Friday 19 May 2023

From critical to populist, trajectory of Afrobeat on focus at AMIAF


Founder of AMIAF, Miabo Enyadike (left); Veteran journalist, Benson Idonije handing over Art of Afrobeat Award to percussionist, Chief Tony Odili during the 2023 edition of the Lagos.

By Ola Alowoloke

IN celebrating the synergy between art and music, ArtMiabo International Art Festival (AMIAF 2023), themed Art of Afrobeats, has brought a fresh breath into the trajectory of documenting culture. Held from April 27-May 1, 2023, at Ebonylife Place, Victoria Island, Lagos, AMIAF's Art of Afrobeats showcased visual arts perspectives of the music genre just as the gathering also honoured some individual professionals.

Quite a list of interactive sessions were also held as sub-events of AMIAF 2023, among which focused the trajectory of Afrobeat, its current wave and the future. Discussants were drawn, mostly from professionals who have several decades of experience, either in art, music or history. About 30 visual artists, from different parts of the world, showed nearly 200 artworks inside the main exhibition hall, where colours of Afrobeats were depicted in diverse themes.

From the musical end of AMIAF 2023, Chief Tony Odili, a veteran percussionist member of late highlife legend, Jim Rex Lawson band, was honoured with Art of Afrobeats Award. Odili, 96, also fondly called 'Akapapa' received the first award of the night from Benson Idonije, 86-year-old former Manager of Afrobeat founder, Fela Kuti

Other recipients of the AMIAF Afrobeats Awards included Onyeka Onwenu, Laolu Akins, Babatunde Banjoko, Lemi Ghariokwu, Obi Asika, Eddy Lawani, Ed Keazor, Chris Okoro and Ayo Animashaun, Dayo Oduneye D1, Weird MC. Others include DJ Abass, Babatunde Banjoko, Akinyemi Johnson (JAJ), Clarence Peters, Kenny Ogungbe and Yeni Kuti.

Shortly before the VIP opening of AMIAF 2023, one of the Interactive sessions of the event featured discussants  Ghariokwu, Banjoko, Keazor, Miabo Enyadike, Bolaji Alonge and Yusuf Durodola who spoke on the theme 'Afrobeats Yesterday, Today and the Future'. Moderated by art critic, Tajudeen Sowole, the session reviewed the trajectory of Afrobeat from Fela's foundational era, its documentary strength and influence on the current generation of musicians.

From designers, Ghariokwu and Banjoko's individual experience working with Fela; Keazor's documentary works, and promotions, mostly focusing music; to the origin of AMIAF founder, Enyadike's Art of Afrobeats theme; Alonge's photography experience in Lagos cultural space, in mentoring youths; and AMIAF 2023 curator, Durodola's thoughts on visual arts-music connection, the interactive session added to the lexicon of Afrobeats as an emerging global music genre. In his summary of the interactive session, Sowole noted that Afrobeats' resilience was built on the late founder, Fela's entry into the Nigerian musical space through the "critical perspective," rather than being lured into the populist and commercial gains. But given Fela's legacy that later generated a global brand, the discussants agreed that the late controversial legend and founder of Afrobeat has "now gained both critical and populist" values.

Shortly after the first Interactive session of the opening day, Port Harcourt-based star and Queen of Oshikiri music, Jikume Bethlehem flagged off the musical sub-events. Her performance revealed that there are still quite some potentials in music outside the Lagos culture hub of Nigeria.

And as the main art exhibition of AMIAF 2023 went on, attracting visitors, other sub-events added creative energies to the Afrobeats theme. The other sessions included 'Who be dis Fela sef?', which featured Ghariokwu, Banjoko, Muni King-Keazor, and Muyiwa Majekodunmi; The Eleniyan Chronicles' Musical Tribute to Fela by the Lagos AfroFunk Collective, featuring Majekodunmi, and Bumi Thomas; 'The origins of Afrobeats', with Obi Asika, Chris Okoro, Majekodunmi and Keazor as discussants; 'Excerpts from 'Afrobeats: The Back Story' courtesy of Ayo Shonaya; and 'Afrobeats Gone Global!' with Yahaya Maikori-Director, Chocolate City Entertainment, Asika, Jide Taiwo (Co-Writer 'Afrobeats the Back Story', co-researcher 'The Journey of the beats'), and Keazor as panelists.

A 'Live Art Painting Sessions', which had art enthusiasts used the canvas and easels; and some musical performances from Kareem Afrobeats' dancers Maya Hautefeuille and François Goudiaby from Dakar, Senegal were among the thrills outside the main exhibition hall.

Curator, Yusuf Durodola, taking guests through AMIAF 2023 main exhibition.

Apart from the major exhibited artists such as Ghariokwu, Banjoko, Enyadike, Kalill Jacobs Fantuazzi, Sotonye Jumbo, Yves Midahuen, and photographer Alonge, among others, the festival also showcased artworks of young participants under a newly created space known as AMIAF Slot 2023. The new space for young artists between ages 25-35, had 12 shortlist finalists from 100 entries. Paul Ogunlesi, Oladele Ogbeyemi, Kakulu Ehime, Ganiyat Oriyomi, Faith Michael, Adeniyi Adewole, Daniel Oruwhone, Azeez Salami, Adedamola Adeyemo, Alu Kofoworola, Atiye Afolabi and Popoola Nurudeen were the 12 finalists whose works made the main exhibition hall.

In curatorial innovation, the Afrobeats theme of the festival seemed loud in textures of the exhibition booths, which had non-white walls, a shift from what most art shows are known for. The curator of AMIAF, Durodola who took guests through the exhibition booths explained that the festival gave participating artists opportunity to express themselves in colours and textures that escalate creativity. He noted that the theme 'Art of Afrobeats' energised the artists to show art that depict "our everyday lives, with colours, as Africans." Founder of AMIAF, Enyadike, who also led some guests through the exhibition hall stated that the artists' works explained the essence of "colours representing the real character of Africans." 

AMIAF 2023 was supported by Piql,  Cabal, Multichoice Nigeria, Ebonylife Place, JCDecaux, and Translucent S.I. Communication.

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