Rele Gallery is pleased to present at CONTEXT, a special solo exhibition by internationally renowned, multi-faceted artist – Victor Ehikhamenor. Hailing from Edo State - the historic seat of the Benin Kingdom, Ehikhamenor draws inspiration from the dual aesthetic and spiritual traditions which infused his upbringing. He uses in his work, imagery and symbolism from both Edo traditional religion and Catholicism. The special presentation titled “The Making of a Monarch” is comprised of unique perforated works on paper, intricate bronze sculptures and a breath-taking mixed media work on canvas.
“The Making of a Monarch” is an ongoing exploration of the intrigues and intricacies of the century-long tradition of king making in the Benin Kingdom. The process which has both private and public components contains social, cultural, religious and political nuances. It is an important occasion in which the art, beauty and rich cultural heritage of the kingdom comes to light. Ehikhamenor’s presentation enacts the king making process, introducing the king himself in works such as “Born to Reign” and “Holy, Holy, Holy King”, with a supporting cast made of personalities such as the “The Priestess”, “The King’s Daughter”, “The Praise Singers”, amongst others. He tells these stories, reinterpreting history as seen and imagined in the Kingdom of Benin City in Nigeria.
Ehikhamenor’s artistic mediums draw heavily from the historic Benin tradition. His perforations involve hitting nails on hand-made paper are a re-invention of the famous Benin Bronze plaque now found in Western museums and of which were once used to tell and document history. His bronze sculptures are part of a collaborative process with the bronze casters in the historic Igun Street (a world heritage site). For the mixed media masterpiece “Holy Holy Holy King” which depicts the unmistakable likeness of a Benin King, he combines coral rosaries – which were introduced to the Benin kingdom during the early years of colonialism, miniature bronze heads, as well as stones which highlight the radiance of the king.
In 2017, Ehikhamenor was one of 3 artists to exhibit at the first ever Nigerian National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. His work “A Biography of the Forgotten” was rejected by the land-lady of the space where the exhibition was initially supposed to hold. His works were referred to using terms such as “Voodoo”, “Fetish”, “Black Magic”. Since then, Ehikhamenor continues to respond to this situation with works that seek to bridge the divide between demonization and canonization.