Gunnäs

Image of my Performance, titled "Rawson’s Boat". It was enacted on the 18th Nov. 2011 at Freedom Park, Lagos, Nigeria.

"In twenty-nine days a force of 1,200 men, coming from three places between 3000 and 4500 m. from the Benin river, was landed, organized, equipped and provided with transport. Five days later the city of Benin was taken, and in twelve days more the men were re-embarked, and the ships coaled and ready for any further service." – Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911

Memories, Mnemonics and healing are the issues that often surface when recall the effects of capitalistic objectives and targets on African visual culture. Elginism is the right word that would surface in this regard. Elginism crept into our history on 12 January 1897 - when Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson, commanding the squadron at the Cape of Good Hope who was appointed by the British Admiralty to lead an expedition to capture the Benin king and destroy Benin City. The operation was widely named “Benin Punitive Expedition”. On the 9 February 1897 the consequential effects of Rawson’s ship been anchored in the shore of Benin kingdom began.

Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson and his team looted and destroyed, especially monuments, and palaces of many high-ranking chiefs, and Benin king’s palace was set ablaze. In order to defray the costs of the Expedition the British Admiralty confiscated and auctioned off more than 3,000 Benin artifacts, which considered the war booty. This event is over a century, but the Memories, Mnemonics and healing that associated with is lingering and fresh…

Photographer unknown

click image to read about the Araferaku performance at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Nigeria

click this image to watch a short documentary about Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku