ON its 25th anniversary, the prime festival of the arts and culture, the Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF 2023) will stage six visual arts exhibition projects during its 2023 season. It is perhaps the biggest of such showcase since the festival was born September 1999, to herald the return of Nigeria to democratic governance. It is also the most diverse of visual art disciplines at any edition of LABAF. It will showcase ceramics, paintings, installation, cartoons, and performance arts. On Tuesday, November 14, which is the second of the seven-day festival, five of the exhibition projects would formally open. The sixth exhibition will open on Wednesday, November 15.
The same day, Tuesday, November 14, from 2pm, there will be featured the festival’s annual Visual Arts Dialogue. This edition will explore the relationship between artists and their collectors and patrons. The session will have a keynote and a panel of eminent discussants. The working theme is ‘Artists: Where Are Your Works?’ The conversation is aimed at sensitizing artists to pay closer attention in tracking the movement of their artwork once it has left their studio into the hand of the collector. Essentially, it is to emphasise the importance of documentation in the practice of the artist.
The keynote will be delivered by the eminent painter and former Director of the School of Art, Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology (YabaTech), later appointed in February 1992 as the college’s Deputy Rector, Dr. Kolade Osinowo. The session will be chaired by renowned art collector and founder of the 40-year-old, DIDI Museum, Dr. Newton Jibunoh. DIDI Museum is reputed as the oldest privately-owned museum in the country. The session is curated by the Provost of Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Ademola Azeez.
The exhibition list at this year’s LABAF includes Conceptual: ‘Timeless Memories: Elastic Effects 2023 – The Man Who Didn’t Die in the Face of Tyranny’ – an immersive experimental exhibition, which seeks to visually interpret the book, The Man Died, originally published in 1971. It is a continuation of the tribute series in honour of Africa’s illustrious man of letters and first Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka. In its sixth season at LABAF, Timeless Memories… will feature a series of prison cell installations and symbolic representations designed to foreground Soyinka’s prison experience. Furthermore, 27 illustrations, printed on a unique toilet-paper-like material, will vividly depict the challenges the protagonist faced during his time in confinement. It is curated by Oludamola Adebowale of Asiri Journal.
an installation work titled ‘Boarding’ will showcase theJunkmanofAfrica’s uniquely conceived mix-match of themes and materials that captures human conditions through a probe into history and philosophical musings. Aside a huge installation to be mounted in the Foodcourt arena of Freedom Park, a set of works will also grace a section of the Freedom Park Museum Gallery.
On Ceramics, there will be ‘NOTICE, We Are Here?’ featuring a group exhibition by the Visions in Clay Community of ceramic artists with the aim of projecting the current trajectory of the ceramic craft and “let more people notice we are here!” The participating artists use ceramic history, culture and traditions to bolster craft, experimentation, conceptual strategies, and relational approaches to materiality, and lending their voices to tell the stories lingering outside the public’s sight.” It is curated by Olubunmi Atere and Azeez Afeez Adeoti.
For Cartoons, ‘DRAWING ATTENTION…’, an exhibition of editorial cartoons by the Cartoonists Association of Nigeria, CARTAN will feature. 35 Cartoonists are participating in this rare showcase of commentaries on the state of the nation, especially the troubling political trajectory in the past 24 years of democracy. Featuring cartooning, comic animation and other communication art, the exhibition will also draw attention to issues and matters of deep concern to the people.
Also, performance art titled ‘I AM A FISH FROM THE SEA’ will see Jelili Olorunfunmi Atiku reading and walking through the minds of political leaders, analysing and knowing their philosophies, policies, ideas, and actions as they rule us. The performance employs techniques of walking and sensing where audiences engage in collective healing and renewed energy, strength and enthusiasm, connection and contemplating the qualities of political leaders. This will be followed by another performance titled ‘MAAMI DEY CHOP AKARA’, a performance by Olufela Omokeko and Curated by Yusuf Durodola. Inspired by the literary work of Ben Okri on food, ritual and death and the utilisation of akara as a point of departure, the performance shall invite audience into a sensorium journey through taste and smell, where the selection, peeling baking, frying and eating are towards creating a visual epitaph of resistance and reset towards an egalitarian society devoid of greed, war, crimes and uncertainties.
Though LABAF is a literary feast of ideas and life in outlook, the festival has over the years, metamorphosed to being a campaign for LITERACY devoted to heightening interest of the populace to be active participants in the knowledge economy that currently rules transactions in global political, economic and cultural affairs. The festival is focused on three thematic elements: EDUCATION. ENLIGHTENMENT. EMPOWERMENT.