The Art of Modupeola Fadugba in Her Own Words

The first time I saw Modupeola Fadugba’s 2017 triptych, Pink Lake: The One that Looked Back, I was taken with the title. I wanted to know more about her art. And to my delight, I found Fadugba works in series and each is a social commentary addressing an issue: cultural identity, justice, gender equality, women’s empowerment, and commercialization in the art world.

Starting in 2014 with a game installation, The People’s Algorithm, Modupeola Fadugba, who was born in Togo in 1985, educated in the US and UK, and is now based in Nigeria, according to her website “attempts to bring Nigeria’s enormous and complex education and unemployment crises into an accessible format. [The game] Ruled by chance and the roll of the dice, players move along a Monopoly-like board, learning facts and proffering solutions to some of the country’s most pressing educational challenges.” In Like Play, Like Play (2016), she explores “play as a form of resistance to the suppression of freedom of expression and other forms of control.”

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The People’s Algorithm is an interactive game installation I created, which transforms Nigeria’s troubling education and unemployment crisis into an oversized toy. I invite you to play: Follow me into a colorful human scale Rubik’s cube. Once inside, you walk on a monopoly-like game board with shelves holding books about statistics and common educational experiences in Nigeria. Go ahead and Pick a role by choosing a colored dice: Green for student, Red for Teacher, Blue for Policy Maker. Roll Dice Here. On choosing the student role, you may win a scholarship to Harvard, or more likely, languish amid university strikes; as a teacher, you may experience a seven-month delay in salary payment; as a policy maker, poor planning continuously hinders policy implementation. You roll the dice and play on. As the opportunities, challenges, lucky breaks and frustrations mount up, the space inside the cube becomes a charged microcosm of the national predicament. It looks like child’s play, but you are actually gambling with the fate of a nation. Pictured here is the third iteration of the installation at an ongoing exhibition in Lille, France. It’s much shinier and sexier than its predecessors (Lagos, 2014; Dakar 2016), offering great opportunities for selfies/photographs. But the game tells a serious story of life-altering chances and choices. And here’s the catch: The game offers no manual for rectifying the puzzle, no cheat code on how to win… It’s left to The People. Students, teachers, policy makers and artists alike. And so… let us play! The People's Algorithm 3.0 3m ×3m× 3m Steel, Plexiglass, cardboard books, plastic coins, foam dice 2017

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Of Heads or Tails (2014–2017), she said “I adorn painted coins with the faces of young Nigerian women, reversing social hierarchies that historically have portrayed only men on monetary objects.” In Tagged/Dear Young Artist (2015–2017), she created a series “where swimmers engage in a game to get a red ball, which symbolizes the red stickers placed on sold artworks. I have found this transactional assessment of an artwork’s value to be both an important method of validation and a trap, painting only a partial picture of what it means to thrive as a professional artist.”

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In The Beginning In the beginning of time, if Eve came first and Adam was created from her rib, or if light was bad and dark was good, our perception of gender and colour might be different. Maybe the Black woman would have been heads and the White man tails.” My series ‘Heads or Tails’ seeks to challenge our understandings of worth by reimagining the visual vernacular of currency. I replace patriarchal portraiture with faces of poised and powerful black females and in choosing these faces for my coins, I continue to toy with the tension between chance and constructions of inequality. To my fortune, I am able to engage an even broader audience with these questions and ideas: this piece was selected for this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London!! Many many thanks to Ayo Adeyinka and Yinka Shonibare MBE for their support in making this happen, to Caroline Hussey-Bain for always aligning the details and to Katherine Finerty for (the gift of) precision of language. This summer, we royal!!!🙌 Heads or Tails: Diversify; Acrylic, oil, pencil, gold leaf and ink on burned paper; 20” x 25"; 2016 @royalacademyarts #rasummerexhibition #headsortails

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While with Synchronized Swimmers (2016–2017), she looks at a situation where the swimmers, like artists, “begin to explore more collaborative ways of being in the water together.” And of Flowers and Prayers (2014–2017), she said “In this series, I return to the questions of faith in oneself and one’s country. Church architecture forms a symbolic framework, and the repetitive geometry of stained glass windows calls to mind the notion of “God’s handiwork.”

 

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Adekemi is a lawyer and writer with a passion for the arts, particularly African art history. She is dedicated to discovering and documenting the most excellent artworks of our time. Follow her on Twitter at adekemitweets.
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