Showing posts from March, 2008
And, again I have been asked to come up with, this time an article, on rather short notice. Ususally that wouldn't be an issue at all and in fact, as I'm back in Maiduguri mainly to sort out some administrative issues and can't really plan any other activities before I know my appointment dates, it should really be giving me something useful to do with my time here. But ... I don't know, usually writer's block is not a serious issue for me and I have written essays in shorter periods of time but now ... I actually wonder whether this is not rather stage fright then a writer's block. I mean, I can't even make up my mind which aspect of my field research to write about!!! So, yes, maybe its really the fact that this is not 'just' for my supervisor but will be printed and potentially read by lots and lots of people. - And before you mention it, no a blog is something else. Its not even meant to be academically sound in terms of content and language!!! ... ... ... Oh, and before I give the wrong impression again: there is a part of me that is really really happy to be back in Maiduguri, its just that in terms of my research I should have moved on to Kano by now!!! As a private person I'm happy to be back here and have some more time with some people I really care about.

Back in Maiduguri

I have just arrived back from two weeks travelling on the occasion of the exhibition of the works that have come out of the British Council workshop in Kano I attended before Christmas. The exhibition entitled ‘Celebrating the Traditional Crafts of Northern Nigeria’ was held at Terra Kulture, a culture centre with restaurant and exhibition space on Victoria Island, Lagos. For the moment, just let me say how happy and grateful I am to be safely back in Maiduguri. I mean, I have done the nine to ten hour journey between Maiduguri and Abuja before and actually really enjoyed watching the landscape slowly getting less dry, lusher and more tropical the further south we get. The only thing I ever seriously worried – other then the pain in my back and legs – was the speed with which these cars manoeuvre these streets full of bigger and smaller potholes. And, as a matter of fact when Nabil and has Lagos based friend urged me to take a flight from Abuja to Lagos and back rather then a bus because the road wasn’t safe I didn’t really take them serious. It was more to appease Nabil who even told me he’d rather give me the money for the flights and know I’m safe then having me take the bus that I finally took a plane (using my own money, of course). Irony, irony, it appears that the car I took from Abuja on my way back here only narrowly escaped some armed robbers on the supposedly safe road between Damaturu and Maiduguri. In fact, I learned a young girl was shot. And that only a few minutes drive after an army check point. Had we left the motor park half an hour earlier, had the driver known the road (he usually serves the Abuja-Sokoto road and had to be directed by the passengers) and, hence, driven faster … I don’t even want to think about it and I’m just immensely grateful to be safely back in Maiduguri! For the moment …

Signature Gallery, Abuja

On my way back from Lagos to Maidguri I had another stop-over in Abuja and I used the day there to meet up with Hussein Akar, the owner of Signature Gallery in Abuja. He wasn’t around when I first popped by on Thursday on the way from the airport to Ella’s place but I was able to make an appointment for the next day. I was a bit nervous about meeting him because, despite the recommendation to see him by his uncle at the Signature Gallery in Lagos and Nabil’s friends, I wasn’t really quite sure whether I had enough questions for him to justify disturbing him. However, it turned out to be a really useful and interesting discussion. In fact, he was kind enough to call one Zaria graduate during our conversation to pass on one of my questions and provided me with his number and that of somebody at the Society of Nigeria Artists before I left. At the same time, his emphasis on Zaria graduates, Lagos as an important place of residence for artists from different parts of the country and also the art market, his suggestion that it might be more fruitful to go via galleries and the Society of Nigerian artists then local art schools in the north itself left me a bit insecure about my own approach. But maybe, because I am anyway not really satisfied with how I conducted things here in Maiduguri, this is a good impulse to further review and change my approaches … But this is something I will have to discuss with my supervisor first.

Goethe Institute

In addition to commercial galleries there are obviously also the foreign cultural institutes in Lagos, most prominently the Goethe Institute, the British Council and Alliance Francaise.
The Goethe Institute was currently holding a very interesting exhibition of works by Ayo Aina, a graduate of ABU Zaria, and I had originally meant to attend the opening on Saturday evening. However, unfortunately this was the day Zico’s business partners decided to come down to Lagos and I had to evacuate the room in his apartment – and after the panic attacks involved in searching for a hotel room on such short notice and finally having arrived at my new place in Obalende area it was already over an hour late and I honestly really wasn’t in the mood to leave the room again. I still think that this was really bad timing and I lost a good chance to make some interesting contacts in the town but there will another chance another time. Anyway, I finally went to the Goethe Institute on Monday morning hoping to make an appointment for some other day. I ended up having a brief but informative conversation with the director right then. I have to confess that I was a bit surprised b this and otherwise would probably have asked one or the other additional question but on the whole I think I got most of the information I had come for. The occasion of my visit had been that the Goethe Institute organised a workshop for photographers in Kano some time last year. During my brief visit in June/July I had attended the opening of the exhibition of the works that had come out of this workshop at the History and Culture Bureau in Kano. Now I was interested in some more background information on the workshop as well as other activities of the Goethe Institute in the northern region.
In addition I had planned to visit the Alliance Francaise in Lagos but between the other places I attended I didn’t really find time to do so. I would really have been interested in the reasons that the branch in Maiduguri was apparently closed and to clarify whether the Kano outlet is still active or, as somebody has suggested to me, largely stopped its cultural activities. I guess I will now have to find out from the branches.


There must be quite a number o galleries in Lagos and I have certainly not visited all of them. However, I managed to have a look at some of them in the mornings before going to the National Gallery or in the afternoon after having finished there for the day. The first gallery I visited, apart from Terra Kulture where the works of the Kano workshop were exhibited, was Nimbus, a rather small space attached to a guest house in Ikoyi, just off Awolowo Road. I didn’t’ find any works by artists from the northern regions of Nigeria there but a good collection of back issues of New Culture Magazine as well as Nigeria Magazine which were on sell for 500 Naira (£ 2). Also on Awolowo Road are Signature Gallery and Quintessence, and, in fact, with the owner of the former I had a brief but quite interesting discussion about the current generation of artists in Zaria and why he thinks their works do not perform well at the art market. He also strongly recommended I speak to the owner of the Signature Gallery in Abuja in more detail. The biggest surprise was the Centre for Contemporary Arts, which is a new outfit based in Yaba. In contrast to the other places this one has been conceived more as a cultural centre with particular focus on contemporary arts. It has an exhibition space and a surprisingly extensive library. In addition the owner, Bisi Silva, also organises talks and presentations on the arts. In fact, she invited me to come back towards the end of my year in Nigeria and give a presentation, something along the lines of research notes. Well, I don’t mind having an excuse to come back and explore Lagos a bit further – although, compared to Maiduguri and even Abuja this town is a money eating monster and I will have to have a serious look at my finances before I make that decision.