The troubles of finding an enabling space to create great art, without being bogged down by the realities of present-day Nigeria, is one artists living and working in this country are intimate with in many ways. If Nigeria were a more mythological place, the groans of writers, filmmakers, photographers, visual artists, performance artists, etc., etc., would be enough to power the brazen bull that is our bizarre no-light-no-fuel-no-nothing situation. This condition inevitably leads to a scramble for art residencies and endowments that, before now, existed only outside the country.
For a long time, artists in Nigeria have believed that the only way up is out, and once out, the logical thing is to strive never to return. Recently, however, a number of organisations in Nigeria have started to rise up to the challenge of creating avenues for growth for artists in Nigeria. Art Clip Africa, which started off an artist-in-residence program last year, African Artists’ Foundation, the organiser of the LagosPhoto Festival and National Arts Competition, and the Arthouse Foundation are few of these organisations now offering opportunities to making art in Nigeria sans groans.
Arthouse Foundation’s residency programme for artists opened last year with Victor Ekpuk, the first recipient of the residency, who completed a four-month residence at the foundation in 2015 and opened an exhibition on the 9th of April, after a decade away from the country, tagged Coming Home, that runs until the 30th of April. This year, Dipo Doherty, Olumide Onadipe, Tyna Adebowale, and Jelili Atiku will join him as recipients of the residency. Doherty and Onadipe will stay as artists-in-residence at the foundation for two months, starting on the 18th of April for the Spring session while the other two artists will be part of the Fall session that starts on the 12th of September 2016.
Working in Lagos, with its surfeit of energy and inspiration, definitely has a way of influencing artists in a lot of positive ways. It therefore remains to be seen, how having this great part of the city combined with excellent working conditions will shape the works of these artists during their residencies. One is tempted to consider organisations like Arthouse, with these efforts to nurture the growth of arts and artists, in heroic terms, like Theseus swooping in to save greek cities (to belabour this silly mythological metaphor), but in reality, they are only teams of salvagers, hoping to find and support talent in the artistic ruins that has been left by years of neglect. More of them will be needed before we can boldly say Nigeria is a country that supports the arts.