The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art will host +234 Connect, a unique five-
day cinematic and exhibition experience celebrating the art, people and cinema of Nigeria,
Wednesday, Sept. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 2. The festival, which runs through Nigerian
Independence weekend, will feature exhibitions, film screenings, master classes, conversations
with filmmakers and artists, a concert and an opportunity for the public to see the celebrated
Benin Bronzes before they are returned to Nigeria.
Named for Nigeria’s country code, +234 Connect, is a celebration of African creativity and
expression. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore two complementary exhibitions
focused on Nigerian art: “Iké Ude: Nollywood Portraits” and “Before Nollywood…The Ideal Photo
Studio.” “Iké Ude: Nollywood Portraits” features the work of multimedia artist Iké Ude with
photographs of the talented people who drive Nollywood. It opened to the public earlier this
“Before Nollywood…The Ideal Photo Studio,” which opens Tuesday, Sept. 27, will celebrate
the photography of Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911-1994), an important figure in early Nigerian
studio photography, and the owner of Ideal Photo Studio, the first commercial photography
studio in Benin City. Alonge’s studio portraits of Benin City residents in the 1950s and 1960s
feature individuals and families photographed with carefully selected costumes, furniture,
backdrops and props. The photographs serve as a historical precursor to, and contextualize
Ude’s photographs, which use color, attire and other markers to make a bold statement about
the power of African identities despite centuries of attempted erasure by Eurocentric art history
and notions of beauty. Members of the local Edo community and the public are invited to
participate in a Family Photo Shoot on Saturday, Oct. 1, where an on-site stylist will be available
to help capture visitors’ best poses in a designed set, inspired by the artworks in the “Iké Ude:
Nollywood Portraits” exhibition.
Smithsonian Institution News
Sept. 26, 2022
A full schedule of festival programs can be found on the museum’s website. Programming
highlights include a screening of the seminal Nollywood movie, “Living in Bondage,” master
classes by Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett and Yolanda Okereke, as well as panel discussions and
conversations by Nollywood filmmakers and actors, including Obi Emelonye, Chioma Ude, O.C.
Ukeje and Tope Oshin.
From Sept. 27 through Oct. 11, visitors will also have a final opportunity to appreciate the
beauty and creativity of a selection of Benin bronzes, which were part of the museum’s Benin
Royal Art collection, due to be officially deaccessioned and returned to Nigeria in a private
ceremony Oct. 11. There will also be a screening of the film “Invasion 1897,” which tells the
story of the British invasion and looting of the Kingdom of Benin followed by a conversation on
the calls for restitution, reparations and the return of artworks to Nigeria. The discussion will
include the film’s director Lancelot Imasuen, artist Victor Ehikhamenor, and Prof. Abba Tijani,
director general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.