Niyi Olagunju, Lega III, 2016, Bisected wood sculpture, aluminum and copper foil, set on black patinated steel stand, Approx. 63 x 11 x 20 cm (each) / 25 x 4 x 8 in, Courtesy TAFETA
Niyi Olagunju, Lega III, 2016, Bisected wood sculpture, aluminum and copper foil, set on black patinated steel stand, Approx. 63 x 11 x 20 cm (each) / 25 x 4 x 8 in, Courtesy TAFETA 

Olagunju’s contemporary appropriation of traditional African sculptures continues his exploration of global trade and, in his words, “the absolute commoditization of everything”. The sculptures, which are usually exhibited alongside preparatory sketches, are bisected vertically and have their internal surfaces primed and coated in metals mined from the region from which they are originally sourced. The project questions the value system driving the continuing growth in the sale of traditional African artifacts, which although originally made and used for specific tribal functions, are now ultimately valued according to their provenance and rarity. Olagunju’s use of precious and semiprecious metals lends consideration to the complex relationships that emerge from the exploitation of natural resources on the African continent, and its subsequent effects on communities and their cultural legacies. Olagunju studied at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos; the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford; and Texas Christian University, Fort Worth.