Artist Jelili Atiku detained in Lagos

Update: Trial date set

Jelili Atiku, Kill Not This Country, 2016. Courtesy the artist Jelili Atiku, Festival of the Earth (Alaraagbo XIII), 2018, processional performance, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. Photo: Simone Sapienza. Courtesy the artist and Manifesta 12, Palermo Jelili Atiku, Alaagba, 2014 (performance, Giving Contours to Shadows, Savvy Contemporary, Berlin). Photo: Emma Haugh. Courtesy Neues Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, and Savvy Contemporary, Berlin

Jelili Atiku, the Nigerian performance artist, has been detained in Lagos. Posting on Instagram yesterday the artist  stated ''Protecting the Sacred Omagbo means a lot to me and all my people. I am presently in detention at the Police Area Command in Mushin. The struggle continues!' The post showed the remains of a sacred ceremony in Yoruba culture which honours the deity Orisha.

The artist, whose work deals with issues of human rights and justice, has frequently come into conflict with authorities. In 2016 he was arrested on charges of 'disturbing the peace of the community, intimidating the public, distributing publications likely to provoke the community, and managing an unlawful society'. Those charges were related to a performance titled Aragamago Will Rid This Land of Terrorism which drew the anger of a local traditional ruler, the Elejigbo of Ejigbo, Oba Morufu Ojool. In 2017 the artist set his sights on terrorist group Boko Haram with Kill Not This Country, in which he paraded down a street wearing a gas mask and carrying a staff of skulls.

Several other activists were arrested alongside Atiku yesterday, the pressure group Artists At Risk reports.

In 2016 Atiku was awarded the Prince Claus Award in The Netherlands for his 'provocative spectacles use striking attire, unsettling body language and unusual props to open up dialogue and influence popular attitudes.' In 2018 he participated in Manifesta.

3 May 2019

Update 13 May 2019: Atiku was released from jail and has been given a trial date of 20 May.