Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Lagos is sizzling as the Festive Season begins

At the rate december has started it might be my busiest period to date. I have yet to recover from getting CCA,Lagos up and running. I guess it has taken much more out of me than I initially had time to think about. 2007 has been an extremely busy year and I am exhausted. But if you live in Lagos there is no time to rest as December is Owambe time.

Aunty Yetunde Pearce at her 70th birthday reception

Owambe is slang for jollification which is another slang for Lagosian past time - going to huge parties such as weddings, 50th, 60th, 70th, and 80th birthday parties attended by no less than 400 - 500 hundred people and for the really big parties attended by nothing less than 1000 people. These are private parties which take on the shade of festivals. I usually do my best to avoid them but there are some you just can't avoid such as when it is your aunty who is 70 years old.

Beautifully looking aunties wearing their aso-ebi

So a week after launching CCA, Lagos there is still no rest for the wicked as a week later I get into my native attire and head for my aunt's modest birthday party with 400 other people. This gives me an opportunity to wear my permanent smile, greet all my cousins, uncles, aunts and sundry relatives who i do and don't know or who i do or don't remember including those I may have been pretending not to avoid all year round.

Bisi and her cousin Buki, Dear cousin Ronke

At relatives parties you must be the first to arrive and the last to leave so i spent half the time plotting on how to slip out to attend the first artist talk at CCA,Lagos. When an opportune moment presented itself, I pretended I was talking one of the numerous gifts distributed at such parties to my car and slipped away thinking i hadn't be noticed. On arrival at CCA,Lagos 5 minutes late I quickly changed clothes from traditional native to contemporary native, from the colourful owambe jollificating to the serene, pristine environment of the gallery where a few people had gathered for the talk. I was obliged to start without the artist Ghariokwu Lemi who had fallen victim to the unbearable Lagos gridlock. Go-slow for which Lagos was famous is now a thing of the past and we live in a continuous gridlock that only the few can escape. Getting around is a nightmare.

Curator Bisi giving talk about the exhibition Fela, Ghariokwu Lemi and The Art of the Album Cover at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos

Visitors at the talk having a cool drink and discussing in the library

Even though saturday in December is an extremely busy day for social activities we had a small but very interested crowd and I welcome opportunity to interact with some of the visitors on a one on one basis. After talking about the genesis of CCA,Lagos and the development of the Democrazy project, we went to the library space for refreshment and continue the discussion. An hour later the artist arrived and we decide on the spur of the moment to hold another artist's talk for those who also arrived late or wanted to interact with the artist. In Lagos you have to be prepared for anything, no script and minimal planning - just go with the flow.

Lemi talking about his work. Lemi and participants at the talk

From there I dashed off to the opening of an exhibition at Mydrim gallery by the Universal Artists studio. Had a few drinks, went round the exhibition, talked with lots of people and then dashed off to the final appointment, pick up the artist Ndidi dike and head for dinner with Mary Lou Johnson who works at the US Embassy. Once in a while she invites a few people from the cultural sector to hang out. Then I crawled home. Luckily she lives behind my house. I think we share the same back garden wall.

Artist Kolade Oshinowo, Actress Joke Silva, Arts Journalist, Tajudeen Sowole and artist Bisi Fakeye at the opening of the exhibition by artists at the Universal Art Studios (USA)

Artists Segun Adejumo and Duke Asidere at the exhibition opening

Well I am off on my annual holidays for what I believe is a well deserved rest. But it is also a time for reflection on things past and on things to come. Will keep you informed.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

More Pics from CCA, Lagos launch

3 solo exhibitions and a publication

Fela, Ghariokwu Lemi and The Art of the Album Cover, begins the four part inaugural exhibition of the ‘Democrazy’ project of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos in an apt tribute to an uncompromising artist, a creative innovator, and a human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Lemi presents over 20 of his highly graphic sardonic album cover art designed for Fela and more recent drawings which continue to engage with social and political issues which affect Nigeria. His garish cartoon-like illustrations for a new generation of musicians such as Eedris AbdulKareem and Daddy Showkey continue the biting criticism of the despondency inflicted on the nation by one insensitive government after another parading under the disguise of democracy.

In April 2007 the elections held were a milestone in the political history of Nigeria. The nation witnessed the successful transition from one democratic government to another. Whilst the electoral process was severely flawed and continues to be challenged, it nonetheless signals the nascent but precarious journey towards democracy. But what do we really understand by this ideology called democracy and what kind of democracy is appropriate within the Nigerian context? Starting from a broad perspective of the notion of Democracy these issues underpin the conceptual framework for the ‘Democrazy’ project.

View of Gallery and Exhibition

Three Nigerian contemporary artists Ghariokwu Lemi, Ndidi Dike and George Osodi will explore the abuse and denial of the democratic process through a diversity of themes such as social injustice, bad governance, mental and physical slavery, poverty, environmental degradation using divergent media; illustration, cover art, sculptural installation and photography. The last phase of the project takes the form of a publication encapsulating the thematic framework of the project with critical writing from a multiplicity of perspectives. ‘Democrazy’ - three solo exhibitions and a publication - like Fela’s music is a timeless reminder of the way in which the rights of the common man is abrogated, the mandate of the people denied and the hopes for a better future robbed.

Exhibition View

Exhibition View

Ghariokwu Lemi is a Graphic/Fine Artist, Cover Designer and Illustrator. He is internationally known for his cover illustrations Afro-Beat musician; Fela Anikulapo Kuti, for whom he created 26 Album Covers. Lemi’s art is rebellious, comical, incorporating social commentary, political cartooning and sometimes graffiti.

A pioneer in his field, Lemi was the recipient of the Nigeria Music Awards 1988, Best Sleeve Album designer1989 and Nigerian Fame music award 1992. In July 2003, he participated in "Black President:The Art and The Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti" at the New Museum, New York. He has exhibited recently in Europe and America and will feature in the publication “Area 2”, 100 emerging graphic artists in the world by Phaidon Press New York in spring 2008.

Bruce Onobrakpeya, El Anatsui and US based Slyvester Ogbechie. Behind them - to the left - is Professor of Architecture at The University of Lagos John Godwin.

Nollywood in the house, Olu Jacobs(white shirt) and Joke Silva (holding sheet of paper)gisting with friends

Joke Silva, Slyvester Ogbechie, Bisi Silva and Ufuoma Akpokabayen, who was responsible for making CCA,Lagos a reality.

Uche Okpa-Iroha wins 2nd prize award. A boost for photography in Nigeria

It is heart warming to learn that a photographer has won the 2nd prize of N200,000 approximately $1500 in a country that has yet to fully come to terms with photography as an integral part of the visual arts. The winning work is "Late Nite Callers". This is good news for the emerging photography collective BlackBox of which there are 4 other members. We look forward to more exciting work from the collective.
Uche Okpa-Iroha, Late Nite Callers 2007

Okpa-Iroha's Bio
Uche Okpa - Iroha was born on the 2nd of January, 1972 in Enugu, Enugu State in the eastern part of Nigeria. Uche holds a Bachelors of Technology degree in Food Science and Technology in 1997 from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. His main vision as a photographer is to raise awareness with the public and policy makers on issues that affect the local people and the environment. His main area is making portraits of 'street' people and reportage. Uche is a founding member of the new Nigerian photography collective known as BLACK BOX. Their first major professional out was in 2006 with an exhibition titled Lagos: Nocturnal Vibrations. He was part of the photography workshop FootballWorlds at the popular Maracana stadium in Ajegunle organized by the Geothe Institut and conducted by Berlin-based Akinbode Akinbiyi in March, 2006 and the just concluded art exhibition and competition - Life in My City, 2007 - held in Enugu and organized by Rocana Nigeria Limited in partnership with the Alliance Francaise, Enugu where he finished second with his photography work 'Late Nite Callers'. Uche Okpa-Iroha lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria as a photographer and kidney health campaigner.

'Life in My City' 2007 - An exhibition of Paintings, Photographs, Textile, Ceramics and other installations by young artists and photographers in Nigeria.

Organized by Rocana Nigeria Limited in association with the Alliance Francaise in Enugu and the Nigerian Council of the Pan African Circle of artists (PACA), 'Life in My City' will be the firts of an annual gathering for the Arts which will encourage creative competition on the continent.

By bringing the images of Nigerian cities to life, the event will encourage the development of art not not just in the region but spreading its wings beyond the nation and the continent.

The diverse skills of the photographers and artists in Nigeria will be brought together and the best work presented at the selected locations across the city and culminating in a gala night of entertainment with poetry, music, and other performances.

This exhibition will be a unique and extremely important opportunity to have an amazing pilgrimage for the Arts in Nigeria. It is expected that the exhibition will be an intrinsic part of the development of a major renaissance and it should be an honour to be a part of it.

Life in My City is a mammoth undertaking but timely in its importance and we expect it to be an extremely exciting project. We believe it's our duty as individuals to pass on the baton of hope byintroducing a new audience to the brilliance of the Nigerian Youth and visual exuberance of original interpretations of 'their' life in 'their' city. In doing so we set out to encourage greater cultural awareness by holding on to that integrity which lies in our culture and minds

(message from the organizing comittee 'Life in My City' 2007 project)

Monday, 10 December 2007

Pictures from the opening of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos

CCA,Lagos Art Reference Library

A prayerful start to the opening of CCA,Lagos

Mrs Rosiji, Coolest 'Mother of the Day'

Guest of Honour and art collector, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi

It was an evening of charged emotions but also of immense joy. Finally the Centre for Contemporary Art that I have working on all year opened. Here are some pics from the opening reception which was well attended by artists, collectors, family and friends.

The idea for the CCA,Lagos started with the need to have a functioning art library and a meeting place for artists in Lagos that did not just focus on commercial activities. The state of libraries in Nigeria are at an all time low and it can be depressing visiting some of the libraries in the universities which have little or no books or publications. This undoubtedly has affected the level of critically engaged work in the country and many talented artists continue to make work in very difficult conditions.

CCA,Lagos consists of one of the first independent specialist - visual art and culture - libraries in Nigeria if not the West African region. My hope is that others will take up the gauntlet so that it does not remain the only one in the region. Without access to relevant information and knowledge it will be difficult to develop the art and culture sector in the way it should exist.

Curator,Bisi Silva and Artist,Ghariokwu Lemi

Distinguished Guest Artist Bruce Onobrakpeya opening the exhibition, Fela, Ghariokwu Lemi and The Art of The Album Cover

Artist, Lemi saying a few words to the guests at the opening.