By Tajudeen Sowole
In the next few weeks, the National Gallery of Art (NGA)-proposed Abuja Biennale may start its gradual journey into reality, so suggests the unveiling of logo scheduled for March.
Few days ago, the Director-General of NGA, Abdulllhahi Muku disclosed in an exclusive chat that the logo of the Abuja Biennale has been selected and “will be unveiled to the public before the end of March this year.”
Planned to debut last year as a replacement for the rested African Regional Summit on Visual Arts and Exhibition (ARESUVA), the proposed Abuja Biennale, according to Muku will now hold in 2015. “We can’t hold the Abuja Biennale this year until 2015 because, as you know, the Dak’Art, is holding this year in Senegal.”
The Director-General of NGA, Abdullahi Muku
At a Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA)-organised Distinguished Lecture Series held in Lagos, last year, Muku, who was the Special Guest of Honour, disclosed that NGA plans “to organise a new event to be known as Abuja Biennale”. The disclosure confirmed an earlier statement by his Personal Assistant, Mufu Onifade, who, on his behalf, during the British Council-led Nigeria’s preparation for Venice 2015, in Lagos, informed the gathering about the planned biennale. At each pronouncement, there was silence on the fate of ARESUVA.
With its debut in 2008, ARESUVA had its second and last edition in 2009. In 2010, Muku – then acting after the erstwhile boss, Chief Joe Musa was suspended – announced that it would no longer hold as a yearly event, but “as biennale”, to commence the following year, 2011. In fact the odd year outing, it was stated then, would be good for ARESUVA, as it does not clash with the popular Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal.
Across the world, art fairs, art expos and biennales have become part of the branding strategy in promoting creativity and enhancing the tourism potential of host countries. In fact in Africa, the Dak’Art Biennale, in Dakar, Senegal, has in the last two decades become one of the most visited international art events in Africa, playing host to artists within the continent and the Diaspora. Also, the Jo’burg Art Fair in South Africa has made a mark as a market for art of the continent and beyond.
Meanwhile, Muku has assured that some of the yearly events of the NGA that did not hold last year will resume. He blamed non-capture of the events in last year’s budget for the break. One of the major events on the yearly programming of NGA, Art Expo Nigeria did not hold. In August 2008, Art Expo Nigeria debuted at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos as a “franchise” designed after the popular international event, ArtExpo New York.
One of NGA’s events held last year, tagged First National Children Art Exhibition at Cyprien Ekwensi Centre for Art and Culture, Garki, FCT, Abuja included a lecture segment with guest speaker in artist and architect, Prince Demas Nwoko.