Press Release

Level 2 Gallery: Contested Terrains

29 July – 16 October 2011

Contested Terrains will be an exhibition of recent work by four contemporary artists working in Africa, co-curated by Tate and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. These artists reclaim and subvert assumptions about Africa’s past and present, exploring current political and social concerns both at a domestic level and across the world. Presented in the Level 2 Gallery, Tate Modern’s dedicated space for emerging and recently established international artists, the exhibition will bring together work by Adolphus Opara (born 1981 Nigeria), Michael MacGarry (born 1978 South Africa), Sammy Baloji (born 1978 Democratic Republic of Congo) and Kader Attia (born 1970 France).

The artists in this exhibition assert control over the past, revealing that history is more than a succession of events and that the present remains contested terrain. Adolphus Opara’s photographic portraits of Nigerian diviners, posed in the manner of classic Victorian portraiture, act as a confident riposte to colonial representations of African spirituality. These connections with history are even more visible in Sammy Baloji’s works, which superimpose archival images taken during the height of Congolese mining onto contemporary photographs of ageing infrastructure and a scarred landscape. The tensions between tradition and modernity are made explicit in MacGarry’s sculptural objects, from ivory carvings of a container ship and an oil derrick to a nail-studded replica assault rifle, referencing Nkondi sculpture and the devastating effects of war. This theme is continued in Kader Attia’s two-channel slide installation, which juxtaposes images of African artefacts that have been repaired alongside photographs of First World War soldiers before and after rudimentary cosmetic surgery.

Contested Terrains is the latest in the Level 2 Gallery’s series of international collaborations with other art organisations around the world. The exhibition is the result of reciprocal residencies in the UK and Nigeria carried out earlier this year by Kerryn Greenberg, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern and Jude Anogwih, Assistant Curator, CCA Lagos. Contested Terrains will travel from London to CCA Lagos in Nigeria from 21 January to 3 March 2012.

Adolphus Opara was born in Imo State, Nigeria in 1981 and now lives and works in Lagos. Michael MacGarry was born in Durban, South Africa in 1978 and now lives and works in Cape Town. Sammy Baloji was born in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo in 1978 and continues to live and work there. Kader Attia was born in Dugny, France in 1970 and now lives and works in Berlin and Algiers.

Contested Terrains is supported by Guaranty Trust Bank plc. The Level 2 Gallery programme has been made possible with the generous support of Catherine Petitgas.