Monday, 23 February 2009



V I D E O A R T W O R K S H O P 12th - 24th January 2009
  • OBALENDE’s zap zone
  • BARIGA’s Moment in continuum
  • YABA’s Test tube
Bisi Silva, Oyinda Fakeye, Lucy Azubuike, Pilaku Lilian, Jude Anogwih, Eustáquio Neves, Goddy Leye, Emeka Ogboh, Chima Uchay Joel, Andrew Esiebo, Jelili Olorunfunmi Atiku, Jonah Jackson

Obalende is a commuter mini bus (“boss”) station that connects the mainland to several peripheral zones within the great Lagos city. Situated under a bridge this space of constant transit suggests that everything is on the move even the physical structures seem to be transformed every day. It seams like an organism independently working without an apparent centralized structure, in constant mutation and where the perception of time and space is fluid. Re- invented each second like zapping on a television screen in order to grasp the complexity and cultural implications of poverty zones of urban activity.

Obalende tends to reflect the global and local political implications of economic marginalisation and the subsequent absence of individual and emotional scrutiny within the world that structures poverty as an essential element of profit.

Goddy Leye during the workshop
Bariga (in Portuguese ‘Barriga’ means bailey) has been a neighbourhood confronted with youth violence. We got in touch with a group of local dancers, Crown Troup of Africa, led by Segun Adefila whose mission is to give to local youths some creative input in their lives via contemporary dance.

We had the privilege to be invited there to witness with the local people the live inauguration of Barrack Obama. We watched the broadcast on a small television and in a packed room with a lot of young people, reacting loudly to key words of Obama. Earlier in the day, we had decided with the support of the Centre of Contemporary Art, Lagos, to organize a 2 hour, public video projection in which the sound was to be delivered by huge speakers in order to grab the attention of local people. This projection started soon after the inauguration with Bill Viola’s work, Who is Bill Viola? Indeed the name was irrelevant in this context but the images certainly had an impact audience. Later on, we showed other dance videos from Mozambique, for which they felt a closer affinity. A young dancer, a member of the group was proud to wear a T-Shirt “Art saved my life” and this simply speaks for itself.

To round off this moment that we shared with this community we had a surprised public performance from our hosts - Crown Troup of Africa, in which 20 dancers performed between the lights of passing cars, motorcycles and the video projector. It was an event where all the people engaged in singing along. Moments projected within a vision in continuum. In fact, a compelling argument that artistic practice can promote social cohesion, social renewal and public interaction.

Eustaquio Neves Workshop Artists. Guest visiting CCA,Lagos during the workshop.

Yaba is the name of the neighbourhood where the Centre of Contemporary Art is located. Coming from the island along the bridge, we came across the settlement of Makoko, constructed on the lagoon waters, where a constant smoke impregnated with a specific odour from timber, waste, hipper polluted lake shores, does challenge one’s imagination and comprehension.

Makoko raises the questions of human biological resistance, the amazing mind set of engineering to make these constructions on water, and skills of merchandising timber, supplying local markets and retailers.

This community where we briefly stopped over showed us the vast complexity of identifying differences within its dislocated narrative that one can assume as a social and individual dysfunction. As we made our way deeper into the community, we saw children in schools and discovered functional structures that bother on how human beings can be creative under such adverse unimaginable environment. Yaba is a location where corporate evangelic messianic faith imported from elsewhere, is a booming business. Where the Word is money, and the lyrics promising salvation, bring tears and ecstasy, shivering bodies of joy and the conviction that next day will be better until one’s can raise more cash for the next service. The Muslim faith by contrast is silent, often seen in large public gatherings on streets, strategic urban places such as gas stations, airports, markets, and obviously the mosques.

Miguel Petchkovsky Workshop leader giving the certificate to the workshop's first prize winner Uchay Chima Joel.

Yaba is like a cinema screen only you have to sit outside, identify the frame and after some time you would have witnessed a story. The next day on the same frame the will be a different story; no wander Nigeria is the 3rd largest film producer in the world. In this ‘26hour’ city neighbourhood, The Centre of Contemporary Art could not be better located. Yaba is a test tube for creative investigation, research and inspiration that no creative mind could be indifferent about or ignore the significance of its social interfaces, multi ethnicity and academic background.The existence of the CCA, Lagos has demonstrated courage, vision and possibility. Now, it is the task of the artists and creative thinkers to respond, deliver and build a sustainable partnership with the neighbourhood by not only looking at the exterior as all have to come from within, in order to be authentic, meaningful and reclaim the emotional and public self-awareness.

The contemporary framework of artistic practices, discourses and theories suffers from a deficit of investigation and experimentation and importantly a total absence of meaningful artists gatherings and debates. This underlines the need for the exchange of ideas that are able to formulate new creative vocabularies and artistic visions without fear of duplicity by other fellow artists. We need to articulate a more comprehensive definition for creativity that should be positioned within a broader scope of public and community life, than only supplying contemplative objects whose value is either endorsed or discarded according to its commodity worth by art markets, collectors, gallery owners, dealers ( the predators of creative identity ) that tend to define cultural industries as commercial enterprises measured by the scope of non-profit public institutions under the supervision of co-opted few. In this structure, the critical tendency is to position the local into a set of engineering fault lines of stereotypes, poverty, violence as an initial diagnosis on those local communities that are experiencing radical changes at a fast pace. The delicate tissue of the community has to be addressed in providing creative alternatives more focus on knowledge and conscious contemporary evolution of traditions, acknowledging that the will of progress cannot just run over the past so easily.

This negative positioning within a dominant modernity narrative needs to be rejected and artistically/culturally challenged. The departing point of analysis, is on how to re-contextualize and revisit the strategies and methodologies to stimulate and mentor ideas related to the dynamics of local public interfaces, social and political constructs, local based creative collective and individual initiatives, working in partnerships nationwide and within the region, promoting the transit of artists in workshops and joint projects rather then looking only at the exterior and participating on temporary lectures by prominent art professionals and international African curators.

Goddy Leye presenting certificate to Lucy Azubuike, workshop participant.

Eustaquio Neves and Miguel Petchkovsky giving feedback during the screening of the workshop videos to the audience.

To conceive a whole relationship with society at large, contemporary art is the scene where this re-evaluation takes place. The importance of the present art scene seems to be intimately related to the courage with which art faces reality and rediscovers that this reality is not monolithic but multiple, contradictory and problematic. Reality is often approached on a fast analysis, rather them time for observations and investigations, in which the discovering of hidden elements opens and paves the way to new interpretations often contradictory to that same reality and yes art is also problematic and contradictory that challenges audiences and questions also the creative process in order to be innovated and renewed and re- invented.

If New York is a 24hour city, Lagos is a 26 hour “Buzziness” city! The sound is one of the most prominent aspects of the city life, irritating, inspiring, surprising and on careful observation quite unique and amazing forms of communication that is far beyond formal language.

Goddy Leye with performance artist and workshop participant Jelili Atiku.
Shapes and colours on one side reveal the overwhelming scope of political neglect and provision of basic urban infrastructure to this 15 million inhabitants while on the other side, the city is a fundamental source of inspiration that is there to be critically investigated, explored and imagined.The increasingly accessibility of new generation video mobile phones, and lap top computers, proved to be an essential instruments to explore video/new media art in Nigeria. This has to be articulated within a coherent and meaningful set of strategies in close and continuous partnerships with CCA, Lagos, artists, local and regional art institutions and importantly, the support of international sponsors who are helping to construct the future development of contemporary art practices formulated around city urban spaces.

Dutch Artist Esther Polak gives a talk about the art project she is working on in Nigeria using GPS during the video workshop.

Guests from the Goethe Institute, Lagos during the video workshop reception.

The Centre of Contemporary Art in Lagos is a courageously led initiative by its director Bisi Silva and her young staff. CCA,Lagos has demonstrated pragmatic engagement in serving as a critical voice to the purpose of contemporary art development, in which artists responded to in this Workshop LINHAIMAGINÁRIA (imaginary lines). This personal commitment and desire to learn the process was demonstrated by participants who came from distant neighbourhoods such as the city of Abuja, Douala in Cameroon and for the first time, Brazil. More important than the final result of the works produced, is the process that is neither quick nor easy, in which they have to know the critical creative concepts and theories involved in the video art/new media practices, and learn to work within a group exchanging information and experiences, learn to manage individual ideas based on a critical observation in de- construction of reality, not coping reality.

Artist Lillian Pilaku talking about her video work at the final screening

Jonathan Jonas, our video editor during the workshop giving his comments during the final screening.
The task ahead, is fascinating and involves great capacity to work hard in constant experimentation and investigation. Also important is to initiate regional partnerships with individual artists and institutions. I am currently in close contact with all of the participant artists providing some degree of guidance and mentoring and a the workshop is still continue for a long time to come, in which we are trying to extend these concepts to Douala, Cameroon with some participants planning to go on their own investment and commitment to join the workshop I will give in March. I am currently working with institutions in Brazil to organize there a video workshop with the invitation of a few artists from Nigeria and Cameroon, to establish a sustained creative transit of ideas and experiences, residencies and providing exhibition platforms to make visible their works. Importantly is also the transit of Dutch artists to be in residence in Nigeria in order to learn more about the fascinating city of Lagos and teach local artists new techniques and concepts of video and new media art possibilities.

The workshop has produced a good and dynamic group, willing to communicate, to explore, to discover other cultures like Brazil, Holland and Cameroon. There are already some new artists joining the club and that is what it is all about.

Stay tuned for the next episode of LINHAIMAGINARIA

The DVD of the works will be soon available and will be distributed by the CCA, Lagos.

To those who argue that Africa is poor, they do not know what they are taking about. It is now the time to harness its vast richness.

Miguel Petchkovsky

February 2009

Cross section of the audience at the final video workshop screening

Cross section of the audience at the final video workshop screening.

Copy of the final video of the first workshop; The One Minute Video Workshop in October 2008

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Like A Virgin Opens at CCA,Lagos

This was a special exhibition and a very special and beautiful opening with an impressive attendance. We rolled many things into the day. A panel discussion, readings from author Jude Dibia, some soft guitar music and finished it off with nice reception where people enjoyed mingling. Gabi Ngcobo Zanele Muholi were missed as there was great interest in meeting and talking with her.

I was apprehensive about how people would react to the exhibition and closer to the date I half expected either the state/fed authorities to come and arrest me for promoting same sex activities or for a group of Christian fundamentalist to come and protest or worse try and destroy the images. But neither manifested. And we had the best opening ever!!! One big learning point is that Nigerian audience are ready for and interested in being challenged and the diet of platitudes they are continuously fed in the form of mother and child, fulani milkmaid, market woman hardly allows them to engage with changes in their contemporary society.

Artist/Art Historian Ken Okoli and Artist, Lucy Azubuike
The panel discussion was interactive and informal, steered more than moderated by Hansi Momodu project co-ordinator at CCA,Lagos to open out important themes and issues not only from the exhibition but also from Dibia’s book “Walking with Shadows”. (A must read)

As curator of the exhibition I talked about the idea and development of the exhibition and about Zanele’s work. The need to open up artistic platform and discourse, to bring important but ‘hidden’ issues to the fore through contemporary art and to present a small but coherent body of work by two emerging woman artists.

Cross Section of the Audience at Opening Panel Discussion

Cross Section of the Audience at Opening Panel Discussion.

Author Jude Dibia talking with Artist Nkechi Nwosu Igbo and guest Mrs Akinyanju.

Author, Jude Dibia read from Walking with Shadows and gave short but extremely articulate and insightful introduction to the pages he picked and talked to us about repressed and expressed female sexuality in his book. He also continued the discussion on the use of artistic practice as a way of addressing the issue of female sexuality, homosexuality and traditions of shame,

Artist and Art Historian, Ken Okoli addressed the image of body in art around the world generally and specifically in traditional African art. However the absence and its presence within modern and contemporary Nigerian art has its precedents in a history of slavery, colonialism and maybe more than any in the way in which Christianity was introduced to Africa and also Western artform. So much touched on but yet so much more to cover.

Artist Lucy Azubuike with Aunty Yemi Afolabi.

Arts Journalist Molara Wood with Bisi Silva and Ken Okoli
Artist, Lucy Azubuike spoke about how many of the issues that inspire her work emanate from real life interactions and observations. The way in which tradition and religion impact cruelly on women’s lives and worse of all how women enforce most of these traditional and religious beliefs on themselves without any critical interrogation on the validity of their acts. Through her works she undertakes this questioning – creatively.
The interest generated saw all the copies of "Walking with Shadows" available sell out, as did all copies of Zanele’s "Only Half the Picture" and almost all the initial 40 odd copies of the catalogue Like A Virgin…

CCA,Lagos is also happy to have teamed up for the first ‘Pages’ event, organised by Aderemi Adegbite where we looked at the relationship between literature and art. The choice of Dibia's book fitted perfectly with the theme of the exhibition. We hope to continue this collaboration which will see us choosing for each session and exhibition a book that furthers the critical discussion of the works on display in the gallery. It also brings in a diverse audience to CCA,Lagos.

Hansi Momodu speaking with Photographer Abraham Oghobase and Artist, Jelili Atiku

Artist Ndidi Dike talking with Ken Okoli

Curator Bisi Silva with Artist Lucy Azubuike bringing out the champagne!
Like A Virgin... continues till the 14th of March.
9 McEwen Street, Sabo, Yaba

Friday, 13 February 2009

Art-iculate 2009 begins with Monna Mokoena, director Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg


Art-iculate 2009

In 2000 under the auspices of the now defunct IVAC the first programme of lectures featuring guest speakers Eddie Chambers and Katy Deepwell, (UK) Colin Richards, South Africa, Yacouba Konate, Ivory Coast and William Miko, Zambia made presentations not only to to a Lagos art audience but also to students at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and to art professionals in Enugu in collaboration with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The positive response received nationwide highlighted the vacuum in the area of contemporary art discourse and the cultural isolation experienced by local artists. Today artists have the opportunity through access to information and communication technology to connect, interact and dialogue with people globally.

Within this context the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos is pleased to present a new series of lectures that aims to increase dialogue, encourage debate and stimulate exchange in visual arts and culture in Nigeria by inviting international curators, critics, and art historians to share their knowledge, skills and experience. In prioritising dialogue and discourse in our programmes, we hope to encourage the development of critical perspectives that help us to learn about and understand not only our society but also about world in general.

The first art-iculate series were held in November and December 2008 featuring presentations by Didier Schaub, Artistic Director of Doual’Art, a contemporary art space in Douala. His lecture Contemporary Art in Public Places was a fascinating insight into the way in which contemporary artistic practice can have a meaningful impact on the society from which it is so dissociated. On December 8th CCA, Lagos’ 12 month anniversary, Prof. Yacouba Konate returned to Lagos to give a keynote lecture titled, The Foreigner Has Big Eyes but Sees Nothing. His lecture highlighted the problem of international curating especially within the African context and proffered possible solutions.

Over the next 3 months CCA, Lagos will invite curators, art historian, writers and cultural producers who will provide an insight into the visual art sector of countries as diverse as, South Africa, Brazil, China and India, as well as explore the work of individuals and organisations across a broad spectrum of curatorial and critical perspectives and artistic practices.

As in 2000, the current series of international lectures Art-iculate has been made possible with the support of the Prince Claus Fund.


Monna Mokoena (South Africa)
Monna Mokoena is a highly respected and innovative curator, well known on the South African arts landscape. He also established Gallery MOMO in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2003. MOMO not only exhibits but also represents leading contemporary South African and international artists. Mokoena’s focus is on contemporary work that stretches boundaries, nurturing a global platform for our continent's extraordinary creative impetus.

As an independent curator Mokoena also undertakes commissioned projects. Corporate clients, architects, designers, government departments and many artists have worked with him to develop art strategies and processes that align with organisational objectives. He enjoys collaborating and bringing substantial knowledge of the arts in South Africa and worldwide to the table. On an ongoing basis, he is involved in the management of various art collections as well as sitting on various boards in an advisory capacity.

The founding of Gallery MOMO – “From shack to chic”
There is no arguing that the commercial gallery sector in Africa remains negligible, with little or no visibility within the globally art marketplace. In South Africa there are a growing number of private galleries, small and large operating on professional international standards.

From shack to chic will talk about the South African gallery sector focusing on the birth and growth of MOMO Gallery. It will present its portfolio of artists, its exhibitions and projects. It will also talk about the way in which it is building a slow and steady national and international visibility not only for the gallery but also its artists.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Like A Virgin… Opening Events


Enjoy an afternoon of unparalleled cerebral cultural interaction.

Like A Virgin... Lucy Azubuike & Zanele Muholi
Like a Virgin... Lucy Azubuike and Zanele Muholi. This is an unmissable exhibition of two rising African women artists who defiantly put sexuality and the body at the centre of their work and challenge stereotypes within a patriarchal society.

The panel discussion promises to be enlightening and at times controversial. But then what is Art about if it continues to reinforce taboos. We have an interesting and critical panel including exhibiting artist Lucy Azubuike, emerging South African curator Gabi Ngcobo (co-curator of Cape Africa in 2007), artist and art historian Ken Okoli from Ahmadu Bello University. It will be moderated by
Hansi Momodu, CCA,Lagos .
Cultural Stimulus with PAGES

PAGES, is the confluence of literature, art works, comics and photography. This programme is designed to converge fictionist, poets and playwrights at the Centre for Contemporary Art,Lagos, to give literary interpretation to the works being exhibited at the centre every month. Art is art. Be it literature, painting, poetry, pottering or sculpturing. This is the reason why Kowry Kreations Media, an African art and culture organization came up with this unifying concept in collaboration with Centre for Comtemporary Art,Lagos (CCA,Lagos) The first edition of the programme will be held at the centre.

Writer Jude Dibia reads excerpts from his novel, Walking with Shadows and joins the panel discussion in highlighting some of the themes about the body and sexuality. Walking with Shadows has been described as "A thought provoking tale of denial and the politics of African male sexuality" .

Walk round the exhibition as you sip some wine and satisfy your taste buds with our delicious petit chops.


Sunday, 1 February 2009

Like A Virgin… Lucy Azubuike & Zanele Muholi

29th January – 14th March 2009

Curator: Bisi Silva

Curatorial Assistant:Hansi Momodu

The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos is pleased to present the works of Nigerian artist Lucy Azubuike and South African photographer, Zanele Muholi in the exhibition “Like A Virgin…”. The works highlights women’s experiences, identities, their bodies and sexuality, in a manner yet to be explored in contemporary Nigerian art.
Since 1999, Azubuike has created a large, ongoing body of work of her menstruation cycle. These simple images of menstrual blood serve as a diary, a book of visual narratives containing insights into personal reflections and experiences such as love, hope, disappointment and friendship.

Lucy Azubuike, The Whisper, 2006
In another series, Azubuike focuses on photographing trees. She moves from the autobiographical and the personal to the public and focuses on the way in which culture, tradition and religion, the embodiments of patriarchal society impact negatively on women. These manifest as outdated, oppressive and discriminatory acts such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), widowhood rites, girl/child marriages. Azubuike says “women enforce it on their own women, they think it is culture, they accept it even though they don’t like it.”

Lucy Azubuike, With Love from Africa, 2006
Zanele Muholi’s conceptual strategies are similar to Azubuike, however the physicality of the black female body is brought to the fore in her work. Indignant about being spoken for, about the portrayal of and attitude towards black lesbians, especially in the townships, over the past four years her work has set out to document the lives of ‘her’ people and ‘her’ community. The ensuing result are images as intimate as they are confrontational, provocative and transgressive. Muholi shows us the multidimensional aspects of black lesbian life and how they negotiate their private lives and the public space. In public the most virulent being the violence perpetrated again their person, one in which the rape of black lesbians by black men is seen as a curative process. This rape, this violence, this attempt to spill blood is metaphorically captured in the body of work “Period”. Using the symbolic power of menstrual blood, she highlights not only a process of violence and pain but also of renewal and rebirth. Muholi remains defiant, asserting that “stereotypes about the sexuality of black women need to be challenged by African women themselves. My photographs provide the radical aesthetic for women to speak.”

Zanele Muholi, Aftermath, 2004,
Courtesy Michael Stevenson Gallery

The idea of “Like A Virgin…” came before the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos became a reality in 2007. It was the appropriate catalyst in a context in which few, if any platforms exist for artistic practice that strays from the conventional and the conservative. This is such a project, not because it presents groundbreaking or cutting edge art, as artists have dealt with the issues of womanhood, the body and sexuality and made provocative works for over thirty years. However, within the embryonic Nigerian art context scene, it is precisely that – groundbreaking and provocative. In an intransigent patriarchal society in which sexism is prevalent and in which homophobia is legalised, few if any artists have presented complex, provocative works on the body and sexuality the way Azubuike and Muholi are doing. Two young African women working on the continent, pushing boundaries, confronting taboos and challenging stereotypes, in essence expressing themselves and their lives in a way few of their predecessors have done before.

Zanele Muholi, Flesh II, 2005
Courtesy Michael Stevenson Gallery

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with texts by Bisi Silva and Christine Eyene.

Like A Virgin… is supported by the Prince Claus Fund and the Commonwealth Foundation

Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9 McEwen Street, Sabo, Yaba, Lagos