Inside Out, Ayọ̀ Akínwándé and Athi-Patra Ruga (13th Havana Biennale)


Inside Out
Ayọ̀ Akínwándé and Athi-Patra Ruga
Curated by Natalia Palombo and Isabel Moura Mendes
for the 13th Havana Biennial

Inside Out is the first presentation of Nigeria-based artist Ayọ̀ Akínwándé and South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga in Latin America. Encompassing sculpture, photography, video and sound, the work of two artists is brought into the same space and in dialogue with one another for the first time.

Akínwándé created new work in residence using research from an existing body of work, a long-term engagement with the crisis in Southern Kaduna, between nomadic cattle herders and farmers in host communities, which escalated across a number of states in the middle-belt region of Nigeria. The research methodology mirrors that of the wider curatorial framework and departs from the saying “Achio tu’wu wa liyen ufu dan tu’wu Ntiyong’ – which loosely translates as “a problem can only be known by the person affected” by the Takad people, one of the 50 cultural groups in the southern part of Kaduna state, Northern Nigeria.

Ruga exhibited an existing video work titled ‘Over The Rainbow’ from the Queens in Exile series. This series centralises poignant themes of sexuality, dystopia and queerness, often framed within post-apartheid South Africa. The work embodies a very specific experience to explore colonial history, post-colonial present, and his personal experiences as a queer Xhosa man.

The exhibition strikes through particular external representations of a continent. The work opens up conversations about the politicisation of crisis in mainstream media by re-imagining history and the present in light of celebration and resilience. In centralising the nature of human-beings in crisis, the exhibition poses questions around authenticity and appropriation.
The exhibition is supported by Factoria Habana, Oficina del historiador de la Ciudad OHC, 500 Aniversario de La Habana, XIII Bienal de La Habana, Ministerio de Cultura República de Cuba, Consejo Nacional de las Artes Plásticas, Fundación Caguayo, Many Studios, Glasgow City Council International Office and Diversity Arts Forum.
Havana Biennial: April 12th – May 12th 2019
Exhibition open: April 12th at 11:30 am, closing August 30th 2019
Factoria Habana:
O ́Reilly 308 e/ Habana y Aguiar, La Habana Vieja. Cuba
+(053) 7 864 9518




Ayọ̀ Akínwándé is an artist, writer and curator, born and based in Lagos. Akínwándé’s practice is multi-disciplinary, experimenting with lens based media, installation, sculpture, performance and sound to explore concepts of identity, duality and the multi-faceted layers of the human reality.

His artistic process involves constant monologues and dialogues on socio-political realities in his environment while the subsequent presentations incorporate architectural processes in a spatial detailing and sectioning of these ideas and thoughts to evoke both intimacy and the monumentality.

Akínwándé co-curated the 2017 Lagos Biennial and was also a participating artist at the exhibition held at the Nigerian Railway Museum. He was selected for the 2nd Changjiang International Photography and Video Biennial and was part of the “Chinafrika-under construction” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Leipzig.

He is a contributor to the book “ASIKO: On the Future of Artistic and Curatorial Pedagogies in Africa” by the Centre for Contemporary Arts Lagos. His works and writings have been featured in Art Africa, Dienacht Magazine, PoetsArtists, Contemporary&, The Sole Adventurer, SomethingWeAfricansGot and other journals and publications around the world.

Akínwándé is a 2018 ArtX Prize finalist and a Top10 finalist at the 2018 ABSA L’Atelier Art competition with his work forming part of the exhibition at the ABSA Gallery. In 2019, Akínwándé will undertake three prestigious residencies: Place Publique (Darling Foundation) in Montreal, Canada; Hangar in Lisbon, Portugal; Factoria Habana for the 2019 Havana Biennial in Cuba.
Athi-Patra Ruga is one of the few artists working in South Africa today whose work has adopted the trope of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga creates alternative identities and uses these avatars as a way to parody and critique the existing political and social status quo. Ruga’s artistic approach of creating myths and alternate realities is in some way an attempt to view the traumas of the last 200 years of colonial history from a place of detachment – at a farsighted distance where wounds can be contemplated outside of personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.

The philosophical allure and allegorical value of utopia has been central to Ruga’s practice. His construction of a mythical metaverse populated by characters which he has created and depicted in his work have allowed Ruga to create an interesting space of self reflexivity in which political, cultural and social systems can be critiqued and parodied.

Ruga has used his utopia as a lens to process the fraught history of a colonial past, to critique the present and propose a possible humanist vision for the future.

Recent exhibitions and performances include: Art Afrique, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris; Over the Rainbow, Performa 17, New York; Women’s Work, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town; An Age of Our Own Making, Holbaek, Denmark; Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community, Boston Centre for the Arts, Boston; AFRICA: Architecture, Culture and Identity at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Imaginary Fact at the South African Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale; African Odysseys at The Brass Artscape in Brussels; Public Intimacy at the SFMOMA, San Francisco; The Film Will Always Be You: South African Artists on Screen at the Tate Modern in London; and Making Africa at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

His works form part of Private, Public and Museum Collections here and abroad, namely: The Zeitz MOCCA ; Museion – Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano Italy; CAAC – Pigozzi Collection ; The Wedge Collection, IZIKO South African National Gallery.


Isabel Moura Mendes is a Portuguese Cape-Verdean arts and cultural manager, with a strong practice in international cultural relations, artistic exchange and African film curation. She is currently acting as Arts Partnership Manager with the British Council Arts team in Edinburgh, as well as one of the lead programmers for the Film Africa Film Festival in London.

With a background in journalism and media, Isabel has collaborated with various cross-arts, film training and international arts exchange programmes across the US, Europe and the African continent. She holds an MA in Arts & Cultural Management from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she is based.

For the last 8 years, Isabel has developed practice in African & Lusophone cinema & arts curation, namely programming for festivals such as Africa in Motion (Edinburgh), Film Africa (London), and Africa Mostra-se (Lisbon). She has attended important African film platforms such as FESPACO (Ouagadougou), ZIFF (Zanzibar), Luxor African Film Festival (Egypt), and Afrikamera (Berlin).

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