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2015: How culture producers, promoters made the difference 

By Japhet Alakam & Prisca  Sam Duru

IN spite of the 2015 general  elections that affected most of the activities of several sectors in the country,  the Art and Culture sector globally regarded as the flagship for both economic and social development of any society experienced huge success. Even with the scrapping of the Art , Culture and Tourism Ministry by the present administration, arts and culture producers and promoters, saw to it that the sector went on with its activities and in return recorded tremendous success. This was because, the sector despite its contributions to the nation’s GDP has never been a good bride of the government.

•Flight, one of the works by Yusuf Grillo

In the year under review, a whole lot of activities took place in the art industry which are indications of the huge progress recorded. In the visual art circuit, one of the vibrant areas of art, Nigerians demonstrated their creative ingenuity through a series of exhibitions as many galleries opened their space for both the upcoming and established artists. Among the exhibitions were the ones held at Alexis gallery, Lagos, Omenka gallery, National museum, Terra Kulture,  Temple Muse,  and many others.

 Unique solo exhibition

But the most outstanding exhibition of the year, which can be regarded as the mother of all shows was the unique solo exhibition organised by Arthouse Space for one of Africa’s living modernist masters, Prof Yusuf Grillo titled Igi Araba.  Held at the Kia Showroom, Adeola Odeku street, Victoria Island, Lagos, it featured body of works that make his legendary night blue strokes glow with some of the never-before-seen paintings.

The opening which was like a carnival was graced by prominent Nigerians, captains of industry, diplomats, expatriates, art collectors, promoters and lovers especially the members of the Zaria rebels, was declared open by the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Ranti Adebule who represented Governor Ambode of Lagos State. Another major exhibition of the year was Shifting The Paradigm, a historic exhibition by Nigerian contemporary artists, George Edozie which took place at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) North Miami, Florida.

It was the first time that an African had a full museum show at Art Basel. Apart from exhibitions, other art events that shaped the year include the  8th National Art Competition, organised by African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) and sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc, with the  theme “Future Histories.” It was won by Sabastine Ugwuoke and he went home with the sum of N2 million.

Another area was with stage performances, where the practitioners once more demonstrated that  stage performances were still very relevant in Nigeria in spite of the wide appeal of home videos. Leading the stage in that direction was the National Troupe of Nigeria, which under its new Artistic Director, Akin Adejuwon took the troupe to performances in many cities in Nigeria and outside. Others include, Kakadu the musical, Avalanche:The Kings Of Dance, Hear Word by Ifeoma Fafunwa and Dis Fix, a dance event that brought together both disabled and able bodied was held by the British Council in Lagos.

In the literary angle, despite the poor economy, Nigerians still showed their love for book as many events took place in the book industry. One of the events was handing over by Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital of the UNESCO World Book Capital to South Korea in April as the next host. The Nigerian International book fair, which  brings together all the stakeholders in the book industry was held at its usual venue, University of Lagos. The annual Author’s Forum, that celebrates the book and authors, celebrated Chukwuemek Ike’s 50 years of writing.

Another shocker for the year was the announcement of no winner for 2015 Nigeria Prize for Literature. As was the case in 2004 and 2009 when no winner emerged for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, in prose and poetry respectively, so it was year, when sponsors of the Prize; Nigeria LNG, declared no winner for the year’s competition. Also, Nigerians experienced book presentations like never before, as many new books hit the book stands during the year. Some of the new titles that made it in 2015 included; Voices from Within: Essays on Nigerian Journalism in honour of Mr Sam Amuka at 80.

Edited by Lanre Idowu, the presentation which took place at NIIA, Victoria Island drew the who is who in  society; others include, ‘Principles & Practice of Commercial Arbitration’ by an expert in Maritime and Admiralty Law, international trade, oil and gas, commercial law and arbitration, Professor Joseph McCarthy Mbadugha. Elnathan John’s novel, “Baron of Broad Street” which chronicles the polarized worlds of  Lagos impoverished and affluent, co-habiting, yet a world apart. ‘New Dawn of Change: If I Were Buhari’ was launched at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos.

Also, “STELLA – Her Journey and Legacy” (Biography Book on Late Chief Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, written by Antoinette-Rita) was presented in Abeokuta, Ogun State during the 10th year Memorial Service held in her honour.  June 12 Election: Campaign for Democracy and the Implosion of the Nigerian Left written by Onyeisi, “This House is not for Sale” by E.C Osondu, “For Sam, A collection of Contemporary Thoughts”, a book written by Jimi Disu and dedicated to Vanguard Publisher, Mr. Sam Amuka, Chux Onyenyonwu’s epic book, The Sixth Fingers, Titus Okereke’s Our Father’s Land, including reminiscences  on the Nigerian Civil War, Raji Fashola’s Great leap and two others and many more.

As it was in the literary scene, so it with festivals as many arts and books festivals spiced up events in the industry. The annual international arts festival of photography in Nigeria, LagosPhoto festival, in its sixth edition, held at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. Other events were, the 3rd edition of the Ake Arts and Book festival ,The 2015 iRep Film Festival, during which about 50 films were screened, at the Freedom Park, Lagos. The 2015 Music Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Festival, The 17th Lagos Book & Art Festival, LABAF and many more.

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