Born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1981.
He lives and works in Lagos.
Karo Akpokiere received a Higher National Diploma (HND) in graphic design from the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, one of Nigeria’s leading art institutions, in 2006. Applying that education to his practice, he contemplates the city of Lagos as a site of creative investigation in its role as a commercial and cultural hub. More specifically, he attempts to comprehend the city’s plethora of signs and signals against the backdrop of its socioeconomic conditions and experiences of everyday life. Combining texts with both traditional and digital drawing techniques, he closely examines the city’s constitutive elements, such as its corporate landscape, its economic diversity, and its religious activities, and then manipulates or stretches these elements to provide new perspectives for experiencing the city. In his series Lagos Drawings, for example, the painting Nigerian Mystic Visa Temple (2013) examines the role of religion in the social imagination of Lagos, adapting graphic forms found around the city, such as stickers and advertising signs. His graphics-based language thus departs from the usual forms of representing the city, which are mainly through easel painting and documentary photography.
Akpokiere’s work at the Biennale di Venezia is Mega City Times, a fictional narrative that is nevertheless grounded in reality. Lagos is a city that segregates people along economic lines. In this work, he imagines the physical unbundling of the city into two separate entities: Lagos Island, haven of the well-to-do, and Lagos mainland, home to most of the population, who live below the poverty line. The popular expression “no one comes to Lagos to count its sprawling bridges” mirrors the urgency that attends the city’s spirit of hustle and the pressure to succeed on the economic front. Mega City Times takes the form of a collection of drawings, short comic stories, photographs, stickers, and hand-written texts to consider the multiple temporalities and disparate experiences that coalesce, fuse, rupture, and diverge to approximate the socioeconomic fabric of Lagos. In Akpokiere’s work, as in real life, the social inequalities, dreams and aspirations, tradition and modernity, and diverse belief systems make Lagos a fascinating cultural space.