It was the gathering of luminaries in the art industry recently at the Art Centre, Abuja where about 18 talented artists were given a platform to showcase some of their artistic dexterity with exquisite presentations of diverse arts.
The contemporary art exhibition organised by Retro Africa in collaboration with Enigma Art Collective, titled ‘Afro Modernism’ was necessitated due to the thriving art scenes in Abuja.
The co-founder of Retro Africa, Omodolapo Balogun, who decried the high number of talented yet struggling artists in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as worrisome, stressed that she was driven by the need to express Africa in a modern context.
According to her, the organisers of the exhibition aimed to delineate or shatter the boundary between the traditional and the contemporary.
Balogun noted that the aim was equally to spread awareness and encourage a cycle of growth and learning within the African art scene.
She said: “We did that assessment and we saw that there was a vacuum and we are willing to fill that vacuum.
“We started this platform basically because we wanted to build a network of exhibitors, art lovers, curators and collectors; basically a community of those who have interest in arts and those who are willing to showcase their talents
‘We realised that there was necessity to have thriving art scene in Abuja that we thought was lacking. Art scene in Nigeria is thriving; it is already established. If you go to Lagos and Jos, you will see that there are lots of art that are being displayed at home and abroad but I feel there should be more platforms. We are looking at unveiling the talents that we already have.
“What we saw that allowed the Lagos artists to thrive was the emphasis on collaborations. If you are too isolationist, if you want to keep your talent and your passion to yourself, then nothing is going to grow.
“We want to show to the world that we are open to collaboration, we are open to different ideas, and we are not rigid in any way.
“We would want our platform to become an international network and so we have already gotten a lot of positive responses from people across the continent. We are looking forward to showcase in South Korea,” she said.
In an interview, a university don and retired Cardiologist, Professor Chimele Abengowe, who was also an art lover and a guest at the event, accused the Federal Government and the media of not doing enough to encourage artists in the country, appealing to the media to help stimulate the government into action. “The government and people of Nigeria are not doing enough for art and we are not doing enough for other forms of education either.
“Art is something that shows the people in a way; Nigerian artists in many ways portray Nigeria. I don’t even think in European countries they are doing enough.
“You need help from everybody. But the government is not doing enough to encourage art and I think the media can help to stimulate the government.
“The media is not doing enough. You don’t have to wait for the government to give you what you need. The media can play an important role in every aspect of Nigerian life and art is one of them.”
Speaking with the co-owners of Enigma Art Collective, Dante Ndoma-Egba and Khenye Gageja, they explained that the occasion focuses on African modernism, showing Africa in a modern way so that people could appreciate the different types of Art in Africa.
Dante said, ‘African art is not all about calabashes, pots and fire. It’s nice to see Africa art from different aspects. You can see it in a video form, modern way and outfit, you can see it from printing and we can all share in it because we are all from different parts of the world.’
Khenye Gageja of Enigma Art Collective also explained that her live installation is a new aspect she is looking at in the art industry “like a model wearing one of her designs like an art, as the enigma art collective, we try to look at lost identity and also try to bring people to the fore front, like people who have been misplaced in the society. Like the albinos, those having negative connotations about them, we try to bring in the positive in an art which is socially conscious.
“That particular concept is about Namibian, they were the first genocides of the 21st century; they are a very lost culture and people don’t know who they are where they are from. And I brought a life model as an art here so people can meet and ask them questions.
The way you meet somebody in a show is the way I want you to meet my art work. When you see a printing art, it can’t speak but when you have a life model as an art, it can speak as well as interact with you and not just looking. Its holistic experience which you can touch the fabric, you can read about everything, at the same time you can look at it, that’s why I chose the life model.’’