Nigerian artist, designer and architect, one of the most successful exponents of the modern art movement in his country, Demas Nwoko receives the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale entitled The Laboratory of the Future

“With all its emphasis on the future, it seems entirely appropriate that the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement should be awarded to someone who has to his credit a production of material works spanning the last seventy years, but the whose intangible heritage - approach, ideas, ethics - is still being evaluated, understood, celebrated".

It is with these arguments that Lesley Lokko, curator of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, motivates her choice to attribute to Demas Nwoko the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, approved by the Board of Directors of the Biennale chaired by Roberto Cicutto.

Architectures that look to the future

“Although they are relatively few – explains Lokko - the buildings of Nwoko in Nigeria play two fundamental roles.

They are the precursors of sustainable, resource-conscious and culturally authentic forms of expression which are crossing the African continent – and the world – and pointing towards the future, no small achievement for those who are still largely unknown, even at home.”

Demas Nwoko: architect of the 20th and 21st centuries

Baba (Nigerian honorific) Demas Nwoko was born in 1935 in Idumuje Ugboko, Nigeria.

Different converge in his figure: architect, sculptor, designer, writer, set designer, critic and historian.

The fact that he defines himself as an 'artist-designer' says a lot both about the 'polyglot nature' of his talents and works, and about the rather narrow interpretation of the word architect which, according to Lokko, has probably kept his name out of the record.

Son of Obi (King) Nwoko Second, he let himself be inspired by the most modern architectural complexes of his city and by the Obi Palace, designed by his grandfather.

He studied at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria (1957-1961), where he became one of the most important founding members of the Zaria Art Society.

This group of artists, known as Zaria Rebels, supported the concept of 'natural synthesis', coined by the artist Uche Okeke to fill, with African themes and narratives, that Western education received from colonial educators.

In the 1960s, the Zaria Rebels contributed, together with other exponents of literature, theater and music, to the postcolonial modernist avant-garde in Nigeria.

In 1970 he received the construction of the Dominican Institute of Ibadan as his first assignment.

Also in Ibadan he founded the New Culture Studios, a training center for the performing arts and design.

In the 1970s he founded the New Culture Magazine (no longer active) which documented contemporary art and culture.

The exhibition

The Stirling Pavilion at the Gardens, next to the Book Pavilion Project of The Laboratory of the Future, will host the small and articulated exhibition of his work.

The awards ceremony awards will be held on Saturday 20 May 2023 at Ca' Giustinian, headquarters of the Venice Biennale, at the same time as the inauguration of the 2023 Architecture Biennale.