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Bonington Gallery exhibition - Onyeka Igwe - history is a living weapon in yr hand

Bonington Gallery presents 'history is a living weapon in yr hand', a solo exhibition of new and reconfigured work by London based artist Onyeka Igwe.

A Radical Duet
Image: A still from A Radical Duet (2023) Onyeka Igwe

The exhibition follows Igwe’s acclaimed solo exhibition A Repertoire of Protest (No Dance, No Palaver) at MoMA PS1 in New York, earlier this year, and ahead of her inclusion in the exhibition Nigeria Imaginary at the national pavilion of Nigeria at the Venice Biennale 2024.

The exhibition will be centred around a new two-screen adaptation of Igwe’s dual timeline experimental film A Radical Duet (2023). In 1947 London was a hub of radical anti-colonial activity, with international intellectuals, artists, and activists such as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Sylvia Wynter, C L R James, Kwame Nkrumah and George Padmore all in London at this time. Each of them was individually agitating for their respective countries’ national independence, but did they meet, and if so, what did they discuss?

The film features fictional characters inspired by these radical figures. It imagines what happens when two women of different generations, but both part of the post-war independence movement, come together in London to put their fervour and imagination into writing a revolutionary play. The film depicts this process and envisages what that play would look like if staged today.

The film will be accompanied by elements of the set design and props from the making of A Radical Duet, taking inspiration from the Jamaican writer and cultural theorist, Sylvia Wynter’s ideas on theatrical adaptation. Wynter builds on Brechtian principles of modern epic theatre and advises on how set design can support a theatre to ‘explode [social] fears by bringing them out into the light of day’.

For this exhibition, Igwe will be working with Collective Text, an organisation supporting accessibility in art and film through creative captioning, audio description and interpretation.

history is a living weapon in yr hand is produced in collaboration with Peer Gallery, London, where it will be presented in autumn 2024.

Onyeka Igwe

history is a living weapon in yr hand

13 January – 2 March 2024

Exhibition preview: Friday 12 January 6-8pm
Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University

Dryden Street, Nottingham. NG1 4GG

About the artist

Onyeka Igwe is a moving image artist and researcher, born and based in London. Her work is aimed at the question: how do we live together? Not to provide a rigid answer as such, but to pull apart the nuances of mutuality, co-existence and multiplicity. Onyeka’s practice figures sensorial, spatial and counter-hegemonic ways of knowing as central to that task. For her, the body, archives and narratives both oral and textual act as a mode of enquiry that makes possible the exposition of overlooked histories. She has had solo/duo shows at MoMA PS1, New York (2023), High Line, New York (2022), Mercer Union, Toronto (2021), Jerwood Arts, London (2019) and Trinity Square Video, London (2018). Her films have screened in numerous group shows and film festivals worldwide. Currently, she is Practitioner in Residence at the University of the Arts London and she will participate in the group exhibition ‘Nigeria Imaginary’ in the national pavilion of Nigeria at the upcoming 60th Venice Biennial in 2024. She was awarded the New Cinema Award at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival 2019, 2020 Arts Foundation Fellowship, 2021 Foundwork Artist Prize and has been nominated for the 2022 Jarman Award and Max Mara Artist Prize for Women. Onyeka is represented by Arcadia Missa, London.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Sarah McLeod, Corporate Communications Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8735, or via email.

    Bonington Gallery
    Bonington Gallery was established in 1969 as part of the modernist purpose-built School of Art & Design, Bonington Building at Nottingham Trent University. Situated at the heart of the art school, the Gallery is surrounded by a wide range of creative disciplines, with strong connections across several academic departments. Whilst the core association of the Gallery is one of contemporary visual art, the resident context drives an artistic programme that unifies a range of artistic, cultural and research practices. This has enabled the gallery to form a unique identity within the regional cultural landscape, whilst establishing a broader critical context associated with reflecting and exploring artistic production and its relationship to wider societal discourse. The Gallery programmes three exhibitions per academic year, accompanied by a prolific public events schedule of talks, screenings and seminars.

    The gallery has organised and housed several important exhibitions over the years including Mirage Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire, 1996 (including Sonia Boyce, Glenn Ligon and Steve McQueen) and BT New Contemporaries, 1992 (including Tacita Dean and Permindar Kaur). Recently Bonington Gallery has developed solo exhibitions with Onyeka Igwe, Stephen Willats, Cedar Lewisohn, Sara MacKillop, Dick Jewell, Ruth Angel Edwards and group projects with The Community, Paris, The Serving Library and Nottingham Black Archive.

    Bonington Gallery is part of Curated & Created, NTU’s extra-curricular and public arts programme.


    Peer is a not-for-profit free-to-access space for contemporary art, located in the neighbourhood of Hoxton in East London. We place artists, young people and local communities at the heart of our internationally recognised programmes of public exhibitions held in our street-facing gallery, an ongoing series of workshops, talks and events, as well as offsite artist commissions produced in the local area.

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been named UK ‘University of the Year’ five times in six years, (Times Higher Education Awards 2017, The Guardian University Awards 2019, The Times and Sunday Times 2018 and 2023, Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023) and is consistently one of the top performing modern universities in the UK. It is the 3rd best modern university in the UK (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023).

    NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with over 40,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of almost 8,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

    NTU owns two Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for outstanding achievements in research (2015, 2021). The first recognises NTU’s research in science, engineering, arts and humanities to investigate and restore cultural objects, buildings and heritage. The second was awarded for research on the safety and security of global citizens.

    The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

    NTU is rated 5/5 stars overall and for Teaching, Employability, Internationalisation, Research and Facilities (QS Stars 2022).

    NTU is a top five university for widening participation with 25% of NTU students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds (HESA 2021-22). It was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge in 2018 and was named ‘University of the Year’ at the UK Social Mobility Awards in 2019,

    NTU is the most sustainable university in the UK and 2nd in the world (UI Green Metric University World Rankings, 2022).

Published on 7 November 2023
  • Category: NTU Arts; Press office