African Artists Foundation/ LagosPhoto Festival
Internationally-Acclaimed Curator & Founder of the African Artists Foundation & LagosPhoto Festival
Azu Nwagbogu is an internationally acclaimed curator, interested in evolving new models of engagement with questions of decolonization, restitution, and repatriation. In his practice, the exhibition becomes an experimental site for reflection, civic engagement, ecology and repatriation – both tangible and symbolic. Nwagbogu’s primary interest is in reinventing the idea of the museum and its role as a civic space for engagement for society at large. In 2007, Nwagbogu Founded African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), a non-profit organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria. The Foundation aims to promote art in Africa through organising art exhibitions, festivals, competitions, residencies, and workshops, with the purpose of unearthing and developing talent, creating societal awareness, and providing a platform to express creativity. Nwagbogu also serves as Founder and Director of LagosPhoto Festival, an annual international arts festival of photography that brings leading local and international photographers in dialogue with multifaceted stories of Africa. He also initiated Art Base Africa, a virtual place to discover contemporary African art. Nwagbogu served as a juror for the Dutch Doc, POPCAP Photography Awards, the World press Photo, Prisma Photography Award (2015), Greenpeace Photo Award (2016), New York Times Portfolio Review (2017-18), W. Eugene Smith Award (2018), Photo Espana (2018), Foam Paul Huf Award (2019), Wellcome photography prize (2019), Social Impact Art Prize (2020), Photo Vogue Festival, ( 2015 till date) the Prix Carmignac (2022), Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) (2022), Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography (2022), Head-On Photo Awards, FORMAT festival (2022) among others and is a regular juror for organisations such as New York Times, Lensculture and Magnum. He was nominated as Curator for the Prix Decouverte Rencontres d'Arles 2014, Photoquai 2015, Photolux Festival 2015 and Breda Photo (2018). Other curatorial achievements include “This is Lagos” featuring the work of Emeka Ogboh (2009), “Dey Your Lane! Lagos Variations” for the Bozar Museum in Bruxelles (2016), “Tear my Bra” for the Rencontres d’Arles (2016), “Samuel Fosso: An African Odyssey” for Photo Espana in Madrid (2018), James Ostrer’s “Johnny Just Came” exhibition for Gazelli Art House, London (2018) and “Colomental” as part of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin program titled “Hello World” which confronted the idea of broadening a Museums scope beyond the Western to incorporate trans-cultural and non-western artistic tendencies, in 2018. In 2019, he curated two major exhibitions during his tenure as the Director/ Chief curator of Zeitz Mocaa: “Still here tomorrow to high five you yesterday”, an exhibition which featured 40 artists from Africa and its diaspora, engaged with the phenomenon of travel and migration through imagined, alternative realities & “Why should I Hesitate: Putting Drawing to Work”, an exhibition which offered a wide survey of international acclaimed artist, William Kentridge’s works, including early works, as well as newer pieces on view for the first time in South Africa. Recently, Nwagbogu has launched several seminal projects like the Home Museum (2020), Searching For Prince Adewale Oyenuga, 2021 (a restitution project in Malaga and Lagos). This year, at Ibrahim Mahama’s Savanah Centre for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Tamale, Ghana, Nwagbogu launched a new exhibition project, Dig Where You Stand, From Coast to Coast. (DWYS) - which offers a new model for institutional building through meaningful engagement and shared collaborative practices, with questions of decolonization, restitution and repatriation. DWYS from Coast to Coast will travel through coastal African cities, with a special focus on cities with so called ‘points-of-no-return’; thereby placing an emphasis on voyage, (dis)placement, migration, labour, circulation of goods and commodities and the agency of contemporary art within this discourse beyond institutional critique and so called Afro-futurist imaginaries. Nwagbogu’s LagosPhoto Festival has also just presented its 13th edition under the theme of ‘Remember Me—Liberated Bodies, Charged Objects’, which brought into focus conversations about subjectivity of colonial archives and the role of images in building and populating new models from the wisdom of ancestral objects and alternative models of visual storytelling through performative practices. In 2021, Nwagbogu was awarded “Curator of Year 2021” by the Royal Photographic Society, UK, and also listed amongst the hundred most influential people in the art world by ArtReview in 2021 and 2022. He remains active home and internationally.