Friday, 21 September 2007

Another art season begins in Lagos

After the yearly summer break in August, the cultural scene is back to life. September to December tends to be a very busy time for artists with a myriad of activities including solo and group exhibitions, talks, seminars and panel discussions. Every single gallery, artspace and non art space is booked without respite by artists and by art promoters.

The annoying aspect is that one can easily miss alot of these event if one is not very diligent. I come across 40% of them by chance. Most of the spaces in Lagos don't actually have their own in house programmes. Artists book the spaces for a fee or by giving a commission and are responsible for all the organisation, publicity, and private view and for younger artists this can be a daunting task. If you are not on their mailing list - which most have not built up - and if they haven't distributed leaftlets in strategic locations, then it is difficult to know what is going on.

Inspite of that I managed to get to a few events over the last 10 days, some by invitation and some by chance. At the Aina Onabolu gallery Kehinde Adepegba was presenting his first solo exhibition
Fusion flourished as a book designer , a creative writer in Yoruba and since graduating in 1997. Harsh economic realities meant a decade long absence from studio practice in fulltime employment but in other creative fields. Adepegba has English but also as an arts writer and reviewer. I guess this long absence explains the tentativeness of the small exhibition consisting mainly of paintings of no discernible style or contextual coherence. The works ranged from acrylic on canvas and ink on paper to mixed media paintings and even cartoons. Each worked touched on a different subject from Yoruba symbology to christianity, from daily life - with the usual popular themes on drumming, dancing and merrymaking to societal ills and political mismangement. Basically the usual mind numbing fare through up in countless exhibitions and galleries. I usually prefer not to do reviews which are usually taken personally here, so that I don't get run out of town by my beloved art community!!!

Exhibitions of female artists are far and few to see and I was happy to hear that the Annual (I think) Female National Art Exhibition
Echoes of Experience was coming to Lagos. It is an initiative of the Female Artists Association of Nigeria who fed up with the inactivity of the SNA (Society of Nigerian Arts) whose elected officers tend to fight themselves to a standstill decided form their own association and just get on with it unfortunately over 2 hours was spent with speeches, prayers, cutting the cake, pats and cheers that I couldn't wait for the Guest of Honour to formally declare the exhibition open due to other commitments. However I did manage to do a sneak whizz tour of the exhibition consisting of over 52 members working in a myriad of media - painting, sculpture, textiles, crochet, tapestry and woodcut. As with most Nigerian exhibitions no sign of new media or technology or that we are in the 21st century. Not one photographic work, video, performance art. Even areas in which women were usually strong such as textile were very disappointing. The paintings could have fitted well into the late 19th, early 20th century. The exhibition only succeeded in reinforcing the appalling level of most of the visual art in the country. Whilst I applaud their staying power knowing the obstacles women artists have to overcome, due to the overwhelming roles and responsibilities they have to negotiate in daily lives, there is no excuse for the shallow, amateurish, - to put it mildly - work that was on view. Something drastic needs to be done about art education in Nigeria. It needs to be brought into. And that is what they have been doing coming out in full force. I attend the opening a few days ago at the Aina Onabolu Gallery, but the 21st century.

From there I moved on to leaving reception of the deputy director of arts at the British Council who is being posted to Kuwait. I guess of the BC's new policy focusing on the Islamic world. After the usual greetings, networking and watching some music performances by young hip-hop group nurtured by the BC, I headed to Jazzhole where an informal gathering was organised for Rem Koolhaas, his team and his daughter who is doing some research for a biennale somewhere in China, Chenzen i think. A lot of the young professional architects,designers and photographers were there including Uche Iroha and TY Bello of DoF (Depth of Field) I met Koolhaas for the first time and we spoke briefly about his research in Lagos and the forthcoming book on Lagos. One to watch out for. Someone at the gathering mentioned that Koolhaas had a meeting with the new Lagos governor Mr Fashola (SAN) where he showed the video on Lagos. Apparently our dear guv'nor was amazed by the lagos he was shown. So much for being in the known about the city you govern or want to turn into a model megacity by
year soon to come. We have a thing about dates here!!!!

Ty Bello chatting with some people. Some young architects catching up on stuff

Lovely Tundun wife of Kunle Tejuosho, owner of Jazzhole.


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