By G9ija


After what looks like a break that lasted for three years, Modupeola Fadugba returns with compelling pieces presented in a cutting-edge project titled: The Artist’s Algorithm: Why Nations Win.

Fadugba is a unique multi-disciplinary artist who has carved a niche for herself in the art space. With surprising background in Chemical Engineering, Economics and Education, from University of Delaware and Harvard University, the artist whose education spanned four countries, has her unique art forms greatly reflecting her interest in the ‘Africa Renaissance Theory’. The theory is a belief the artist has propagated through innovated interactive game installation, The People’s Algorithm- a game installation that fosters debate about how to improve Nigeria’s education system; her synchronised swimmers series and then, The Artist’s Algorithm: Why Nations Win.

“And so, I call myself a multi-disciplinary artist, though I have a penchant for drawing, colourfully…When I began my career six years ago, I started by investigating the structure of Nigeria’s educational system in art form, with the belief that in order to do things differently, we must see them differently on a macro level,” Fadugba stated.

Basking in the huge success her award-winning debut work, The People’s Algorithm recorded, the award of El Anatsui’s Outstanding Production Prize in 2014 and a 2016 Dakar Biennale Grand Prize from Senegal’s Minister of Communication, the artist’s inaugural exhibition of The Artist’s Algorithm project, an artist-led initiative based out of her studio, held between November 2nd and November 6th, 2021 at Alara, Victoria Island, Lagos. The show, displaying colourful art pieces which flaunts the artist’s techniques, continues online till December 20th, 2021.

The Artist’s Algorithm is a new series of exhibitions, essays, talks, games, performances, mentorship programs, murals, and videos, aiming to beam the light on problems in education, politics and governance through art, while employing different symbolic motifs such as synchronized swimmers, game theory, geographic wonders, national heroes and monuments.

In Why Nations Win, the inaugural exhibition in The Artist’s Algorithm Series, viewers observe the artist’s key visual element of synchronized swimmers, which is her usual method of promoting the importance of collaboration. The Medallion Girls, Together, Lift Nigeria and Bronze Lift, make up the body of work.

The series serve as an overview for a multi-year, multimedia project activating the past three years of Fadugba’s socially engaged research, evolving studio practice, and resulting artworks. After its first presentation at Alara, Victoria Island, Lagos, the show travels to Senegal in 2022 and Harlem in 2023, with open-studio context including 20 works on paper and canvas, a video, and game installation accompanied by a live program. The idea was conceived during Fadugba’s time at the National Museum of African Art as a 2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow. She found herself locked inside the Museum overnight and while observing several rooms encountering paintings, sculptures and artefacts, she encountered hidden histories amongst dreams for the future.

“I envisioned the rising and falling apart of African nations and civilizations – and where we stand now…I’ve always wondered: Why do some nations win and others lose?” she said. Alone in the museum, Fadugba kept thinking about love and fear, and the hierarchy between these polarities: how can love triumph over fear? And what algorithm can we use to restructure our stories – what would it take for us all to swim, to win? And so, the new initiative builds on the core theory of Fadugba’s The People’s Algorithm which sees players exploring ways to win within the framework of Nigeria’s pressing unemployment and educational crisis. The participatory game installation invites the audience to confront statistical realities faced by Nigerian students, teachers, and policymakers.

Again, in The Artist’s Algorithm, the painting of the Heroine, Dr Stella Adadevoh which featured in Fadugba’s solo exhibition curated by SMO Contemporary Arts earlier, pops up. This time, the large beautifully designed portrait with the artist’s signature- burned canvas, titled: The Medallion Woman: Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, was conspicuously placed at the entrance of the Alara exhibition hall.

“This special medallion is for Nigerian national hero, Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh (1956-2014), who risked her life to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola disease in 2014. In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, from which the world continues to recover, we may even better understand the value of such a sacrifice today,” the artist wrote.

In the Medallion Girls series, emerging from an ongoing body of work, exploring the meanings and possibilities behind powerful black figures in the water, the fear of drowning, alongside the hope of learning, thriving and working together, are submerged into the watery worlds of oceans and swimming pools. Modupe employs medallion-style swim imagery to explore what it means to win.

Some of the titles in this series include; Golden Train, Golden Formation, Silver Circle, Bronze show and Indigo Star, showing swimmers in diverse positions and with beautifully plaited African hairstyle that accentuates the beauty of the paintings.

Another fascinating series in the exhibition is the Black Still Waters. The pieces present the artist’s figure in gold, silver, and bronze spanning through a buoyant baby, father and son and the synchronised swimmers bedazzled in beads. Here, Fadugba invites viewers into her head, heart, and imagination, reflecting upon the valuable lessons she learned as a child. Swim Baby Swim, Tagged “Baby, Black Beaded Lift” etc., are some of the works in the series.