Bolaji Alonge’s Beautiful Disaster features at the Lagos Biennial of Contemporary Art

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The 2nd Edition of the Lagos International Biennial for Contemporary Art themed ‘How to build a lagoon with just a bottle of wine?’ kicks off on 26 October to 30 November 2019.
For a month and across multiple locations, artists, Innovators, collaborators come together for a unique experience, exchange and exhibition that puts in focus, the rising complexity and ambition of metropolitan living, urbanization, and its impact on culture, innovation, and socio-economic equality.

Beautiful Disaster exposes the total neglect of rural communities in the march towards urbanization and globalization. They have been left behind and are now held hostage by the consequences of a race to modernity. Deep inside Epe, along the Lagos lagoon, more than 145 villages are tucked away far from the bustling city life. Women are giving birth depending on nature and their children are growing up, waiting for power and education, hoping for the future. Basic sanitation is absent since the source of drinking water, the lagoon also serves as the main conduit for waste disposal.

Lagos State, a vast expanse of lagoons, creeks and estuaries with substantial coastal terrain is both a place of interest and enigma. It is Kerala, Amazon and deep rainforests in South East Asia combined. A beautiful disaster, exogenous seaweed from South America, has taken over the lagoon, stopping life in its tracks. As far as the eye can see Water Hyacinth create the sensation of endless green fields peppered with brilliant pink flowers. From Ologbokere to Bodun, Oriba to Ibon, in coastal villages in Epe adults are worried about access to work and health care, blocked by Water Hyacinths. Children are oblivious of these perils and play happily, grateful to be released from school and showing off their summersaults.

The project brings together photography, video documentary and painting. The exhibition space will be transformed into a sea of Water Hyacinths, inspired on Claude Monet’s panoramic series of Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. Monet[1] designed a unique space consisting of two oval rooms within the museum, giving the spectator, in Monet’s own words, “an illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon and without shore”.

The beauty of the images is in sharp contrast with the stark reality of these villages, invisible as a result of predatory seaweed and lack of political will. It is a call for help, an alarm signal that cannot be ignored. This project is a derivative of the pilot study on Lagos Coastal Health that documented the health challenges of more than 145 communities inhabiting the 200km stretch of Lagos lagoon.


This project is presented as a part of the Lagos Biennial at Independence House, Lagos Island.


Bolaji Alonge is an artist, photographer and actor from Lagos, Nigeria with more than a decade of experience in documenting history, looking for beauty where it is least expected. Bolaji Alonge’s visual language speaks of the wonders of nature and human exchange and searches for historical continuity in a world that is fractured. He is also a globetrotter who has travelled around the world during the last decade documenting culture.

He shows his beloved Lagos from unexpected angles, a city that inspires and captures the imagination, but also pulls people into a vortex of energy and constant challenges. Images of everyday life in Nigeria carry deep social messages that expose fragility, audacity but also squalor. Bolaji makes the viewer reconsider what we have seen with our own eyes, through the Eyes of a Lagos Boy.

In May 2017, he organized his “Eyes of a Lagos Boy” photo exhibition at Freedom Park in Lagos. His second solo exhibition “Urban Culture – Historical Continuity” was held at One Draw Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos in November 2018. In February 2019, Alonge showcased his work at Baza Studio in New York. A third solo exhibition, “Black & White” was held at Quintessence, Lagos in July 2019.

Alonge’s also works on social and documentary projects, such as a campaign on the human right to water, the “Lagos Coastal Health” and the “Silent Majority” projects. He is a passionate deep sea-diver and activist for ecological justice.

This project is realized in collaboration with Olusola Otori, a multidisciplinary artist exploring cultural diversity in Africa and the issues of religion and spiritualism, politics and power as they affect marginalized communities. He works in photography, painting and film. His work shows both the beauty of his land and culture as well as the need for social positive change.

Otori received his training first as an apprentice at the ‘Abayomi Barber School of Thought’, University of Lagos and Art and Design at Yaba College of Technology. He established his multimedia studio, working on photography assignments and commissioned art projects, with exhibitions in Lagos, Kampala and Johannesburg. In 2014, he studied digital film making at the SAE Institute Cape Town South Africa.

Driven by a strong sense of the importance of equal opportunities for every child, he
initiated the “Silent Majority” project, a creative art/photography workshop for street orphans, the socially deprived or displaced and teenagers in juvenile detention or correctional facilities.




*Claude Monet is known as one of the most famous painters of the Impressionist movement, which took its name from one of his paintings, Impression, soleil levant [Impression, Sunrise], dated 1872 (Musée Marmottan, Paris). He took part in most of the Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 onwards. From the late 1890s to his death in 1926, the painter devoted himself to the panoramic series of Water Lilies.


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