An Interview with Adenrele Sonariwo - The Spark
Art Exhibition

An Interview with Adenrele Sonariwo

– By Afua Osei

She was the first person to curate an art exhibition at Nigeria’s seat of power, The Presidency (Abuja) and has been featured in global publications such as the Financial Times, The Art Review, Forbes Africa, and Vogue. In 2016, she won the Future Awards Prize for Arts and Culture. Most recently, Denrele Sonariwo curated the first ever Nigerian Pavilion at the most important art exhibition in the world – Venice Biennale which opened on May 2017 in Venice, Italy.

 How would you describe the arts and culture scene in Nigeria today?

The arts and culture scene in Nigeria is very vibrant and expanding every day. There are so many young people expressing themselves creatively. We are seeing more diverse artists from different backgrounds that are using their exposure to different life circumstances to create very interesting art. We are also seeing a greater level of interest in the arts from the general public. More people are interested in learning about new artists and viewing their work.

What opportunities exist for young people interested in the arts?

Unfortunately, in Nigeria there are not that many formal galleries to exhibit your art and collaborate if you’re a new artist. This is an area that is currently untapped and a place to grow. What we have seen is an increase in makeshift and pop up spaces that allow showcases and collaborations. Young artists should be willing to go out there and try to have their work viewed as much as possible. There is also a need for institutions and companies to collaborate with artists for their spaces and events. This would increase the number of opportunities for young artists who are just getting started.

How are young women facing in the arts?

There is still plenty of work to be done for female artists in Nigeria. There are high profile women who have found success as artists and have been in the industry for decades but the pipeline for the next generation is still being formed. Unfortunately female artists are not top of mind when it comes to sourcing works for exhibitions and showcases so they then don’t receive as many follows on opportunities. To improve this, there is the need for more mentoring, training and scholarships to ensure it is an equal playing field.

What can we expect to see from Rele in 2018?

The mission of Rele is to trigger a greater appreciation and wider audience with an interest in the arts. We know there are millions more people to reach so we want to continue to promote Nigerian artists and expose people to their talent.

In our bid to project the young African expressing their heart and art, selected creatives are given the opportunity to showcase their work at our art exhibition event – FreestyleX. This creates an avenue for them to get connected to industry leaders who may find interest in their work.

Art Exhibition

Artwork from Marcellina Akpojotor

Art Exhibition

Artwork from Marcellina Akpojotor

Submit your works to be selected for FreestyleX. To see more art works, you can visit the Freestyle category on our website.


Adenrele Sonariwo is an award-winning gallerist and curator, founder of Rele Art Gallery and Rele Art Foundation. She holds a Masters of Fine Art from the Academy of Art, University of San Francisco, CA; a Curating Contemporary Art Certificate from the University of the Arts, London and a B.A. Business Administration/Accounting (Honors) from Howard University, Washington, DC. She has curated and over seen several commercially and critically successful high profile art exhibitions within Nigeria, The United States and Italy; exhibitions that challenge the boundaries of art, engaging innovative subjects and techniques. She has also led the movement to break art out of ivory tower, with Rele gallery exploring and partnering with fields of technology, community social causes & health. 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.

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The Spark is a youth empowerment platform in Nigeria that projects the average Nigerian youth doing something, anything positive. Our mission is to reach out to as many youths, “EMPOWER and ENGAGE!!!

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