Victor Ehighale Ehikhamenor is a Nigerian visual artist, writer, and photographer, once described as “undeniably one of Africa’s most innovative contemporary artists” and one of “42 African Innovators to Watch”. In 2017, he was selected (along with three other artists) to represent Nigeria at the Venice Biennale, the first time Nigeria would be represented in the event.
He was born in Udomi-Uwessan, Edo State, Nigeria. He was educated in Nigeria and in the United States. He returned from the United States in 2008 to work in Lagos.
His work is strongly influenced by work done by villagers especially his grandmother who was a cloth weaver. His uncle was also a photographer, his maternal grandfather a blacksmith, and his mother, a local artist.
He is also inspired by wall paintings and installation arts, mostly in community shrines. This has been an enduring feature of his work, which is abstract, symbolic and politically motivated; and influenced by the duality of African traditional religion and the interception of Western beliefs, memories and nostalgia.
Ehikhamenor’s art and photographs have been used for editorials as well as cover art on books by authors such as Chimamanda Adichie, Helon Habila and Chika Unigwe. They have also been illustrated on fabric and exhibited at international fashion parades.
Ehikhamenor has held numerous solo art exhibitions across the world. In 2016, he was one of 11 Nigerian artists invited to join twenty-three Indonesian artists in the grand exhibition at the Biennale. At the Jogja National Museum, he showed an installation titled “The Wealth of Nations.”
He has also published numerous fiction and critical essays with academic journals, mainstream magazines and newspapers from around the world including The New York Times, CNN Online, Washington Post, Farafina, AGNI Magazine and Wasafiri. His short story, “The Supreme Command”, won the Association of Commonwealth Broadcasters Award in 2003. His debut poetry collection, Sordid Rituals, was published in 2002.
His second book, Excuse Me! (2012), a satirical creative non-fiction view of life as an African both at home and abroad, is a recommended text in two Nigerian universities.
On May 8, 2017, while participating in the Venice Biennale, Ehikhamenor first called attention to what he describes as Damien Hirst cultural appropriation of Nigerian Yoruba art. The exhibition of the British artist, called “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable”, featured a variety of sculptures meant to be viewed as debris rescued from a shipwreck. But one of the displayed artefacts was a copy of “Ori Olokun”, a famous Ife bronze art from the 14th century now described as “Golden heads”. Of the appropriation, Ehikhamenor had posted on Instagram “For the thousands of viewers seeing this for the first time, they won’t think Ife, they won’t think Nigeria. Their young ones will grow up to know this work as Damien Hirst’s. As time passes it will pass for a Damien Hirst regardless of his small print caption. The narrative will shift and the young Ife or Nigerian contemporary artist will someday be told by a long nose critic “Your work reminds me of Damien Hirst’s Golden Head”. We need more biographers for our forgotten.”
His words brought the issue to the forefront on local and international media.
Ehikhamenor was one of the first artists invited to Art Dubai in March 2018. In July 2018, he was also one of the Nigerian artists selected to meet and exhibit work for visiting French President Emmanuel Macron. The exhibition, organised by ART X Lagos took place at the Afrika Shrine, the nightclub of Femi Kuti.
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