Market Symphony is an original work of sound art that the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art commissioned artist Emeka Ogboh to create specifically for a gallery in the museum. Drawing on the commercial cries and urban ambiance of Balogun—a sprawling open-air market in Lagos, Africa’s largest and most populated city—the artist invites us to experience the distinctive sounds of this vibrant Nigerian metropolis and the traders who drive its daily economy.
Ogboh considers sound art akin to sculpture: it shapes our experience of a space, even with our eyes closed. Women and hawkers call from all sides against the backdrop of horns, footsteps, and city living to transport us from the hush of a gallery to a commercial hive approximately 5,407 miles away.
In Market Symphony, Ogboh has combined the ambient sounds of his hometown with electronic compositions to create an immersive experience. Visitors hear the voices of traders advertising their goods and calling out for potential customers, the sounds of bantering between buyers and sellers, and the overall bustle of Lagos’s major markets. Speakers are mounted on colorful enamelware trays commonly used for displaying goods at stalls in Nigerian markets like Balogun. Laden with food and other goods, such trays are also popular with itinerant hawkers who weave through Lagos’s busy streets while balancing their wares upon their heads. Whether concealed beneath merchandise or navigating crowded streets, these trays lend to the color, chaos, and creativity characteristic of the symphony of rhythms at Balogun and other markets.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.