ARS ELECTRONICA 2020: Kennii Ekundayo presents “Pandemic-Pandemonium!”


The Ars Electronica Festival, centered on the latest in art, technology, and science is to be held from 9 to 13 September 2020 and will be fully digital.

First organized in 1979, the festival has since become one of the largest and most important media and digital art events in the world. Following last year’s brilliant 40th anniversary edition, which brought more artists, exhibitors and international experts to Linz, Austria than ever before, this year Ars Electronica is going on a journey through 120 “Kepler’s Gardens” around the globe.

Lagos-based curator, Kennii Ekundayo will be joining 119 other international partners to participate in this year’s 41st edition. “Pandemic-Pandemonium!” focuses on the collective response of Africans living in Africa to some of the prevalent issues that threaten humankind — racial discrimination, violence against women and the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst one part makes a statement on the resilience of the human spirit in the face of the deadly coronavirus, the other addresses the valorisation of the melanin-rich skin amidst the fatal hostility that accompanies it.

It features submissions from four Nigerian artists in varying media that include poetry, photography and video art: Bernard Kalu, Ikenna Ogbenta, Efe Paul Azino and Tobi ‘Tej’ Tejumola, all of whom are represented in the festival by Ekundayo’s Galeri Odumije.

“Pandemic-Pandemonium!” aims to delineate some of the events that have besieged us even through these confusing times. These would include our adaptability to the pandemic crisis, the war waged against the abuse of women, and the black stance on racial prejudice”, says Ekundayo. The exhibition is hinged on the theme of humanity, one of the issues touched upon in this year’s edition.

She told that “Lagos represents the hub of activities stemmed in art, science and technology in Nigeria and on the African continent. Over the years, we have witnessed these three disciplines coexisting side-by-side and today, I am absolutely thrilled to combine the three into one cell, one basic unit on the platform of the Ars Electronica Festival, bearing witness to how science and technology now stand art in good stead!”

Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, advisor to Ars Electronica, revealed “The year 2020 began with a Big Bang, one that demanded the art industry to pivot away from its established codes of conduct immediately, as a matter of sheer survival. As a result, the online space gained even more significance as the only platform for business and commercial transactions, affecting the art industry and its age-old reliance on in-person interaction.”

She set up the Finally Digital programme as part of Ars Electronica, inviting international curators including Ekundayo to look into their communities. Steinbrecher-Pfandt continues “The project is composed of three sections: a conference, invited curatorial projects, and digital gallery showcases. The conference will feature notable members of the art industry and their assessments of the art world’s digitization progress over the past year. The second section invites curators to report back from their communities on emerging positions that are acute right now. The third section amplifies galleries, which are the backbone of the art industry. Galleries are inherently curious and passionate advocates for artists. As such, their presence enriches the conversation between the institutional and the commercial while offering insight into the state of the art industry today.”


Ikenna Ogbenta (NG) grew up in Enugu State, Nigeria. He was first introduced to photography at age five and has continued ever since, motivated by both society and the people. His major focus is on photography that represents the dynamics of religion, culture and fashion in Nigeria. He lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.

Efe Paul Azino (NG) is one of Nigeria’s leading performance artists and poets. In 2015, he co-founded West Africa’s first international poetry festival, the Lagos International Poetry Festival, which he currently directs. He is also the director of poetry at the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival. His second poetry collection, The Tragedy of Falling with Laughter Stuck in Your Throat, is due out soon.

Tobi Tej (NG) is a photographer and producer based in Lagos, Nigeria whose work is inspired by the passion to explore life and preserve moments.

Bernard Kalu (NG) is a documentary photographer based in Lagos, Nigeria, with a passion for humans and the stories they tell simply by existing. His work aims to explore life and humanity, and raising awareness about environmental and social issues in his home country, Nigeria.

Kehinde “Kennii” Ekundayo is an independent art curator based in Lagos, Nigeria. Specific about modern and contemporary African art, she has curated exhibitions around the country. Her professional practice began in March 2017 with a group exhibition of amateur photographers, and has grown to curating key projects involving the likes of revered legendary artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, in various media ranging from drawings and paintings, to film and photographs, to texts and installations amongst other art forms.

She is affiliated with the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), a Nigerian not-for-profit platform for artists, art critics and aficionados, and culture advocates as the Communications Officer. She is also a part of the organizing team of the Lagos Book & Art Festival, LABAF, a yearly prime literacy and youth empowerment project that is now in its 22nd edition. Ekundayo is head curator at Galeri Odumije, an outfit she recently established and which operates out of Lagos, Nigeria.