Monday, 31 March 2008

Photographers turn out en masse for George Osodi's exhibition opening at CCA,Lagos

Paradise Lost:Revisiting the Niger Delta. Photographic works by George Osodi opened to an impressive turnout on saturday afternoon. I haven't seen that many photographers congregate for such a longtime, old faces and many new ones too demonstrating the esteem in which Osodi is held by his colleagues both young and old. Apart from the photographers, visual artists also made a good showing. I emphasis this as in Nigeria the 2 worlds as still poles apart. Apart from Uche Iroha - Depth of Field member (DoF) There are only a handful of fine artists who work consistently with photography. The art scene in Lagos as many of us continue to lament remains stagnantly conservative with hierarchial boundaries firmly delineated. In spite of the international visibility that many young photographers are garnering a lot of work still needs to be done within the country for its widespread acceptance.

George Osodi, photographer and Bisi Silva, curator of Paradise Lost
The day started with me calling a friend Lotanna Ojukwu (see pic below) who is a serious art enthusiast and has small but interesting art collection. I called to remind him about the opening. He replied that photography is not really his 'thing'. I told him that this was a photography with a difference and if after he has seen the exhibition and he still is not interested I won't pester him - too much. He muttered something about how busy he was and he will try and come in early. As I was still busy running around with the usual last minute things, he came up to the art library to meet me saying Wow this exhibition is really good and he has called his friend who is a big shot lawyer from the Niger Delta and must see and invite some of his friends. So we have one convert. We will work hard over the next 5 -6wks to get more converts.

Director/Curator Bisi Silva deliver a short welcome to visitors. George Osodi looks on.
Paradise Lost is the third and final solo exhibition of Democrazy, the inaugural curatorial project of the Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos. The curatorial framework of the exhibition sought to explore the concept of Democracy within an Nigeria context. What do we understand by Democracy? What kind of democracy would be relevant to our context? How do we begin to negotiate the possibilities? We also wanted to highlight the way in which our leaders continue to fail in their responsibilities to a teeming and expectant populace and to contribute to a debate not through empty rhetoric but through the powerful artworks of three important contemporary Nigerian Artists, Lemi Ghariokwu, Ndidi Dike and George Osodi.

We also want to contribute to the professionalisation and development of the visual art sector, challenge and break the stranglehold of a conservative art sector in which the education sector has played - or not played - a pivotal role due to its inability to reform itself in tune with 21st century expectations and a public sector that lies postrate and comatose. The global art scene has never been more dynamic, more financial buoyant and Nigerian artists, galleries and institutions need to restrategise and reposition themselves to take advantage of their 'cultural equity' as Slyvester Ogbechie puts it. CCA,Lagos has been lucky that without a single government, institutional or international funding, ordinary people, artists, colleagues and friends have been able to come together and make sure we got this far, they have held us up and cleared the path. As I keep saying this is a journey and we don't want to go it alone. Nigeria is a tough terrain,we may fail or we may succeed but the importance lies in trying.

Installation View of the exhibition Paradise Lost

Visitor face to face to a militant. Bisi Silva with an artist, Uche Iroha and Ato Arinze.

Cross Section of the visitors.

Installation View of the exhibition Paradise Lost.

Prof Aradeon talking to Iria Ojeikere of PictureWorks Extra.

Lotanna Ojukwu and Eckhard Thiemann. George Osodi talking to artists.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Breathless in Lagos

No not from the car fumes, but from the frenetic pace of activities over the past 2 months at CCA,Lagosand my commitments elsewhere but as usual it is fun all the way. So here is a quick rundown. InFebruary, apart from Ndidi Dike’s artist talk expanding on the themes in her exhibition Waka-into-Bondage (which continued to garner great interest from the Nigerian public) and that of Geerte Wachter of the Prince Claus Fund, Netherland, US based Nigerian Artist, Victor Ekpuk gave a stimulating slide presentation. He talked about his work, his interest in African writing systems and the way in which the traditional Nsibidi signs impacts on his drawing. His also discussed the way he incorporates digital media in his work which became the subject of heated discussions with the audience.

Victor Ekpuk starting his talk at CCA,Lagos
March started with Stina Hogkvist, who presented different curatorial models she has employed whilst running an alternative art gallery in Sweden and now in Oslo as curator at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. She is in West Africa on a curatorial research visit in preparation for a major project ‘Africa in Oslo’ taking place in 2009. This project aims at showing the very best of contemporary art works being made by a new generation of African artists. Africa in Oslo will introduce the work of both African artists and African curators to a Norwegian audience.

Stina Hogkvist illustrating a point during her talk at CCA,Lagos

The last visitor was US based art historian and social entrepreneur Prof Sylvester Ogbechie. Associate Professor of Art History, University of California Santa Barbara,

His talk Managing Nigeria’s Cultural Patrimony was a thought provoking presentation on need for us to value our cultural heritage. Some of the important issues that he addressed included, ‘How is Nigeria protecting its cultural heritage and more importantly, how does it understand the need to define and brand cultural patrimony in the contemporary era? The culture industry is now big business and its tangible and intangible aspects are being monetized. Who owns the intellectual property rights of African culture?What can be done to increase the value of black cultural knowledge?’

Slyvester Ogbechie during his talk at CCA,Lagos

Though the response was lively with Prof Slyvester been taken too issue on his choice of institutions to start with especially as they were government ones, many of his points still needed to be digested. What is important is that he has planted a seed in the minds of the artists and I am sure that on his next trip the important questions that he raised will be brought up. They definitely need to be continuously discussed also by the larger community nationally and internationally. On my part I hope to come back to it later here.

Artist, Chinwe Uwatse risesfull height to take on some of Ogbechie's points.

Cross section of the audience during Ogbechie's talk.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

CCA,Lagos presents Paradise Lost by George Osodi

29th March - 3rd May 2008
Paradise Lost:Revisiting the Niger Delta. A photography Exhibition by George Osodi.
Trust No Body, 2006

The third and final exhibition of the 4 part curatorial project Democrazy features emerging Nigerian photographer George Osodi who brings a complex, multifaceted perspective of the Niger Delta to a Lagos and international audience. His powerful documentary images highlights the daily lives of Niger Deltans, the civil unrest, the environmental degradation as a result of oil and gas exploration and the lost dreams of millions of people in one of the richest regions in Nigeria if not in Africa.

Osodi has gained widespread international visibility and interest in his Niger Delta project since their presentation at Documenta 12 in Kassel in 2007.
Osodi states that ‘ Whilst this exhibition shows my
works that deal with the consequence and effects of economic stagnation, environmental degradation and political upheaval, it was also important to portray this region from a different perspective. I wanted to show the duality of life in the Delta regions, the beauty of ugliness, the children playing football in a green field with gas flaring high in the background, the women in their traditional attire waving their symbolic white handkerchief as they danced, the greenness and abundance of the mangroves, the men at the window of their aluminium window, the water glistening as the sunsets and the women fishing in polluted waters. It is amazing how people carry on with their lives, with their daily routines with a smile. I wanted to put a human face on this paradise lost. I think the portrait and landscape images contribute to a different vision of the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta was and is a beautiful place. If the independence vision had been carried through today it would rank high in the world as a leading eco-tourism destination. But unfortunately oil was discovered over fifty years ago.'

Ijaw Woman, 2005
George Osodi, born in Lagos 1974, is a Nigerian photographer based in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied Business Administration at the Yaba College of Technology Lagos, before working as a photojournalist for the Comet Newspaper in Lagos from 1999-2002. He became a member of the Associated Press News Agency in 2002.Osodi has covered many assignments for both locally and internationally with his photographs published in many international and local media such as the “New York Times,” “Time Magazine,” the “Guardian of London,” “The Telegraph,” “USA Today,” the “International Herald Tribune,” CNN, BBC Focus on Africa Magazine,Der Spiegel and many more. In 2004 he won first prize for the Fuji African Photojournalist of the Year.

He has participated in several exhibitions including most recently Documenta12 Kassel, Germany, 2007, Beyond the Surface, Aix en Provence, France 2007, and Petrodollart, Galerie Motte et Rouart, Paris 2007. His solo exhibitions include Lagos Uncelebrated, Goethe Institute, Lagos, 2007 and Living the Highlife British Council at NIMBUS Art Centre, Lagos, 2004.