The second edition of ArtX Lagos was stamped as the “it” place to be. Compared to last year’s event, the number of people in attendance significantly skyrocketed, reaching over 9,000 visitors. If you weren’t at the Civic Centre then the question would be “what were you doing?”
For those who didn’t attend and have been wondering what exactly the fuss is all about, ArtX Lagos is West Africa’s first international art fair designed to showcase the best and most innovative contemporary art from the African continent; It is an initiative to widen Nigeria’s connection to the art scene across Africa and the globe.
ArtX Lagos this year welcomed the work of various artists such as Yinka Shonibare, Johnson Uwandima, Oluseye and Lakin Ogunbawo, Tony Nsofor, Olumide Onadipe, Medric Turay, Godfried Donkor, Rahima Gambo and many more.
All the artists I believe had a message to pass along. Through this, we see that creativity and art have become a means of communication to the masses – an interaction between the artist and the world through the means of a painting, sculpture, or photograph. My personal favorites had to be the photographs titled “The Industrial Man” by Kadara Enyesi, and a painting titled, ‘Why too much traffic jam?’ by Cameroonian Boris Nzebo. The painting, I believe, spoke to me the most because through Nzebo’s work, he was trying to denounce the superficial outlook that most of us have towards life.
The part of the event which I found to be the most pertinent was the ArtX Talks. This was a segment that program organizers had last year which was included again this year. With the room overflowing with eager listeners, I was able to squeeze in a space at the talk with Lemi Ghariokwu. (For those of us who don’t know who Lemi is, some people refer to him as the ‘king of covers’, for his best-known work in the numerous album covers he made for (artist) Fela Kuti.)
Ghariokwu was born Emmanuel Sunday, but later changed his name when he realized that the name did not reflect on his African Heritage. Ghariokwu spoke on many topics, but the two I’d like to highlight in this article is what he highlighted about consciousness and the power of women.
Ghariokwu said that he acquired consciousness from a young age, which is what shaped him into becoming the man that he is today. He expressed his feelings about how Africans are confused people because we seem to lack this thing called consciousness, and that consciousness is mental – we dress like foreigners, yet we do not have the mentality of these foreigners (we follow them because we feel as if we are inferior). Ghariokwu continued by raising a subject that seems to be taboo these: “Over religiousness is killing the country!” he exclaimed. His point was that good character is better than religion and that a lot of Nigerians here are claim religion, without the character traits that go along with it.
Ghariokwu also spoke on the power of his female counterparts. He said he had great regard for his mother, and she supported him in his decision to pursue art. Because of his mother’s support, Ghariokwu places women in an exalted position; he calls women ‘the first philosophers’. He told the audience the story of how a big part of Fela’s consciousness was prompted by musician and social activist Sandra Izsadore; she influenced his political views and encouraged him to write more powerful lyrics that would carry a message through his music.
In a nutshell, I think what one needs to take from ArtX Lagos is the fact that it is a culturally enhancing experience. It gives both art enthusiasts and amateur artists the opportunity to seize inspiration from the various artistic works.
It appears, however, that more people were interested in the social aspect of ArtX rather than the cultural or the art aspect itself. But that’s a critic for another article.
Overall Art X Lagos was a fine experience; attending the event, both this year and last year, helped me appreciate the grand efforts of the organizers to make it a success.
I encourage youths like myself to be more inclined to attend events like this that will impact them both intellectually and culturally, and help with the globalization of Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Pearl K. Nzewi