Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Victor Ekpuk open studio at Thami Mynele

Victor Ekpuk, dis Amstadam life
Victor Ekpuk was born in Nigeria. He has lived and worked in Nigeria, United States, and is presently an artist-in-residence at the Thami Mnyele Foundation in the Netherlands. Ekpuk’s art is inspired by graphic and writing systems from ancient cultures and Africa in particular. He has spent the past three months of his residency at the foundation exploring drawing as an essence of expression. The results are large scale works in pastels and graphite, where he continues to employ ancient and invented symbols to express contemporary experiences. His works have been exhibited in Nigeria and other international venues including: Smithsonian, National Museum for African Art, Washington DC, USA, Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angelis, USA, Gallerie 23, Amsterdam, Netherlands, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA and Africus, 1st Johanesburg Biennale, Johannesburg, South Africa.
(culled from press release)

Open Studio Art Exhibition was held on sat 26th January 2008
Bellamystraat 21, (2nd floor), Amsterdam BE 1053For more information about viewing Ekpuk's work visit www.victorekpuk.com

Victor Ekpuk will be giving a talk at the Centre for Contemporary Art,Lagos in February. Watch out for more information.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

More Artists Websites

Nigeria artists are slowly but surely increasing their online visibility. While our colleagues in the diaspora are now on their 2nd or 3rd online revamp, the take up at home still continues to move at a snail's pace. But I am sure that we will witness some interesting websites as 2008 progresses and there are actually 1 or 2 moving to 2nd phase revamp.
Here are some that have been sent in or that I visited recently.

Kyrdz Ikuwemesi, University of Nigeria, Nsukka based artist, lecturer and writer.


Emannuel Eni, Berlin Based artist working in diverse media, sculpture, painting, installation and performance art. Eni is also a published poet and writer. Check out his latest book
Death of the Curator in the library at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos.

Nnenna Okore, US based sculptor

Sunday, 20 January 2008

New Art Centres Springing up in West Africa.

Prof Ablade Glover finally opens the purpose built Artists' Alliance Building.

In 2005 I visited Ghana and paid the usual courtesy call to Prof Ablade at the old Artist Alliance gallery. He spoke to me about the new building which was still at the middle stages of construction. From my calculation it must have taken a minimum of 4 years to build because in 2005 he told me it should be ready by the end of 2006. Now I am ecstatic that it has finally opened at beginning of this new year. Ecstatic because I have a some idea of the kind of herculean task it takes to set up a visual arts initiative in Africa which to borrow from baba OBJ our former president during the 2007 election is a 'do or die' affair. It is pity that our so called political leaders will move Olomu rock to hang onto power - witness what is happening in Kenya . But try and get them to approve the revised National Cultural Policy which would bring a modicum of succour to the arts and culture section with the implementation of a National Endowment for Arts and a few generations will come and go first.

Kofi Annan delivering the opening speech.
So individuals have to go it alone and going it alone they are. Now in his mid-seventies Prof Glover has set up a challenge to other artists living on and off the continent that they need to leave a legacy that goes beyond their artworks being in private and public collections. Artists, curators and writers shouldn't be doing that but that is the reality of our situation. In Nigeria Uncle Bruce Onobrakpeya is building a monumental project that when finished should put all our former and current Ministers of Culture to shame - apart from the one who implemented the National Theatre project and Festac 77 during OBJ's first coming as a military dictator oops military Head Of State. Everyday we all groan under the weight of anything to show for our petrodollars 50 years after the first crude was lifted out of the Niger Delta and taken to the UK. I presume they didn't pay for it as we were still a colony them.

Kofi Annan and Prof Glover visiting the gallery
For more information visit http://ghana.africancolours.net/content/15472

pics culled from the above site.

Other artists financing structures from the sale of their work include Barthelemy Toguo who has almost finished what looks like an exciting structure, Bandjoun Station in Cameroon. An ambitious project and necessary project consisting of 5 levels. A seminar room at basement level, ground floor with a library and bar ( to stimulate an interest in culture he says!) the 1st and 2nd floor will be for temporary exhibitions whilst the 3rd will be for a permanent exhibition/collection. Toguo is anxious that the contemporary arts of Africa will suffer the same kind of fate as its classical arts. Displayed in museums and galleries outside the continent to the detriment of future generations. He has cause for concern. The courtyard will be used as an open-air theatre for events and next door a building which will be used for artists' studios and residencies of African and international artists. Impressive indeed. I am sure it should open sometime this year.

View of almost completed Bandjoun Station
These portend exciting times. These artists know what they went through to get to where they are and it is a tribute to their altruism that they want to make sure that future generations have a fighting chance of success that doesn't depend on infrastructures provided solely by foreign cultural centers as has been the case since independence. This is pertinent as many foreign centers cut back on cultural in Africa and are moving towards China, India and the Middle East. The era of post post -independence is here.

What is needed now are operational strategies and business models that allow these initiatives to achieve a high level of longterm sustainability independent of international grants which usually come with IMF/World Bank like conditionalities. The cultural industry sector is huge in Africa and there is no reason that with just a little bit less hustling and a little bit more strategic thinking and partnerships, a 'real' African cultural renaissance - not the Mbeki, Obj NEPAD one - can take place, started and driven by ordinary citizens. That is the current important challenge and that is where African cultural professionals in the diaspora to come into the picture.

I congratulate my colleagues, I salute their courage and commitment and I pray for God's shower of blessings as they move ahead with their projects. Today, Tomorrow and Always.

View of the courtyard

Monday, 7 January 2008

2008 Greetings from WINDHOEK

View from my Room
Goche Ganas is a divine place for relaxation and after a week and with the help of some spa treatments body and soul began to restore. I had left behind the madness and chaos of 15million people in Lagos for the quiet slow pace of Windhoek with its approximately 250,000 population most of whom had also gone out of town for the holidays. Actually GG is about 30km outside of Windhoek on top of some hill. The views are magnificient and it was my first time really being in touch with NATURE, the perfect context to get in tune with one’s true, humane self. As the New Year approached one of the many thoughts that went through my mind was the way in which religion was practised in Nigeria. By the middle of December, the streets of Lagos was inundated with huge billboards and posters with Pastors that are larger than life announcing the dates of vigils, crusades and week-long spiritual retreats. The newspapers, radio and television stations were awash with Christian activity adverts. It was obvious that this is the biggest money making period in the Nigerian Christian calendar and the different new age or new generation (in local parlance) churches were battling it out for supremacy in a manner that would make the rivalry between Coke and Pepsi seem like child’s play.

Sunset at Goche Ganas, Windhoek

New Year's Eve in Windhoek.
During the Holy Week the nation is at a standstill (remember we have been voted the most religious country) and non stop praying and other Christian rituals become the order of the day and everyone feels happy having absolved themselves of their various misdeeds during the year on an individual and on a collective level. The question that kept going through my mind in Namibia was to what extent do Nigerian really know and appreciate God with such a disconnect from Nature. In Nature we really experience God’s bounty and his blessing. During my stay from the balcony of my room I marvelled at the way in which the giraffes played, the speed at which they ran, the rhinoceros walking with their young ones, the zebras snoozing under the trees and the way the different beautiful birds flew in the air. As they flew – dipping and diving – the idea of freedom kept coming to mind. As I came out of my room the butterflies fluttering around – about 20 sometimes 50 – was a sight to behold however I wasn’t too pleased with the hordes of moths that invaded my room at night but it was a small price to pay. But the most breaktaking was the sun setting. This usually lasted for about 90mins and as the sun goes down the colours of the sky is incredible – it goes from blue to red to yellow to orange, the colours blending and separating resulting in a painting I have never seen before right before my eyes. This really is God’s masterpiece. Nature is the ultimate work of art. More Nigerians need to experience it.

I wish you all God’s bountiful blessing in this New Year.

Beautiful Namibia

Road to Goche Ganas, Windhoek

After a hectic year being on the move almost non-stop, I don’t compromise with treating myself to rest and pampering during the Christmas holiday. Whilst friend and family in most cases tend to head for Europe or America I try and visit an African country. Last year was Tunis, my first visit to North Africa, the year before that was Cape Town, but now I know too many people there who are all wonderful and I would probably end up partying till I drop so best avoided. Outside of S.Africa I have yet to visit any of the other Southern Africa countries. Namibia seemed the perfect place for peace, relaxation, and beautiful scenery. I arrived in Windhoek physically and mentally exhausted but as we drove up the winding road towards my holiday destination at the beautiful Goche Ganas Nature Reserve calm and tranquility began to descend on me.