By Ireyimika Oyegbami
September 6, 2009
The alleged role that curators play in making artworks inaccessible to the public took the front burner at the last monthly meeting of Poetry Potter, held on August 29.
A regular gathering of artistic minds in Lagos, the programme, which drew participants from the city’s poets, painters and other artistes featured drama presentations, music and dance.
A play titled Death of the Curator, directed by Lekan Balogun, highlighted the perceived role of curators in keeping works of art from public viewing, a charge Bisi Silva, a curator, vigorously defended.
Corruption in the art world
This subject was the focus of the hour-long drama performed by three men dressed in traditional costumes depicting the North, East and Western parts of Nigeria.
Characters spoke about how curators around the world were responsible for the dearth of art and also on corruption in the art world, which made it impossible for ordinary people to relate with the arts.
One says, “The common man is no longer able to improve his happiness through arts as the curators sit on artworks keeping them out of reach of the common man, hiding art away in coffins and moving them around rich men’s homes and museums, away from where the artwork originated from.”
The curators and not the artist, it was argued, get paid the huge revenues generated by artworks. Successive world governments were not left out of the bashing as the curators were described as their tools in the perceived worldwide aim to systematically rob mankind of the precious gift of art.
The play was very well put together and was well received by the audience.
In her submission, Silva said that while the supremacy of the curator could be curtailed, they should not be done away with. She wondered what the artists would do if there were no curators.
Playwright, director and actor, Lekan Balogun, spoke on the role of theatre in pre-independence society when the people in government applied such disdainful terms as “cockroach theatre” and “moribund plays” to the theatre and dramatic works.
Writers and vanity publishing
Among the special guests at the event were El Nukoya, author of the novel Nine Lives and Lilian Ama Aluko, actress, movie producer and author of the novel Echoes of a Heartbeat.
Ibadan-born Nukoya, who paints, said his pseudonym is the coinage of a Yoruba phrase which means “to select” in Arabic.
He revealed that it took him years to write Nine Lives because as he stated: “I never write when I’m not inspired to do so,” adding that computers were rare when he started writing in school. After his youth service, he had 1225 sheets of diverse colours and sizes on which he had scribbled his work.
El Nukoya, who self-published his book, said the so-called vanity publishing was an intellectual challenge which was up to the writer. He listed some of the challenges he encountered on the road to publication.
An international publishing firm refused to take him on, saying they could not place his book because he had characters wearing Valentino shirts and driving a Porsche, which did not fit in with the Africa they wanted to portray.
He further claimed that the few publishing houses in the country only did two kinds of publishing: academic writing and biographies of celebrities where the publishers are sure of making at least ninety percent returns at the book launch. “This is why most Nigerian writers are self-published,” he concluded.
Aluko asked why Nollywood was not known for adapting good books to movies and noted that copyright acquisition is difficult. Her going into playwriting and acting, she said, was due to her love of reading in her childhood, when she constantly raided her father’s library.
Commenting on the complaints about the sound quality of movies produced in Nigeria, the actress blamed it on the noise of generators while shooting movies as the neighbours often put on generators which disturb the peace.
Both Aluko and El Nukoya gave advice to the creative writers at the event. They read excerpts from their works, and also signed autographs.
Excerpted from234Next: Curators take a bashing at Poetry Potter