Providence, RI – Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University is hosting internationally renowned Nigerian multimedia artist Jelili Atiku, Brown’s first Artist Protection Fund Fellow. Atiku is serving as an assistant professor in the University’s Department of Africana Studies and a BAI artist-in-residence through 2018.

Established by the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE) in 2015 with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and with the participation of academic and arts organizations around the world, the Artist Protection Fund (APF) partners with host institutions to provide relief and safe haven to enable threatened artists like Atiku to continue their work.

For over a decade, Atiku has committed his practice to exploring the prevailing issues of our times, ranging from the psychosocial and emotional effects of war to poverty, corruption, human rights and climate change. Through drawings, installations, sculpture, photography, video, and performance, he seeks to effect positive change and help viewers better understand the world and expand their awareness and experiences. Atiku’s practice involves collaboration, social interventions, and live performances—often incorporating political perspectives and societal commentary—where participants, costumes, actions, and the audience are integrated as symbolic content.
“Brown has a proud tradition of responding to crises, locally and globally, in ways that advance our mission to contribute to the community, the nation and the world through teaching, research, and engagement,” said Provost Richard M. Locke. “In our increasingly unstable world, we remain committed to working with partners such as IIE to keep our intellectual and physical boundaries open and welcoming, and to hosting students and scholars who may be endangered or displaced due to natural or man-made disasters.”
BAI Faculty Director and Professor of Music Joseph Butch Rovan said, “We are honored to welcome this talented, multi-faceted artist to Brown. Given the tremendous range of Jelili’s work
and interests, he embodies our mission to make Brown a national leader in experimental arts practice, exploring pressing societal issues of our times.”

APF Executive Director Alison Russo said, “The Artist Protection Fund builds on a century of work by IIE. The APF is dedicated to creating, developing, and designing innovative residency programs, like the one here at Brown, and to protecting the lives, voices, and ideas of artists around the world. Among the first APF fellows to be awarded, Jelili Atiku has rigorously embraced his placement at Brown as an innovative artist-in-residence and dynamic educator.”

Co-sponsored by the APF, the BAI, and the Provost’s office, Atiku receives support, housing, studio space, research funds, and the opportunity to work with students, other faculty, and staff across the University and the Providence community while advancing his own research and practice. He is presenting talks, conducting workshops, and engages students in projects including public performances of four new pieces: Shoot the Breeze; Certiori Order; Ojukoro Wi’ Donald Trump, and I Will Become Mature represent Atiku’s response to the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

With the Department of Africana Studies, Atiku is organizing “The World is Feminine,” a colloquium convened within the context of his performance Mama Say Make I Dey Go, She Dey My Back which Atiku first performed in 2017, at the Venice Biennale. Papers presented at the colloquium (October 16‒17, 2018) will be published in a commemorative book. In addition, the artist will present a new version of Red Flag (In The Red Series #10), a work relating to the Department of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre’s “50 Years Since ’68, The Global and the Local: a Conference,” a seminar on the international dimensions of 1968—a pivotal year for Brown University, the nation, and the world. This project is organized in collaboration with the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown for presentation on November 1‒2, 2018.

All programs are free and open to the public.

About the Artist

Jelili Atiku (b. 1968) is a Nigerian multimedia artist whose work promotes freedom of expression and addresses human rights and social justice issues. Through his practice, he strives to help viewers understand the world and expand their experiences so they can activate and renew their lives and environments.

For over a decade, Atiku has made art that responds to contemporary concerns, especially those that threaten the well-being of humankind and the universe. His art comments on poverty, corruption, war, violence, oppression, the ruling class, climate change, and other societal tribulations.

The artist has travelled widely and participated in numerous performances, exhibitions, and talks in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Since 2008, he has been involved in an ongoing performance project, In the Red, which uses red as a symbol of life and suffering. In 2009, his work was featured in the biennial contemporary art fair Geisai #12 in Tokyo, Japan, and the 16th Festival International D’Art Vidéo de Casablanca, Morocco. In 2011, he was among the participating artists in VAF 1: From Africa, an international video art festival in Yorkshire, UK. In 2015, Atiku received the Netherland’s Prince Claus Fund Award, which honors visionary individuals and organizations for their groundbreaking work in culture. The following year, he was wrongly accused, arrested, detained in prison and later released after performing his work Aragamago Will Rid This Land of Terrorism with collaborators in a public space in Lagos, Nigeria. In 2017, he participated in the 57th Venice Biennale—the first time Nigeria was represented at the festival—performing his ritualistic work Mama Say Make I Dey Go, She Dey My Back, a dialogue between corporality and materiality.

A resident of Lagos, Atiku was trained at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and University of Lagos, both in Nigeria, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Visual Arts, respectively. He teaches sculpture in the Department of Art and Industrial Design at Lagos State Polytechnic. He is also the artistic director of AFiRIperFOMA, a collective of performance artists in Africa, and chief coordinator of Advocates for Human Rights Through Art. In 2018, Atiku was awarded a prestigious Artist Protection Fund (APF) Fellowship and is currently in residence at Brown University. For the duration of his APF Fellowship, Atiku has been appointed to a year-long visiting assistant professorship in the Department of Africana Studies.

About the Brown Arts Initiative

The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University seeks to cultivate creative expression and foster an interdisciplinary environment where faculty and students learn from one another and from artists and scholars in a wide range of fields across the campus and around the world. A consortium of six arts departments and two programs that encompass the performing, literary and visual arts, the BAI works collaboratively to enhance curricular and co-curricular offerings, directly engage students with prominent artists working in all genres and media, and supports a diverse program of concerts, performances, exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and symposia each year. The BAI takes full advantage of the University’s Open Curriculum and builds on Brown’s reputation as a destination for arts exploration, contributing to cultural enterprise through the integration of theory, practice, and scholarship with an emphasis on innovation and discovery that results from rigorous artmaking and experimentation.

More information:

Jelili Atiku. Photo still from Shoot the Breeze, 2018. Photo by Jacob Cader ’19. Courtesy of the artist and Brown Arts Initiative.