Showing posts from September, 2010

The Final Countdown

Five more days to work on my thesis. Actually, four more days. I guess I should get it printed and bound at least one day before I need to submit. To be on the safe side. Kind of. It's a nightmare. I’m writing in MS Word (that’s what we got on our PCs here at the uni) and ever since I inserted my illustrations the programme regularly crashes, usually when I’m trying to save the work of the last (by now, I’m trying to play it safe) ten to fifteen minutes. That’s exactly what it did just a minute ago. And, I can’t help worrying that technology will boycott until the end. It's a nightmare. But, yeah, it's the final countdown, right?

(Sorry, as far as I know no Nigerian band has ever covered the song, so we’ll make to with the original even though it so doesn’t fit into the theme of this blog as it fits the theme of this last, final week!)

Nollywood in the Guardian and Nollywood Film Festival in London

Today in the Guardian, the UK one, this article by Tola Onanuga including the good news of a Nollywood Film Festival just in time to celebrate the submission of my thesis, Nollywood Now ...

Hooray for Nollywood!

Inspired by Bollywood musicals and Brazilian soap operas, the Nigerian film industry is now the second largest in the world

Die-hard fans have known for some time that the Nigerian film industry is truly unique, but even they may be surprised to discover just how big – and lucrative – it has become.

A new festival, Nollywood Now, takes place in London from 6-12 October and is the first major event to celebrate the second largest film industry in the world. Its chief aim is to draw wider attention to the success and popularity the films enjoy across Europe, and particularly the UK.

Nollywood makes about 2,400 films per year, putting it ahead of the US, but behind India, according to a Unesco report last year. Nigerian film-makers tend to operate in a fast and furious manner; shoots rarely last longer than two weeks, cheap digital equipment is almost always used and the average budget is about $15,000 (£9,664). The finished products often bypass cinemas altogether and are instead sold directly to the "man on the street" for about $1.50 (£1). Most films shift between 25,000 and 50,000 copies globally – although a blockbuster can easily sell up to 200,000.

So, what exactly is it about the films that resonates so much with their audience? For all of their populist appeal, Nigerian films are very rooted in local concerns, according to Nollywood Now's creative director, Phoenix Fry: "Many of the films have looked at how traditional beliefs co-exist with Islam and Christianity, Nigeria's main religions," he says. "There are some superb sequences using quite simple video effects to transform aunties into demons, or show evil animal spirits being driven out from the possessed."

This view is shared by Nigerian director and producer, Ade Adepegba, whose feature film Water Has No Enemy, explores corruption in his native country: "Nigerians are the largest group of Africans living in the UK, and the majority of them live in London," he says. "Nigerian films still hold their strongest appeal to first generation immigrants who feel a deep attachment to their homeland. So, at the moment nostalgia is the main reason for the appeal of Nollywood."

Ultimately, it's the way the films are crafted, rather than their juicy content that gives them universal appeal, says Fry. "The storytelling is so good. Nigerian filmmakers really know how to entertain their audiences. They've studied the populist genres from other countries – Bollywood musicals, low-budget horror and Brazilian soap operas, for example – and reworked these to appeal to anyone with a love of drama."

The process is tried and tested, and the main reason Nollywood is currently in such rude health, but how long can it stay that way? It's hard to see how an industry that prides itself on producing so much in so little time won't start to lose its momentum in the coming years. Diversifying is probably its best hope of lasting success, but loyal and long-standing fans may see that as a betrayal of its origins.

Adepegba believes that widening its scope will serve Nollywood well in the long term: "The industry needs to start making films with deeper social and artistic values – the path to even greater success," he says.

In October, Nigeria celebrates 50 years of independence, and thanks in no small part to Nollywood, its creative industries are under the global spotlight like never before. Film-makers need to make the most of these new opportunities to showcase the country by accurately portraying its flaws as well as its triumphs. This may mean tackling less savoury subjects regarding everyday life in the country, such as crime, corruption and abject poverty. It will not please everyone, but to ensure the legacy it deserves, Nollywood audiences should demand no less.

Next: Ages of Nigerian art at the Abuja Velodrome

More on the Independence Exhibition in Next:

Ages of Nigerian art at the Abuja Velodrome

September 18, 2010 01:53AM

‘The world and his wife’ were heading to Abuja on Wednesday September 15. Getting a flight to the Federal Capital Territory from Lagos was extremely difficult, with all airlines fully booked. Those who eventually made it to Abuja, discovered that hotels were similarly filled to capacity. And so it was that several of us going to the opening ceremony of the massive National Cultural/Historical Exhibition, arrived at the venue of the Velodrome, National Stadium, Abuja, to find the event was over.

It was D-Day in Abuja; former head of state, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, declared his 2011 presidential ambition at Eagle Square – the reason, many surmised, for the full flights and hotels. The Babangida effect was compounded by the fact that the ruling PDP held its National Executive Council meeting on the same day in the same city. Given the significant political diversions, therefore, it was a testament to the pulling power of the exhibition that over 2000 people attended its opening event.

However, the president, Goodluck Jonathan, who was due to open the exhibition, stayed away. Preoccupied perhaps with the political colourations of the momentous day, he declared his own intention to run for the Presidency in 2011, on Facebook. Jonathan was represented at the Velodrome by the Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed. Joining him were: Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mahmud Yayale Ahmed; and Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed. At least 20 ambassadors attended in person.

In a speech delivered on his behalf by the Culture Minister, President Jonathan called the exhibition “a milestone” in the life of the Nigerian nation, noting that it showcases a “splendid kaleidoscope of images that mirror the state of our progress and achievement.” He added that Nigeria “has been in the forefront of cultural renaissance and social regenerations which gained momentum several decades ago when we hosted... FESTAC ’77.” He thanked all the artists and organisations that made the exhibition possible, and said the works on display, spanning two millennia of art production in Nigeria, would inspire stock-taking and self-evaluation of where the country is, 50 years after independence from the British.

The Velodrome

Though the opening event crowds had gone home on the evening of September 15, the Velodrome was beautifully lit up within Abuja’s National Stadium complex, appropriately so, for a venue hosting the largest exhibition ever held in Nigeria. Organisers hope young and old will come in their thousands to see the exhibition. Also known as ‘The Journey Of Our Independence’, the exhibition aims to tell the story of Nigeria through the visual arts.

Visible from the surrounding highways, the Velodrome is an easily located venue, but better signage within the stadium complex could help visitors locate the exhibition more easily. Once inside, however, the show is spacious and easily navigable. Laid out for the appreciation of the viewer are the very best of Nigerian arts. Waiting for us inside were the exhibitions’ curators: artist Jerry Buhari of Ahmadu Bello University; Uwa Usen (National President, Society of Nigerian Artists) and Director of Museums, Nat Mayo Adediran. Chair of the Exhibition sub-committee for Nigeria at 50, George Nkanta Ufot, praised the curators’ efforts in bringing about the landmark show. “They have been tireless, they’ve been wonderful, they haven’t slept. They were the think-tank of this exhibition. They brought in an architect who [transformed the venue]. The Velodrome has been converted into a world class exhibition centre.”

Among the memorable pieces on display are Cyril Nwokoli’s monumental ‘Okonkwo’, a wooden sculpture of the tragic hero of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’. The 15 feet tall statue is an arresting piece, standing alone. Nearby are more than a dozen wooden warriors by Nwokoli, a genial artist who cracked jokes with us, making it hard to believe stories of his self-sequestration in the bushes around Enugu, carving armies of wooden figures.

All the greats are here, including: Ben Osawe, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Nike Davies-Okundaiye and Kolade Oshinowo. In a centre enclosure called ‘The Museum’, Nigeria’s antiquities from artistic traditions like the Igbo Ukwu, the Nok, Benin and Ife – are on display. That the museum is locked during our somewhat ‘out of hours’ visit, shows the extra care taken with these priceless pieces of Nigerian artistic heritage.

Queen Elizabeth in bronze

The statue of Queen Elizabeth II, sculpted from sittings done for him by the British monarch in 1957, promises to be one of the major talking points of the exhibition. The bronze sculpture, which made Enwonwu the first African to be commissioned to create an artistic likeness of the queen, has been away from public view for decades. It was last exhibited in Nigeria around 1957 and 1958, in the then Houses of Parliament in Lagos; and has been shrouded in mystery during the intervening years.

Standing next to the historic piece, Uwa Usen said, “This is only the second time this work is being exhibited in Nigeria. In fact, there is a lot of mystery and controversy [surrounding it]. The day we discussed the work, we did not know we had a visitor who was listening - and we said: we’re bringing this work. The person was running around saying: this work is missing, is in England.

“This work has been in the custody of the National Museum (Lagos) under lock and key – tight. You need to see how this work was brought (to Abuja), under heavy security; and they used codes to bring it. So, this is very significant to us,” said Usen. He praised the Ben Enwonwu Foundation for supporting the sculpture’s display at the Velodrome with photos and British press clippings from the 50s, to provide historical context.

Melting pot

Usen said the show is significant: “Because it is celebrating Nigeria at 50, we need to ask questions, we need to probe into where we’re coming from, where we’re going and where we think we are. We need to challenge ourselves and [ask]: where has art taken us? We need to review these things.” The exhibition, in his view, does all these, and more. He also spoke on the challenges faced by the curators in the weeks running up to the exhibition’s opening. “The challenge to me was converting this Velodrome into an exhibition hall. It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever had,” he said, disclosing that the preparations started on June 5.

The layout of the displays requires viewers to go straight to ‘Nigeria of Old’, to view the antiquities in The Museum. From there, to the time around independence as represented by Enwonwu’s Queen Elizabeth in Bronze, to contemporary pieces by the likes of Ndidi Dike and Dennis Okon. Pieces were sourced not from individuals or artists but institutions. These included government parastatals: the National Gallery of Art, the National Council for Arts and Culture; professional bodies like the Society of Nigerian Artists; and educational institutions like the Departments of Fine Arts at the University of Uyo and Ahmadu Bello University. In all, up to 13 universities were involved in procuring pieces for the mega show. Usen described the resulting exhibition as “a melting pot”, adding that, “We looked at the history, the culture, the various media, various styles, anything you want to see is here.

“Viewers should note that Nigeria at 50 has been celebrated by Nigerians, locally. We charged ourselves to try and get to the international standard, without any assistance [from outside]. We have carefully chosen our venue, which most people will never believe would have served as a venue – and you know this is very apt – we have branded the whole venue in Nigerian colours and it works for us. So, people should know that Nigerians can do things for themselves. We are ripe. In my own mind I think we have at least rang a bell to say: we are here. We are on board,” declared Usen.

The SNA president dismissed any suggestion of elitism, insisting that the show is for everybody, including the disabled (wheelchair ramps are been incorporated into the venue’s design).

As for George Ufot, Director of Culture at the Federal Ministry, “This is the biggest exhibition ever hosted in Nigeria. Even FESTAC was not as big as this.” Asked how he moved Nwokoli’s giant sculpture of Okonkwo across states to the Abuja Velodrome, Ufot replied cryptically, “By spending government money wisely.”

The National/Cultural Historical Exhibition is at the Velodrome, National Stadium, Abuja, until October 31.

SNA: nternational Convention on Art and Development, Lagos // Next: Independence Exhibition, Abuja

I’m currently such a recluse, its embarrassing! So, a million thanks to Alliance Francaise, Lagos, (via Facebook) for stealing my attention for a moment and reminding me of all the art events on the occasion of Nigerian independence. Particularly interesting sounds, of course, the International Convention on Art and Development organised by the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA)! Which I could go!!! So if you’re happen to be in Lagos this weekend, make your way to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos! Here’s the press release:

CONADEV 2010 Press release


The Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) in collaboration with The Nigerian Institute of International Affairs is organizing the 1st International Convention on Art and Development (CONADEV) 2010 themed Engaging Art as a Tool for Sustainable Development from September 20 - 26, 2010.

The convention will feature a conference and art exhibition. It aims to explore the role of the arts in causing desirable changes in the society. The convention will serve as a major forum to bring together artists, academic researchers in visual arts, literature, music and performing arts.

CONADEV aims to arrive at a concrete set of resolutions which can be developed into a policy document about the relevance of the arts to societal development. The convention will help to create an intellectual framework for arts and arts practices. It will also provide a forum to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through critical engagement, examination and experimentation of ideas.
The convention will commence on Monday 20 at 9:00am and will include a conference and exhibition. The conference will hold for 2 days and will explore the theme; ‘Art, Creativity and Aesthetics as a Means to Cultural Cross-Currentism’. Sub-themes will include:

· Art, the Public and Aesthetic Pleasure

· Theories and Criticism

· Linkages and Historiography

· Art Design and Technology

· Art Pedagogy and the Web

· Cross-Currentism in Modern Trends

· Art Reproduction and Copyright

· Art and Tourism

The conference will examine the function of visual art as not only a purveyor of aesthetic pleasure and a creative means of livelihood, but also a vehicle for cross-cultural exchange and societal development. Speakers at the conference will include leading contributors in all areas of the arts - artists, curators, writers, theorists and policymakers. There will also be cultural performances and a book fair organized by Farafina and Artworld Limited.

The exhibition will feature artworks of emerging and established Nigerian artists including; Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya , Kolade Oshinowo , Josy Ajiboye , Oliver Enwonwu, Kolawole Olojo-Kosoko, Dotun Alabi, Aimufia Osagie, Bunmi Lasaki, Imoesi Imhonigie and Dan Ifon. International artists from Togo and Ghana include Midahuen Yves Magloire Ludovic, Ayeva Medjeva Nourridine, Kofi Dawson and Ahmed Tijani.

The schedule for the event is as follows:


Opening: Monday 20th of September, 2010, Conference runs till Tuesday 21st September, 2010 from 09:00am daily

Venue: Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos

Panel Chairs: Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR, Prof Ola Oloidi, Prof Sheriff Adetoro, Dr John Ogene, Dr Funke Ifeta, Dr Jerry Buhari and Prof Jacob Jari.

Rapporteurs: Mr Chuka Nnabuife, Dr Helen Uhunmwagho, Mr Mike Omoighe, Mr Simon Ikpakronyi, Dr Anslem Nyah, Dr Nelson Edewor, Dr Ademola Azeez, Dr Tony Okonofua, Dr Ken Ikoli and Dr Sweet Ebeigbe.

Art Exhibition

Preview: 4:00pm on Sunday 19th of September, 2010

Opening: 4:00pm on Monday 20th of September, 2010

Exhibition runs till Sunday 26th of September, 2010 from 10:00am to 6:00pm daily

Venue: Harmattan Workshop Gallery, 10, Elsie Femi Pearse Street, off Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island Lagos

The convention is proudly supported by The Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF), Revilo, Interior Designers Association of Nigeria (IDAN), Victoria Crown Plaza Hotel, The Art Exchange, Southern Sun, Essential Interiors, Sachs Gallery, Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF), Bishops Cottage, Hallmark Suites, Bjay’s Hotel, Westfoster Harbour, La Cour, Sofitel Accor Hotel & Resorts, Arra Vineyards and Alliance Francaise.

Note to Journalists: For more information, please contact Oliver Enwonwu at oliver at or call +234(0)8033129276.

Also, here is the link to the article by the Compass’ Emmanuel Agonzino that came into my inbox today. Also, two days ago, Next’s Olushola Ojikutu published a brief article about the Independence Exhibition in Abuja.

Based on the concept of creating a historical narrative about the achievements, challenges and aspiration of Nigeria; the focus of the exhibition will be to tell the story of Nigeria’s cultural freedom through physical and virtual formats. Among the major highlights of the exhibition will be the bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II of England, produced in the 1950s by the renowned Nigerian artist, Late Ben Enwonwu. Classic traditional works of Nok, Igbo Ukwu, Ife and Benin cultures will also be exhibited.

It will also feature electronic productions, Traditional Nigerian Art, Contemporary Nigerian Art, Science &Technology, Historical materials, Made-in-Nigeria products and documentaries on Military matters. Art entries were drawn from governmental, private and educational institutions, and will demonstrate the vibrant and dynamic cultural development of our nation.

‘Journey of our Independence: Mega Exhibition for Nigeria @ 50’ is open to the public at the Velodrome, National Stadium, Abuja, until October 31.

El Komo’s comment on the website took me a bit aback because to me Enwonwu’s bust of the Queen Elizabeth II always symbolically stood for his international recognition at the time. But obviously this is only one possible perspective:

Posted by El Komo on Sep 16 2010

A sculpture of our colonial masters to celebrate our Independence is rather distasteful.

How do other Nigerian’s feel about this particular piece in the Independence Exhibition?

Anyway, this much I stumbled across in the papers, now let’s get back to the final final changes on this thesis. Two weeks from today I will have to have submitted. Scary. Exciting. Oh, how I wish I had the money to reward myself with a trip to Nigeria to see the exhibition in Abuja and maybe sneak into the SNA convention!!!