Saturday 19 November 2011


ARESUVA... Birth of continental platform for Visual Arts
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published Tuesday, September 02, 2008)
 AS curtain drew on the maiden edition of Art Expo Nigeria held in Lagos on Sunday, a continental gathering, also on art, opens in Abuja from Sunday, September 7.
   The event, African Regional Summit and Exhibition on Visual Art, ARESUVA, which the organisers, National Gallery of Art (NGA) said is being built on the New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD's projection opens at the Federal Capital Territory on September 7 and runs till 13, 2008.
   The 37th Summit of the OAU (now African Union, AU) in July 2001 formally adopted the NEPAD document as a vision and strategic framework for Africa's renewal.
But beyond the talkshop and exhibition, there appears to be a major challenge before the gathering, regarded as the first of its kind in Africa.
    For a continent that is in need of a forum under which its artists and other stakeholders come together regularly, and give everyone a voice, irrespective of country or tongue, ARESUVA could just be that opportunity to make the difference. Not another Dak'Art or a biennale under the dictates of one nation, but an all encompassing regional platform that provides a level playing field to move the art of the continent forward.
   Perhaps borrowing the Confederation of African Football, CAF model that brings every member country on to the table is the panacea artists need this time.
   When ARESUVA was announced in April this year, at a gathering in Lagos, the Director General of NGA, Joe Musa stated that it would serve as artists' contribution to economic and cultural empowerment of the continent. He explained: "The First African Regional Summit and Exhibition On Visual Arts is designed to engender the promotion of visual arts as a strategy for achieving rapid economic development in the African region as envisioned in the New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD."
   The theme of the event, he added, is: "Promoting the Visual Arts for Sustainable Economic Growth and Development in Africa."
By its design as a continental gathering under ARESUVA, NGA's idea, indirectly is pregnant, and only waiting for the right input from the depth of the continent's academia to deliver the expected baby.
Few days ago, one of the continent's active curators, and director of Centre for Contemporary Art, CCA, Lagos, Bisi Silva agreed with the line of thought of broader regional forum like the CAF model.
She said: "A CAF for the arts will force reluctant countries to act. So if ARESUVA can in the medium to long term incite such, not only in Nigeria but regional and around the continent, then we can all retire in peace because a solid legacy that doesn't depend on the political dispensation of one country but of a continent will be born. That is the challenge for ARESUVA; all African art practitioners and cultural workers; that is the challenge for everyone. There is too much work to be done in arts and culture in Nigeria, and by extension Africa.
    "That model has helped develop sports globally and may be Africa has to consider it so that any country that is going to host must make an investment in cultural infrastructure. Look at China now and the massive infrastructure the country will have. In Nigeria, it happened with FESTAC. In many countries around the world, biennales are huge excuses to develop culture and tourism infrastructure."
While Art Expo Nigeria was an event aimed at taking art to the people, hence the choice of Lagos as venue, ARESUVA, Musa explained during a chat with journalists at the just concluded Lagos event, is basically about intellectual interaction among stakeholders across the continent.
   According to additional statements from the organisers, the programming of the event would have what it called "Sessional Focus", designed to allow all delegates/participants to share their views on enterprise development in the visual arts sub-sector of the African region.
    "It has been designed to enable the free flow of ideas and interaction through one-on-one discussions, breakout workshops and plenary presentations by stimulating speakers," NGA said.
Also on the agenda are: "Binary/Parallel (Work Group) Sessions; a classical parliament-oriented binary/parallel interactive sessions and knowledge exchanges to establish a knowledge bank through: democratizing economic and investment decision making process; promotion of linkages in the visual arts sub-sector; the fusion of private-public sectors knowledge; information and experience."
The Plenary Sessions, the statement stressed, would include co-ordination/presentation by renowned operators to look at such areas as funding for the visual arts; artists registration council; standardization of works of art; poverty alleviation programmes; environmental issues; business in the visual arts.
    Resource persons drawn from the continent and the Diaspora are expected to present papers aimed at exposing the various business opportunities in the visual arts sub-sector.
NGA explained: "It will feature case studies from across the world by international speakers and panelists. The speakers are selected from practitioners to commentators and writers from different parts of Africa."

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