Amidst Violence, New Art Gallery in Nigeria’s Port Harcourt

Off to Port Harcourt Via: Health News Magazine

British filmmaker and artist Zina Saro-Wiwa is opening a pop-up contemporary art gallery in the city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Part of her residency in the region, the space, called Boys’ Quarters (a nod to the neighborhood’s notorious gangsters, the Area Boys), will be curated by Saro-Wiwa and managed by local artist Perrin Oglafa. Some of the works resulting from the project will be exhibited in shows at Seattle Art Museum and Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, Texas, slated for 2015. 

“The gallery aims to tell new stories about the Niger Delta region through art, events and a series of website films,” commented the artist in a statement. “As well as invigorating local cultural production, it will begin the process of reimagining this geo-politically significant, oil-producing region blighted by a history of violence, militancy, pollution and economic upheaval. Boys’ Quarters will test the potential of culture and art to transform perceptions and encourage a new engagement with places like the Niger Delta.”

Born in the Niger Delta, Saro-Wiwa is the daughter of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, whose execution under the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha in 1995 provoked international outcry and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth for three  years. Boys’ Quarter is located in the former offices of the artist’s father, on the 2nd floor of 24 Aggrey Road. 

“There are little to no public art spaces in Port Harcourt,” continues Saro-Wiwa. “For example our ‘National Gallery’ has no exhibition spaces; it is a collection of offices. Art and beauty have no place in this city, so, for me, placing the gallery in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s office is a powerful, restorative and symbolic act.” 

Boys’ Quarters is scheduled to run for two years.

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