Bisi Silva, the celebrated curator and founder of Lagos’s Centre for Contemporary Art passed away on 12th February 2019; during her long and distinguished career shaping Nigeria’s contemporary art landscape, Silva established herself not only as a voice for contemporary but for a curatorial practice that centred the experience of Africans in Africa as the point of engagement with the rest of the world.
In the early 2000s, she returned to Lagos and founded CCA, a decision which The Arts Newspaper reports her saying she felt was necessary because when she relocated to Lagos in 2002, she could not find a space that would allow her to develop her expanded notion of curatorial practice,” she said. “Most of the galleries were commercial…Government institutions were moribund and there was no place for young artists interested in experimenting with media other than painting and sculpture. She realized then that she would have to start an organization that supported new artistic and curatorial possibilities.” The results of that organisation’s impact was reflected in the reaction to the announcement of her death. The writer, Molara Wood tweeted:
“This is a huge blow to visual art and the curatorial field in Nigeria. I respected Bisi Silva, everyone respected her. She made immense contributions; and her founding of the Centre for Contemporary Art at McEwen Street in Yaba did much to transform art discourse. Rest in Peace”
This is a huge blow to visual art and the curatorial field in Nigeria. I respected Bisi Silva, everyone respected her. She made immense contributions; and her founding of the Centre for Contemporary Art at McEwen Street in Yaba did much to transform art discourse. Rest in peace.
— Molara Wood (@molarawood) February 12, 2019
There were tributes from across the Nigerian arts industry:
People are reporting that the remarkable, lovely, force of nature Bisi Silva has passed away. As director of @ccalagos she had a profound impact on contemporary Nigerian and larger African art, and introduced so many of us in the US to what we should know. Rest in power, dear. https://t.co/d4mr2l6RAa
— Aruna D'Souza (@arunadsouza) February 12, 2019
A titan has fallen: a dear human being and founder and director of CCA Lagos, Bisi Silva has very sadly passed away. Today the African and international art world stands in a stronger position in light of Silva's pioneering work. pic.twitter.com/MBd5HTQwzz
— Goodman Gallery (@Goodman_Gallery) February 13, 2019
— Suya Spice (@thatfunke) February 13, 2019
Bisi Silva was born in 1962.