Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes at South London Gallery review: together and apart

Review at a glance


n the four and half minute-long film, Entitled (2018), by the Nigerian-born British filmmaker Adeyemi Michael, the director’s mother rides a large black horse around the streets of Peckham dressed in purple and gold — colours associated with luxury and royalty both in the UK and Nigeria. People on the streets, in their homes and in parks, stop to ogle as the majestic woman travels around the neighbourhood in traditional Yoruba attire.

Many greet her as they would someone older or of a higher position back home, kneeling in various forms. In the voiceover, Michael’s mother talks about moving from Nigeria to the UK. “On one side, I’m Nigerian, and on the other side, I’m British,” she says in Yoruba.

As a London-born woman of Nigerian heritage, this line resonates with me. It perfectly sets the tone for Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage To the Lakes, the new exhibition at South London Gallery, held across both its gallery spaces.

Co-curated by Folakunle Oshun, founder and director of the Lagos Biennial, the show explores the profound relationship between Nigeria and the UK, honing in on the sizeable Nigerian community living in South London (particularly Peckham, known as ‘Little Lagos’ to its locals). Despite its specificity, the exhibition endeavours to showcase Nigeria and its diaspora’s multifaceted experiences with the city. In Avalanche of Calm (2022) by Lagos-born artist Abdulrazaq Awofeso, several wooden figures of different sizes litter the floor of one of the exhibition rooms, as painted wooden clouds dangle from the ceiling. Awofeso made the artwork soon after arriving in the UK from Lagos, highlighting how individuals merge into the masses in megacities, but reminiscent too of the isolation it’s possible to feel among so many strangers.

Abdulrazaq Awofeso, Avalanche of Calm, 2021-2022

/ Courtesy of Ikon Gallery. Photographer Stuart Whipps

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Everyday objects are also given deeper meaning, such as in Seyi Adelekun’s Àdìre Wata (2023), where large recycled plastic water bottles filled with natural dye, including indigo sourced from a dye centre near Lagos, hang from the ceiling. Without displaying any of the material itself, the installation nods to Àdìre, a popular textile technique in Nigeria.

But it’s also hard to avoid the politics and tension between the two places. Adelekun’s piece also symbolises how enslaved Africans brought the knowledge of indigo cultivation to other countries via the transatlantic slave trade. Two large photographs by the renowned British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, from his Diary of a Victorian Dandy series, created in 1998, show the artist posing as a British dandy among the English upper class: “an outsider who upsets the social order of things”, as the gallery quotes him saying.

That said, despite socio-political references scattered throughout this show, one aspect of the Lagos-Peckham affinity that doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves is how rising house prices and an influx of wealthy people are harming these communities. But maybe that topic deserves an exhibition of its own.

South London Gallery, to October 29;

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