Atanda Quadri Adebayo in front of some of his canvases. Marilú Báez
Portraits from the shanties of the Venice of Africa

Portraits from the shanties of the Venice of Africa

Nigeria. Atanda Quadri Adebayo exhibits a selection of paintings in Malaga depicting the inhabitants of the largest floating settlement in the world

Cristina Pinto

Friday, 15 September 2023, 17:31


The new exhibition at Malaga's contemporary art centre is not just a display of artistic talent. It delves into themes of family, memories and origins. Atanda Quadri Adebayo's impressive works, comprising of nineteen paintings and two sculptures, dominate the central exhibition space at CAC Málaga. They depict life in Makoko, the largest floating settlement in the world, often referred to as the Nigerian Venice.

In this exhibition, titled For Future Purposes, Adebayo pays tribute to his family and a community that faces adversity on a daily basis, but takes immense pride in confronting life in the shanty town. The interplay of light and shadow can be appreciated in this new exhibition, which is open until 26 November.


Family plays a significant role in Adebayo's work, as it was from there that his artistic journey began. His mother sold pieces of charcoal in Lagos, his hometown, to support the family, and he used the leftover bits to create his initial drawings. This is why he excels in charcoal, which dominates the entire body of his work. Adebayo merges charcoal with his identity, stating, "I use charcoal to draw my figures, emphasising the texture and beauty of black skin."

Memories are another central theme, evident in the exhibition's title, For Future Purposes, which references the artist's grandmother.

"The essence of my family is my grandmother because she has always been the keeper of our memories. She kept everything because she believed that things could always be useful. Just last year, on the anniversary of her death, I remembered what she used to say, and I wanted to document it," Adebayo said during the inauguration of the Malaga exhibition.

Imagen principal - Portraits from the shanties of the Venice of Africa
Imagen secundaria 1 - Portraits from the shanties of the Venice of Africa
Imagen secundaria 2 - Portraits from the shanties of the Venice of Africa

The black and white section reflects this influence, displaying photographs his grandmother kept and colourful paintings of his friends and of the people in his immediate circle living in Makoko.

Origins are also an important focus, as the Nigerian artist endeavours to capture the essence of an entire community in this marginalised neighbourhood of Nigeria.

"They have been discriminated against, and my way of paying tribute to them is through art; that's my way of giving them the recognition they deserve. It was important for them to be represented in such a powerful way," Adebayo said.

These origins are reflected not only in the portraits and the expressions of the people he paints, but also in the two sculptures included in the exhibition. Both represent the shanties of Makoko, crafted from wood, metal and recycled materials. The roofs are covered with church leaflets. "This community was built for religious gatherings," said Adebayo.

Celebrating identity

Atanda Quadri Adebayo's art is influenced by his early love of hip-hop culture, and he feels like he is "part of a movement that celebrates its own culture and identity", known as Afrofuturism. It is a way of blending the present and the past of the Afro community by showcasing elements of their culture but without dwelling on pain and suffering.

This is precisely what you can see in Adebayo's exhibition at CAC - a blend of the past and present, rooted in the origins and memories of a family who, despite facing adversity, feel empowered.

For Future Purposes

  • Artist. Atanda Quadri Adebayo.

  • Where. CAC Málaga, Calle Alemania, Malaga.

  • When. Until 26 November. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 9.30pm

  • Admission. Free

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