Lagos, Nigeria, was among the fastest-growing cities in the world from 2000 to 2010, along with Karachi, Pakistan; Shenzhen and Beijing, China; and Bangkok, Thailand. Lagos’ growth, which was born of millions of stories of migration, labor, desperation and hope, is the subject of the Gund Gallery’s fall exhibition, “Urban Cadence: Street Scenes From Lagos and Johannesburg.”
“They say, ‘Lagos is growing into the ocean,’” said Uche Okpa-Iroha, one of the photographers featured in the exhibition. “Lagos is a very unique place. The mass of people is what leads to the energy.”
“Urban Cadence” brings together the work of nine contemporary photographers from Lagos and Johannesburg, South Africa. It is on view until March 4, 2018.
A film series accompanies the new exhibit, and Associate Professor of History Stephen Volz has assigned viewing of the films to his seminar “African Women in Film and Fiction.”
“For me, it’s exciting to see African content on campus. My vocation, my recurring theme, is to challenge the stereotypes about Africa being poor and rural,” he said. “More Africans today live in cities than in the countryside, so to understand Africa you have to understand the cities.”
Okpa-Iroha said there is a spot in Lagos where someone can watch two million people moving by. The city now has about 25 million people and is rapidly building infrastructure to handle a population of 50 million.
“I pack my car with my equipment and try to go with the flow. That lets me see what the people are doing,” he said. “It can take a month to get one photo because I have to negotiate my space before I can make my photo.”
In the exhibit, three of Okpa-Iroha’s photos show the doorway to public buses as people prepare to jump from the moving bus at their own destination.
The gallery aided in the completion of “Urban Cadence.” The Touring Exhibitions of Contemporary Artists of Africa initiated the exhibit, but the nonprofit since has closed. The project was curated by Carol Magee, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“I became interested in the cities of Africa because all of my students think that everyone in Africa lives in villages, and I wanted a way to counteract those misconceptions,” Magee said.
Gund Gallery Director Natalie Marsh agrees, saying, “Kenyon students deserve to learn more about Africa.”
“Sometimes exhibitions reinforce and feed the greatest strengths of a small college’s curriculum by bringing together some of the best art and artists from around the world who are driven by fascinating issues or phenomena that our faculty and students widely appreciate and value,” she said.
“Other times, as with ‘Urban Cadence,’ a museum’s exhibitions, visiting artists and programs support our introduction to underrepresented people, places and ideas that are vital to our ability to be intelligent and responsible global citizens.”
Gund Gallery exhibitions and programs are made possible, in part, by the Gund Gallery Board of Directors, the Ohio Arts Council and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.