Sunday 3 January 2016

How Art Survived 2015 Hostile Nigerian Political Space

By Tajudeen Sowole
Unfriendly economic environment caused by highly charged political scene in the first quarter of 2015 appeared to have slowed art activities for greater part of the year. However, Nigerian artists made quite some remarkable imparts at international events, home and abroad. 
Christian Etongo during his performance at CCA, Lagos, in January 2015.

Middle of January recorded the first major international art event of 2015 in Nigeria's art space as seven artists from the Nordic countries and West Africa converged on Lagos, courtessy of Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA).

 In February, Nigeria's foremost performance artist, Jelili Atiku and others treated a theme, Bodies of Planned Obsolescence: Digital Performance and the Global Politics of E-Waste at University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka, Lagos.
A month after, Duke Asidere, Gerry Nnubia, Ndidi Emefiele (Nigerians) and a Cameroonian, Joel Mpah Dooh had their works on display at the second edition of the Cape Town Art Fair, V & A Waterfront, South Africa, courtesy of Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. 

 Also in March, the 2015 edition of Art Dubai featured masters from select countries across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. There were 15 galleries for the Modern section, mounted on the ground floor of the Medinat Jumeirah building, Dubai. Among the galleries at the immediate entrance of the Art Dubai Modern was Mydrim Gallery, from Lagos, which showed the works of Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya, a master printmaker. Art 21, also a Lagos-based space representated Nigerian sculptor, Olu Amoda nad Benenoise painter, Gérard Quenum.
Auction house, Bonhams, London, U.K, had sales of Modern Art in its Africa Now and recorded a total £827,000 (NGN256 million or US$1.3million) in May.

 With a museum donated by Prince Yemisi Shyllon to Pan-Atlantic University (PAU) Ajah, Lagos, in June, hope of filling the vacuum of modern and contemporary Nigeria art museum was alive.. The Shyllon Museum would not leave out ancient and traditional art of the country's origin from works in its hold. During the signing ceremony between Shyllom and PAU, at Oba Elegushi office of the institution's Pro-Chancellor, Mr. Paschal Dozie, the donor stated that the proposed museum will be Nigeria's first ever "one-stop-non-government museum."

 A list Nigerian artists here and from the Diapora joined an unprecedented number of black participants at the 56 th Venice Biennale themed All The World's Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor. 

Art teachers converged on Lagos with a mission to take their rightful place, as they went further to seek solutions in keeping pace with the reality of global progression of art. During the opening of a three-days forum tagged First International Conference on The State of Visual Arts Scholarship in Nigeria in the Era of Globalism, held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, the artists discussed areas of crucial repositioning of their profession. The event also extended to Yaba College of Technology and University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos with participants drawn from art schools of tertiary institutions across the country.  

If anyone was in doubt of the growing potential in Nigerian art at the international market, a solo art exhibition of Alex Nwokolo's paintings and mixed media, which held in August, in London confirmed the rising interest for art from Africa. Nwokolo was not exactly new to the art appreciation space in the Diaspora, U.K., specifically.

  One of Africa's most consistent performance artists, Jelili Atiku was honoured by  The Netherlands-based Prince Claus Fund. Atiku was listed among its 2015 laureates. Prince Claus states that Atiku's work is enriched by the artist's dual expression in Yoruba and international spaces. For 19 years, the Prince Claus Fund has supported freedom of cultural expression worldwide.
Arguably the biggest art exhibition of the year
Came in one of Africa's living modernist masters, Yusuf Grillo, whose Igi Arada, courtesst of Arthouse - The Space showed at Kia Motor Showroom in October. It was Grillo's first solo exhibition in over four decades.
Late in the year, a director at CCC, Lagos, Bisi Silva curated the 10th Bamako Encounters; African Photography, in Mali, which had quite a number of Nigerian photographers.

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