The 60th Venice Biennale opened on April 20th in spectacular fashion, attracting artists from over 85 countries under the overarching theme Stranieri Ovunque (Foreigners Everywhere). The awards ceremony was held at Ca' Giustinian, where the first-time participant British-Nigerian artist Karimah Ashadu was awarded the Silver Lion for promising young talent for her video Machine Boys and the related brass sculpture Wreath.

In Machine Boys, Ashadu explores the vagaries of life that young men from the agrarian north of Nigeria experience after they have migrated to Lagos. The uncertain economic circumstances and dearth of employment opportunities in the city leave few venues for work, one of them being driving motorcycle taxis or okada as they are called in Nigerian Pidgin. Driving okada through the narrow and congested streets of Lagos is a hazardous enterprise which can result in injury or death for both drivers and passengers, and the practice has recently been banned.

Ashadu dives into the precarious world of the okada drivers as they prepare for their daily routine despite the ban, focusing her camera lens on the rituals that they engage in before work. She captures a particular vision of masculinity characterized by the drivers' attire and their self-assured demeanor through a juxtaposition of machine, flesh and clothing.

Ashadu lives between Hamburg and Lagos. Her work mainly focuses on labor and self-determination practices as they pertain to the social, economic and cultural context of Nigeria and its diaspora. Her art has been exhibited at Galerie Ursula Walter in Dresden, Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, Kunsthalle Bremen, Tate Modern in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 2022 she won the Prize of the Bötterstraße in Bremen. More information about her participation in the 60th Venice Biennale can be found here and here.

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