A group of practitioners in Nigeria’s creative industry has petitioned Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Atorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State, Mr. Kazeem Adeniji and Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr. Fatai Owoseni to intervene and free lagos-based performance artist, Mr. Jelili Atiku, from illegal detention. The petitioners include foremost journalist and Chairperson, CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria (Country Representative Arterial Network), Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, National Coordinator, CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria, Mr. Ayodele Ganiu and President, Society of Nigerian Artists, Mr. Oliver Enwonwu.
Atiku, a citizen of Lagos State from Ejigbo and a prominent member of the Lagos art community, was unlawfully arrested on Monday, January 18, 2016 by the police. He was arraigned and subsequently remanded in prison for allegedly conspiring with four other persons to commit felony, to wit, public disturbance with his artistic performance on Thursday, January 14 2016 at about 5.40pm along Ifoshi Road, Ejigbo, Lagos.
Atiku is an imaginative performance artist whose provocative spectacles use striking attire, unsettling body language and unusual props to open up dialogue and influence popular attitudes. He drops himself right into the heart of Lagos, into the realities of the streets, of densely populated areas and entices people to interact and respond to his visual presentations.
Rooted in Yoruba performance traditions, Atiku brings local elements to international performance practice, creating an extraordinary mix of action, symbolism, storytelling, disguise, costume, colour coding and theatricality. A rigorous researcher, his subjects include commentary on Nigerian human rights in the Assassination of a Political Prisoner; politically charged critiques of the ruling class and Boko Haram; site-specific interventions on climate change, e-waste and fuel subsidies, and Araferaku (loosely translated as A Part of Me is Missing), a moving personal eulogy to his father.
Atiku was the only Nigerian awarded Prince Claus Laurel, a prestigious global award recognizing accomplishments in arts and culture, held in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in December 2015 for creating a new artistic language combining Yoruba traditional art forms with international performance practice; for his thought-provoking performances that challenge assumptions and stimulate dialogue in an unconventional and dynamic form of community education; for taking personal and artistic risks in order to open new possibilities and reach wider audiences, and for his pioneering dedication to establishing space for contemporary performance art in Nigeria.
It was in pursuance of these aspirations that he presented his latest work Aragamagooo on Thursday, January 14, 2016 in Ejigbo community area of Lagos. It is disheartening to note that rather than celebrate this artist who has brought honour to Lagos State and Nigeria, the accusers are using the police and courts to maliciously prosecute him.
In the light of the above, we the undersigned hereby declare that the arrest, arraignment and the ongoing prosecution of Jelili Atiku is a clear disregard for creativity and extreme hostility to artistic expression.