Use your artworks to campaign against domestic, gender-based violence, First Lady urges artists
Why Lagos must promote heritage of the past, reinvent cultural aesthetics for the future, by Filani
Sanwo-Olu urged to bring back ‘Lagos (Black) Heritage Festival’
By Anote Ajeluorou
LAGOS is always ahead of the pack in almost every transformational undertaking. On Tuesday, December 13, 2022, the Office of the Firsts Lady, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MTAC), organised the ‘Greater Lagos Art Exhibition’ that showcased the works of some 35 artists working with different media at Harbour Point, Victoria Island. It was a memorable event that had some of the notable artists working in the ‘City of Aquatic Splendour’ showing their latest works to the admiration of audience largely made up of Lagos State Government officials, students and many others.
Remarkably, the Deputy Governor, Dr. Kadiri Hamzat, who represented his boss, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the First Lady, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, Commissioner for MTAC, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf and the MTAC’s Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Oyinade Nathan-Marsh, Senior Special Adviser, Mr. Tunji Seymour, and Special Adviser to the governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Olufemi Martins all sat through the entire duration of the event to show their commitment to the process and its outcome. The Greater Lagos Art Exhibition fell into ‘Entertainment and Tourism’ segment, an aspect of the state’s development plan tagged ‘T.H.E.M.E.S,’ which represents the six pillars of the state’s strategic development agenda, namely, ‘Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, as well as Security and Governance.
Curator of ‘Greater Lagos Art Exhibition,’ Dr. Olusola Ogunfuwa of the University of Lagos, explained to the audience the role of art in and for transformation, noting that “art can be used as a lead to transform other things and seen as object or subject of transformation,” meaning “that art in the 21st century can function in dynamic ways.” He added that curating such dynamic art process and ideas could be “daunting, but was equally, creatively interesting. We aim to show how art has been infused into the changing socio-geographic, economic and political tides in Lagos particularly and Nigeria generally. One of our major objectives is to synthesize the growing populace on the prospect of art in achieving a better, qualitative community”
Ogunfuwa reported that 56 artists responded to calls for participation and submitted four works each out of which 35 artists were shortlisted with a total of 66 works displayed, adding, “The exhibition presents an array of works that create forum for interconnectivity of people of different professional strata and lay a foundation for periodic gauging of the fluidity of contemporary visual arts in Lagos, Nigeria, on the one hand, and a reflection on the constancy of change, on the other.”
Ogunfuwa thereafter conducted the guests round the exhibition hall and explained the concept behind some of the works to them.
Apart from the artists’ works displayed in a most impressive manner in two-third of the vast hall that was well-lit, the lecture by Prof. Kunle Filani of Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta, and panel discussion that opened the engagement on the theme ‘Art in and for Transformation’ gave opportunity to the state’s most senior officials to listen to ideas on how to make the culture sector better for the state and its practitioners. The first panel session had culture writer and festival organiser, Mr. Toyin Akinosho and art journalist and writer, Mr. Anote Ajeluorou, with architect and artist, Tosin Oshinowo moderating the session.
Filani explained the interplay of visual arts, visual aesthetics and cultural aesthetics that combine to yield transformation and how art has continued to be a transformative medium for the evolution of Lagos, as it continues to attract artists of various hues. He commended successive Lagos State Governments in taking the lead to deepen art practice, and gave instances of the sculptural pieces that adorn and give character to the various parts of the city.
According to him, “Lagos state is blessed by a string of proactive and patriotic governors in the past few decades. Without being political, just like his predecessors, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the present hardworking and dedicated governor, is making transformational changes in Lagos State in terms of infrastructural development and socio-political awareness for the people. Today’s art events are notable contributions by her Excellency, the wife of the governor towards the promotion, growth, and development of visual arts. There is no doubt that a lot still needs to be done to elevate the status of Lagos as one of the leading states where a legacy of spectacular images will be built.”
Filani outlined the contributions of visual arts to the develop of Lagos, saying it “empowered Lagos State to make rapid development, especially in the last few decades. Art provided the artists living in Lagos with sustainable private and public job opportunities. Many artists in Lagos are self-employed, making a living through the creative skills acquired formally or through apprenticeship. Some also work in the public sector as teachers, art administrators, and government officials. Many job opportunities for the artist are equally available in the private and sectors such as in galleries and museums, publication industry, and other artistic careers. Lagos State generates internal revenue also from the various art outlets by way of taxation.
“Apart from financial remuneration, visual arts promote art appreciation and the beautification of outdoor and indoor spaces in Lagos streets and homes.”
Filani enumerated some of the public art works Lagos State government partnered with Terra Kulture to erect to include ‘Community’ by Abolore Sobayo at Agege Expressway, Ikeja (unfortunately, this work and two others outlined below were pulled down to make way for road construction; it’s hoped that they will be reinstalled elsewhere soon), ‘Ebute’ by Ade Odunfa at Bank Anthony Way, Lagos, ‘Mega Pipe’ by Tayo Olayode and Terfa Adingi at Marina CMS, Lagos, ‘Nerve Centre’ by Gerald Chukwuma at Maryland bus stop (it also suffered dislocation for road construction), ‘Virtues of Life’ by Segun Aiyesan at Marwa, Lekki, Lagos, ‘Eko Tree’ by Tayo Olayode and Terfa Adingi, ‘Youth Empowerment’ by Umeh Bede at Sabo-Yaba, Lagos, and the ‘Catfish’ at Abraham Adesanya Roundabout, Ajah (also pulled down to make way for construction work).
Filani therefore called on governments at all levels to pay attention to the utilisation of art, saying, “The varying interest in the arts manifests in many other social and economic dynamics such as outdoor sculptures/ monuments, museums and art galleries, textiles and fashion, architecture, historical sites, art and culture ministries and parastatals, art workshops, formal educational institutions, infrastructure, environmental aesthetics, hotels, and tourism industry among others. These outlets for visual arts no doubt, are vast and have huge economic implications and potential. It is, therefore, necessary that the government at the local, state, and federal levels must make effective laws and sustainable policies to partly regulate and support the full development of visual arts to harvest bountifully from the economic and social prospects.”
Finally, Filani made some far-reaching recommendations needed to deepen the contribution of arts to the socio-economic life of Lagos and cities hoping to catch up in the utilisation of art for sundry beneficial reseults. According to him, “Lagos State Government should build a befitting State Museum and a Gallery of Contemporary Art (JK Randle Museum of Yoruba Culture takes care of this), Lagos State Ministry of Arts and Culture should be empowered to embark on the acquisition of diverse artworks by Nigerian artists. Such artworks can be used to decorate significant (government) offices to promote culture and creativity. The collected artworks can be put on display inside the state museum and gallery, it should be mandatory for all important public architecture and infrastructures to earmark a specific percentage of the total sum of a contract for the execution of art and design embellishment, more outdoor monumental sculptures and large murals should be regulated by the government and encouraged to be commissioned and executed by professional artists, the teaching of visual arts should be encouraged in state g government secondary schools. This is not necessarily to produce a large number of artists but to have future citizens who are creative and make use of critical thinking in their professional endeavours, Lagos should empower all the outlets for the display of creative artworks such as private and public galleries, museums, craft centres, and art shops. This can be in form of reduced taxation, soft loans, and patronage, maintenance of art infrastructure through appropriate funding, and the inclusion of art organisations in the planning and execution of creative activities of the state.
“There is no doubt that if the recommendations are followed, Lagos State will keep on leading in the area of art and culture, thereby promoting further the heritage of the past, while reinventing cultural aesthetics for the future.”
IN their contributions, Akinosho and Ajeluorou acknowledged Lagos as a culture melting point from colonial times and commended Lagos State Government for the ‘Greater Lagos Art Exhibition’. They urged the government to replicate the template in other aspects of the creative industry spectrum such as in writing, theatre, festivals, fashion, music and film. While Akinosho was skeptical about sustainability of government’s direct involvement in the art process, he urged practitioners to carry on as before, but urged government to complement their efforts and provide them needed environment to flourish. He expressed sadness over the removal of some sculptural works without a word about when they would be returned and where they would be reinstalled, saying such action was enough to discourage other artists in future. But the deputy governor, Hamzat allayed Akinosho’s fears and explained that road construction exigency was the reason for the removal of the artworks and assured that the works would be restored as soon as practicable.
While commending the aptness of ‘Greater Lagos Art Exhibition’ in galvanising art in the state, Ajeluorou urged Sanwo-Olu’s government to see to the immediate return of ‘Lagos (Black) Heritage Festival (LBHF),’ which he said had begun to give the state a distinctive festival character and destination of global acclaim. With Prof. Wole Soyinka as the Festival Consultant, Lagos (Black) Heritage Festival had begun to pull the entire black race, especially Africans in the diaspora, particularly in South America with distinct Yoruba roots, to Lagos, with festival beginning to assume the mold of Festival of African Art and Culture (FESTAC ’77) staged in 1977 in Lagos that gave rise to the National Theatre edifice. He said the mix of artistic and cultural offerings from films, masquerade displays, visual art, literature, theatre performances to colloquium on important cultural issues that Lagos (Black) Heritage Festival fostered gave it a unique feel that should never have been discontinued for anything. Ajeluorou urged MTAC to take up the challenge to return LBHF.
On Ajeluorou’s charge about the absence of a museum owned by Lagos state to warehouse artworks in the city, Hamzat assured that the JK Randle Museum for Yoruba Culture opposite the National Museum, Onikan, answered to that absence. He said his recent visited to the culture edifice was most instructive, as work had reached advanced stage. He said the museum is a multi-purpose showpiece that will cater to a vast array of culture production needs of Lagos’ creatives.
EARLIER, the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Akinbile-Yussuf, described the ‘Greater Lagos Art Exhibition’ as “another definitive step taken towards the realisation of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s vision for Tourism, Arts and Culture in Lagos State,” and commended “our First Lady, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu whose consistency and commitment have ensured that this novel event becomes a reality.” She noted that “engagement such as this is part of our intervention as government to give visibility to our artists and their artworks in order to further deepen our creative industry. It has been proven that art, in its various forms, is good business that deserves every attention and investment channelled towards it. But in this instance, it is always a case of the deep calling the deep.
“The various activities for today’s event will come to a climax with a workshop on art and craft, and mentorship session that will be anchored by seasoned art professionals. I urge everyone here present to be prepared to learn more about the transformative power of artworks as this particular session promises to be socially and educationally impactful.
“On a final note, I congratulate the over thirty artists that will be exhibiting their various artworks at this event today. I urge you to leverage on this platform made possible by the state government to increase your contact and create a lasting impression that will outlive today’s gathering.”
The First Lady, Mrs. Sanwo-Olu, acknowledged the immense contributions of the art sub-sector, and called on artists to also see themselves as teachers of society that their works represent, adding, “Today’s event presents an opportunity to appreciate the enormous contribution of artists to our society and also to remind these professionals of the need to use their creativity to correct some ills within our society. Across the globe, art has proven to be a powerful tool which helps people communicate with the outer world and better understand their inner selves. It has a transformational power and this informs why people spend millions of naira on artwork because of the satisfaction they derive from the messages communicated through these artworks.
“The role of an exhibition in the art industry cannot be overemphasised. People come together to attend art fairs and exhibitions, which give government the opportunity to build relationships with different artists from within and outside the country, using art as a tool. So as an artist, beyond seeing yourself as mere art professionals and members of the creative sector, you all should be aware that you are also teachers who are gifted in the use of art to enlighten through painting imaginary pictures or recreating real-life scenarios. With these special skills, you are a great contributor to the ‘Tourism and Entertainment’ pillar of this present administration and this also gives you space under the Education and Technology pillar of the T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda of the administration of Mr. Sanwo-Olu.”
Mrs. Sanwo-Olu seized the opportunity to draw attention to the menace of gender-based violence, and tasked artists to help fight the social menace through the instrumentality of their art.
“You may be aware that one of the major menaces in our society in recent times is the issue of gender-based violence which is now on the increase. As a matter of fact, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that started on the 25th of last month till last week Sunday, December 10, 2022, witnessed a series of advocacy campaigns and sensitization by the various agencies of the state government including the Office of the First Lady on the ‘Elimination of Violence against Women.’ As opinion moulders and great influencers of thought, I challenge you to be deeply involved and commit yourself to supporting this administration in stamping out this menace from our society through the use of your artworks as a form of campaign against Domestic and Gender-Based Violence.
“Apart from the Elimination of Violence against Women, there are several other menaces within our society like child labour, sexual discrimination, and discrimination based on disability status, among others. These are some of the key areas that you can leverage to educate the populace with the aim of transforming our society to be a better place. I believe that our artists have a role to play in this task by using artworks to speak against these societal ills just as everyone else.”
ON his part, the governor, through his deputy, Dr. Hamzat, expressed happiness at the event, saying, “I’m particularly delighted to specially acknowledge all the young and upcoming artists who took a wise decision to embrace the opportunity provided by this platform to showcase their talents, network with their peers and gain from the knowledge and experience of veterans who will be present at this event themed ‘Art in and for Transformation.’ Creative art occupies a special place in the E pillar of our T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda which stands for Entertainment and Tourism. In the over three years of the implementation of this development agenda, we have left no one in doubt about our desire to fully harness the largely untapped potential entertainment sector especially the creative arts component. We have therefore embraced every opportunity to support and encourage young and upcoming talented individuals to grow and gain the exposure they will need to succeed.
“The theme of this event speaks to the power of art works as potent tools to drive and influence social transformation through the message they communicate. This is quite instructive as there is the need to utilise different modes and media to effectively communicate messages and ideas especially those that are meant to change the orientation of the general public on societal ills and their negative effects on the general wellbeing of the society. I urge you all to take maximum advantage of this platform especially the knowledge and exposure you will gain from the discussion session by established names and role models in the industry. I wish to assure you of our unrelenting commitment to the growth of this sector as one of the major drivers of policy on tourism development in Lagos State.”
Some students of Government Senior College, Victoria Island, attended the event and were mentored by sculptor, art educator, origamist and art-in-medicine propagator, Dr. John Adenle, artist and curator, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, ace photographer, Mr. Dayo Adedayo and Mr. Ajeluorou. They took the students through their art process and how they have remained steadfast to attain proficiency their various fields. The First Lady also advising the students on being true to their studies and living worthy lives free from vice. Thereafter, one of the students, Cyrus Dan (IAmTheCyrus) performed from his musical work to the admiration of the First Lady, the commissioner and several guests present.