Sunday 16 December 2018

Through Olagoke, China-Africa Goes Art, Culture With Nigeria As Link

Artist, Lanre Olagoke (centre front row) during his visit to China for cultural exchange events.
Beyond investing and partnering with Africa in infrastrutural development, China keeps showning interest in the art and culture sector, so indicated an ongoing partnership. Being led by a Hangzhou, China-based businessman, Zhang Zonghua, the project, which include art, music, poetry and fashion is in partnership with U.K-based Nigerian-British artist, Lanre Olagoke.

In May this year, Olagoke and Zonghua had meetings in Lagos that led to the just concluded first phase of the partnership in Hangzhou. Currently on his way back to Lagos enroute London from Hangzhou, Olagoke, during a chat via the Internet provided informations and tracking of the partnership take off in China. According to Olagoke, Nigeria is being proposed as a liason point for Africa in the project, hence his traveling to China.
 Zonghua is founder of Blue Cube Cultural Creation Park and Art Academy in Hangzhou.
He is the vice president of Zheshang Research Association, China.

Olagoke, a studio assistant to late Nigerian master, Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994), is the founder of Art-Alive Arts Trust (AAAT), a not-for-profit organisation that implores art as youth empowerment in some countries across the world.
 As art consultant to Hangzhou Blue Cube Cultural Creation Park, Olagoke explained details of the China-Africa partnership in art and culture. "It started here in Lagos with my meetings with Mr Zonghua, an entrepreneur and lover of art", the artist recalled. He disclosed that the first major work of the partnership will involve three countries. "We are starting with U.K.-China-Nigeria Cultural Exchange 2018 - 2019, which is aimed at using three of the biggest countries in the continents to enhance business and leisure". The take-off, he said, started in Hangzhou, China, already; while the U.K and Nigeria events take off in the first quarter of next year".

While in Lagos, Zonghua noted that Nigeria as a big country in Africa would play significant role in the cultural exchange, particularly in art. In fact, he disclosed of his plans to have a section dedicated to African Art at Art Academy of Hangzhou. Collection of African art for the Academy, Olagoke said "would be coordinated from Nigeria on behalf of the continent".

Over six months into the partnership, Olagoke described Zonghua, as a very successful and big-hearted entrepreneur who is also the Vice President of Zheshang Research Association. "He has independent innovation and business talents such as being  engaged in a chemical industry that has been imitated by others". He said his brief knowledge of Zonghua while in China showed how the partner's "Zhejiang Blue Cube Cultural Creation Park is committed to international art exhibitions and exchanges with focus on introducing artists from all over the world to the Blue Cube for international cultural and artistic exchanges". The Blue Cube, Olagoke emphasised "will accumulate rich art from Africa and other parts of the world as well".

In June, Olagoke was invited to China for the take off of the partnership. During a chat, he shared the activities of his June visit to China. "In Hangzhou, I assisted the public welfare class of disabled persons who came into contact with Western oil paintings for the first time". He recalled how his interaction and work with each student created a small oil painting and collectively produced another painting titled Hands of the Future.
The event exposed his activities to other established artists in the host community. Among such, he said, is a master. "Professor Liu, a famous painter at the China Academy of Art, commended my work and presented a portrait to me".

Chinese Resource Person in Nigeria, Williams Chow(left); artist, Lanre Olagoke receiving a portrait gift from Prof Gu Liu of China Academy of Art during Olagoke's visit to the Asian country...recently.

Olagoke enthused that his activities in art and the partnership with Blue Cube will roll into a historic event this year. "The first international art festival of Blue Cube will be held in China; that's historic for me".

Reports on the just held China events  monitored from Lagos revealed how Hangzhou Lemantu Disabled Assistance Cultural & Creative Park found Olagoke's art as a huge resource. The artist said he explained each piece of his art's vocabulary to the disabled inmates. An artist's self-esteem, he noted, was part of the mentorship. "I let them know that you should be confident, because you are excellent and unique.”

The Lemantu home was founded by Wu Xiaoli, a woman whom Olagoke noted was willing to work with his AAAT charity group. "Wu Xiaoli is a very famous woman In China, who wants both her charity and mine (Art-Alive Arts Trust) to work together because we share the same vision with our partner. Both charities would be the main other reason for the event in U.K and raise fund to progress in the great work they have done and doing across the globe. This helps to build the ties with China, Nigeria and U.K together".

Being the art consultant to Zhejiang Blue Cube Cultural & Creative Park, Olagoke's major visit to  China, he said, "included presentation of my new oil paintings,  and providing knowledge to the special needs inmates at Lemantu who have mental retardation". From all indications, Nigeria as a launching spot for China'a interest in African art has connections to the recent rise in the visual arts of the continent. And also, Olagoke who was a studio assistant to one of Africa's most valuable artist, Enwonwu, adds to the strength of the ongoing China-Africa cultural partnership.

Olagoke's base in the U.K. appears to play a factor as well as Nigeria's leading spot in Africa's business environment. The artist noted that these factors culminate to enhahnce the China-U.K-Nigeria cultural exchange event of 2018-2019.
He also traced the event to the crucial spots of the three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa in the evolving new narratives across global development. "China as one of the leading global economic powers; U.K with a strong reputation of world's business travel destination, across stratas of life; and Nigeria, a country with the largest concentration of business transactions in the black world, have the  collective strength to propel a new vision in trans-continental business and leisure  relationship", Olagoke articulated the factors. "The contents of the cultural exchange include art exhibitions of artists from the three countries, musical, Poetry and fashion displays with tourism as main focus". On the U.K wing of the event, he said, the country being in the centre of connection between Africa and China, no doubt is increasingly a hub for businessmen and students from both Asia and Africa. "The U.K.-China-Nigeria Cultural Exchange 2018 - 2019 will attract arts and culture enthusiasts as well as leisure travellers from across the world".

He hoped that apart from the volume and quality of traffic - via physical presence of visitors and mass media that the event will generate within the U.K - expectations include what he described as "ripple effects that should be of benefits too to all the partners and corporate supporters' visibility within and outside the U.K".

Details show that the three-city events will feature Chinese master, Xiao Feng as the face of China; British-Nigerian artist,  Olagoke as the U.K face; as well as a number of other artists and culture professionals from Nigeria. Specifically, the art event in the U.K. will also include talk shows on cultural exchange and diversity to feature top Nigerian artists, Music and fashion stars.

One of Nigeria's top businessmen, Adewunmi Ogunsanya, has shown interest in supporting his country's aspect of the event, Olagoke dosclosed.  Ogunsanya who is known more as the boss of DStv Nigeria, interestingly, is a quiet art collector whose collection runs into several thousands.

Olagoke founded the Art-Alive Arts Trust (AAAT) in 1997, as a registered charity in the U.K. The profile of AAAT says it had helped thousands of children, adolescents and young adults find opportunities in realising their potential and a spot in society through the use of art.
 Excerpts from AAAT: "Olagoke also works with Centre Point, a homeless and youth hostel, in which The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton are the Patrons. Princess Ann also met with Lanre during a major project with Her Majesty’s Prison Service in Wandsworth.  

"Olagoke has been a great ambassador for Africa and Nigerian Arts by promoting the works of up coming Artists in cultural exchange between Nigeria and the rest of the world.

Artist, Lanre Olagoke; DStv Nigeria Chairman, Adewunmi Ogunsanya; and founder of Blue Cube Cultural Creation Park and Art Academy in Hangzhou, at Ogunsanya's office, in Lagos.

 "In 2014 Olagoke was approached over an employability programme, by Middlesex University’s Welcome Foundation and Consultant, Jessica Meade, to help graduates gain practical skills in project development and corporate sales and sponsorship. He saw it as an ideal opportunity to build a project that will assist the graduates as well as giving the youth a platform to be heard and as a result The Open Door Project was born.

"The Open Door Project is an exciting art initiative about young people having an open door to opportunities that will improve their outcomes in Society. Throughout 2017 and 201, The Open Door will be engaging directly with thousands of young people aged from 16-26 encouraging them to express their views about ‘what an Open Door means to them’ through all form of creative art. The Open Door will also collaborate with family members, businesses, government, plus organisations and institutions / services, such as those responsible for youths homelessness, youths in care and those youth in prison.
  "The Open Door Project will engage discussion and debates on opportunities, around the following themes: Housing, Health, Education, Employment, Safety, Art and Sports.
Participating Groups will be inclusive and drawn from Universities, Colleges, Schools, Children’s Charity and youth organisations.
Various forms of The Arts, from dance to painting, poetry, fashion, drama and art etc will be displayed at exhibitions and online, with an extensive social media campaign. TV, Radio and Press will be engaged as a various activities will be catalogued throughout the year (2018/2019)".
 -Omiko Awa.
(First published in The Guardian Nigeria newspapers as 'Nigeria links China-Africa art, culture in collaborative effort', on Sunday, December 16, 2018).

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