Friday, 26 February 2010


To be Arts Manager of substance, one needs to be subtle, gentle and persistent, these are the good qualities and on the other hand, brutality is a virtual which needs to be applied as at when due. Because if you do not apply it, your image or personality may be rubbish and the project you are trying to safeguard may be a thing of the past through the name of being a partisan manager. Arts Manager needs to be tactful too to be a successful one. 

As an Arts Manager, I created Poetry Potter in 2005 and it commenced in January 2006. It’s been a monthly platform since then for both young and old artistes and arts enthusiasts, to express and enjoy themselves. It’s fun being around at every edition of the project.  

This project at least runs close to seven times in a year and at times more than that. But for the first time since the inception of the project, I am confronted with the reality of funding.

Well, one will ask: where were the funds you’ve been using from inception come from? And it will be interesting to know that I solely funded the project with my money throughout 2006. I was able to gain people’s confidence in the project and they started contributing monetarily to the progress and continuation of the project since 2007. However, my personally financially contribution towards the production monthly is more than what I get from my sponsors so to say. This reflects in the organisation’s annual financial report every year since 2006.

For the fact that January is a significant month in the history of the project, I managed to produce the last month edition (33rd edition) of the project, against all odds. And I immediately started advertising the February edition afterwards to make it a memorable one. But as the day close by, I realized that there is no fund available to produce the show and so, I announced to the fans and fellows of both the project and organization that this month’s edition is dicey. And so I was given the go ahead to conceal the event.

Here was the message I sent in cancellation of the programme:

It's with great regret we announce to our wonderful fans and friends of the family that the much advertised and talked about Love Edition of POETRY POTTER will not hold for a common reason which is 'LOGISTICS.'

Please bear with us. We promise to bring this event back on track soon and big (even bigger).

We are indeed sorry for the inconvenience.
Thanks for being there for us.
Thanks for your understanding. 

Tears flew through my heart while I was writing the above text because I felt pierced with a spear through my heart as I typed each one word which summed up the statement of cancellation. It’s indeed sad to want to produce a show and there is no fund available. I look forward to the day I will my first grant to produce a project.    


In the meantime, I will like to thank our collaborators since the commencement of operation of Kowry Kreations Media in 2006 till date.
Committee for Relevant Art is a group of artistes, art enthusiasts, art promoters and art writers committed to the development of the Arts of Nigeria and their enabling environment. 

The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) came to life on June 2, 1991. It's a culture activist organisation with the agenda to facilitate creation of an enabling environment for the flourishing of the contemporary arts of Nigeria, in the forms of Literature, Theatre, Fine Art, Movie, TV Programme Design and Production as well as Music. In these past 17 years, CORA has been at the forefront of championing the major issues that have shaped – directly or otherwise – the cultural landscape of Nigeria. The members operate as a body of facilitators of the sharing of ideas through the creation of the sort of interactions that lead to the birth of ideas or sharpening of existing ideas. Some of the most forward looking initiatives in the Nigerian culture environment came out of CORA-organized fora. CORA has carried on this intermediation role through the vehicle of its various programmes, projects and activities.

CORA According to Prince Claus Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) is a unique Nigerian organisation that creates spaces to engage the public in debate on cultural issues. Started in 1991 as a non-profit, non-governmental activist organisation, CORA’s aim is to explore all legitimate means to create an environment for the flourishing of contemporary culture in Nigeria, in particular to make the arts a lively, social and enjoyable experience for all people especially the young generations and to create a culture-friendly society.

Revolution Media, one of Nigeria's most dynamic media companies, the company’s focus has always been about youth empowerment with initiatives that are no different. The specialty of this company is to help young entrepreneurial to take their financial destinies in their own hands. This in view that in many other countries around the world, visual design and communication is almost the exclusive preserve of young people.

Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA,Lagos) is an independent non-profit making visual art organisation set up in December 2007 to provide a platform for the development, presentation, and discussion of contemporary visual art and culture.
CCA, Lagos will prioritise new media and experimental visual art practice such as photography, animation, film and video, performance art, and installation art, which have been under-presented in contemporary Nigerian artistic practice.

It will present a diverse programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks, seminars, performances and film screenings. CCA, Lagos will focus on Nigeria and the West African Region in addition to collaborating with other African and international organisations, artists and curators.

CCA, Lagos consists of an art space and a visual art library. 

There was creative writing being before in Africa before the emergence of a Nigerian literature. It was with the rise of the Nigeria-Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, J.P Clark Christopher Okigbo, Mabel Segun, T.M Aluko, Flora Nwapa, Gabriel Okara, and Elechi Amadi-the African literature came into its own as a categorical enterprise for the rest of the world to appreciate. It was not a fluke. 

Nigerian creative writers have contributed to some of the most positive elements to the international image that Nigeria has acquired since independence in 1960. They have attracted grand international visibility and respect to the country through their outstanding creativity and by winning all the accessible international literary prizes: First prize at the 1962 All-Negro Festival for arts, Commonwealth Prose and Poetry prizes, BBC Drama, Poetry, Short Story and Folklore prizes, Noma award the Booker prize and the Nobel Prize.

The Lagos chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors remains the most vibrant amongst the 36 chapters, including the federal capital city, Abuja. In 2007, Kowry Kreations Media collaborated with ANA Lagos to a pay a tribute to an active member of the association and the chapter. 

GML Entertainment Company – the runner of Club O2, a club with special interest in the promotion of entertaining arts and improvement of youth in the Cultural industries, an adjunct of the Creative industries at large.  

HEV/Snap PICTURES is an emerging company with bias for the still picture and motion pictures.
Capricorn Tents and More, an event management company.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


By Aderemi Adegbite

Aderemi Adegbite with a renowned Artist during an exposition in Berlin

On the current scene, one will realize that all hope is not lost with the Lagos State government involvement in visual, moving and literary arts, be it at individual or corporate levels. The twelve million population state hypothetically has sixty galleries, which only two third of them function as it were. But it is welcoming that the government is currently commissioning Memorials and Parks in spaces like Muri Okunola Park along Ozumba Mbadiwe on the Victoria Island, Prof. Ayodele Awoyokun Park at Onike roundabout in Yaba and lots more. 

As a member of the delegates that were sent to Berlin - Germany, by the Goethe Institut on the 2009 Visiting Programme, Lagos as my state of residence and birth was constantly on my mind throughout my stay. My mind was always beclouded by the contrast of the two cities. 

Things work, despite the reality that BERLIN—in less than a hundred years, has survived two major world wars, famine, division of state (West and East), and reunification - fall of Berlin Wall, the loss and regaining of status as the capital of German. It’s been a turbulent century, but remarkably, the city is still in one piece. The political undertone cannot be deemphasized though, while it is not for the tourists to be able to decipher it as the cultural landscape of the city is laced with century’s aesthetics of their struggles and victories.     

Memorials are built in strategic spaces as documentation of history of the state, never underplayed the volatility of the stories behind them. The Jewish Memorial and Museum, is one such documentation that imprints the magnanimity of injustice done on the Jewish Community during the cold war. And in no way was the museum intended to instigate any form of violence, but a tourist’s with the history.    

Andrea Ruf, an art historian and an archeologist, who was our escort and instructor during the programme secured meetings with culture workers both at the private and government levels. And we were made to know the reason why the city has remain a tourists’ attraction in the recent times. The historical mystique with municipal support for the arts and the six hundred art galleries with the Museum Island recently acclaimed by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites were only testimonies. Apart from the government support for the arts, there are foundations and associations that fund arts and literary projects in Berlin.

With less than four million inhabitants, Berlin was rated as the cheapest city in the whole of Germany and the government is yet to be satisfied about the condition of leaving in her state. This remains one of the several reasons why artistes from different parts of the world migrate to the city yearly.

To compare, the cost of living in Lagos is on the high side and incentives in whatever forms are not given to artistes by the Culture Ministry and other culture arms of the government both at the local and federal levels. There is no public fund instituted by either corporate individuals or private corporate institutions in this historical city with quantum of teeming artistes who yearly seek for foreign funds for the exploitation of their creative intuition. There is no doubt that Lagos is the Nigerian’s Art City, just as Istanbul is to Germany.

But remissness of the government on the state and its inhabitants has made the city lost many of her finest artistes to arts supporting cities in the world. Canada, New York, Munich, Los Angeles, Berlin, Amsterdam, London and Paris are few of the cities where musicians, artists, writers, arts promoters/managers and curators who should take Nigerian arts to the international frontier flee to year in year out.  

If twenty years is enough for Berlin with man power and intellectual capacity deployed to the aesthetic of arts and its history in spite of the odds, less than that should be enough for Lagos to get on her feet. As a state with rich history, particularly during the slave trade, tourists should be beaming in Lagos like the ray of sun light. But some of the slave ports have been sold to churches, shrewd foreign businessmen and the rest left without protection.

Powering Christmas-lights with generating sets during Christmas celebration will only take Lagos many steps backwards not a step forward, when Delft University students in Netherland,  are celebrating more than 600 days of space exploration, after the successful launch of their Milk Carton-sized satellite. Technicians and artistes are now collaborating around the world to bring out new forms of art installations and develop new means of technology for the performing arts. The synergy between arts and technologies abroad is on the high side.

Although, the green grass and plant a tree projects are in line with the global warming agenda and recreation spaces which also incorporate memorials and parks are good innovations. But the status and public art pieces are not telling stories because signatures of renowned artists are not on them. The mega-city project should revive the vibrant history for Lagos and create a new one out of the existing ones, not just a project for it sake. For instant, if the artist that created the Eyo statue at Adeniji Adele roundabout collaborated with an arty technician, the piece will be a site of attraction not just an art piece for it sake as it were.

There are internationally acclaimed artists and curators that are based in Lagos whose names and integrity could be employed to give a face to the beautification of memorials and parks process. Bruce Onabrakpeya, Kolade Oshinawo, Mufu Onifade, the originator of Araism and their contemporary are much around. Works of the dead artists are well protected and preserved by friends, relatives and collectors. Lagos state government should tap into these names to give those statuses face and life of their own so as to attract tourists’ attention to the state. The must be a valid story to each public art piece and reference.  

The road networks must be perfected to ease movement around the state. Electricity and security are some other major players in the tourism business. We the resources on ground, Lagos is capable of putting her name on the map of tourist’s favourite city in Africa. 

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Valentine Session of POETRY POTTER - 34

 We have decided to go
With the winds
This month.

This session of Poetry Potter
Will celebrate with the theme:
'Love in the Winds'

Come with your couple
And celebrate with us,
It's going to be funfare.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The State of Nigerian Literature: A Cursory Glance

By Odili Ujubuonu


A people without a literature is a people without life. Not life in the sense of existence but life in the sense of experiencing humanisitic sensibilities that trump everything else. Nigerians cannot be described as people lacking life. We have a vibrant lifestyle. One full of vim and verve. We express ourselves freely everywhere we are. We cry out tears when we should and sometimes laugh out tears when we shouldn’t. We live in words and we live in bright colours. Proverbs dance on our tongues and our world is poetry lived. This is the state of our life. If you look around us here in this hall we are not dressed in one drab colour for we are not a mono fashion country. Wherever we are colours follow us in styles that are as distinct as we are. This is the state of our life. How then do we translate this state of life into our literature and how do we get our literature back into our lives? How do we complete that cycle of beauty which literature and life when cojoined, confer on a people? We will attempt an answer to these, my brothers and sisters, in the next few pages.

Serious writing is going on. New and brilliant writers appear yearly on the scene. Old writers keep getting better. Scholars spend time studying the literary production of our people. Our numerous universities are studying our works. Literary readings, book presentations, reading promotions and book treks are taking different shapes now more than any other period in our life. In fact, we presently have more literary Awards than any other period in Nigerian history. Apart from these traditional means, we have advanced to the new media in promoting ourselves and our works. Many writers now host their own websites. Virtually all the young writers have blogs of their own and are active in social networks like, yahoogroups, facebook, twitter et al. In a nutshell, writers of previous generations never had it so good. We have every opportunity to become world class writers from the silent corners of our lairs. This is the state of Nigerian literature.

Then what is the problem? How can we have all these and say that our mute button is pressed down? Why are the loud speakers not working? Why are our books not popular in Nigerian living rooms, in public places and the general market. Why is it easier to buy our books in bookshops found in Victoria Island than we would in Ojuelegba or your local shop in Ejigbo? Why is it easier for hawkers to present to you pirated copies of the bible than they would The Last of the Strong Ones and or Under the Brown Rusted Roof?
The problem can be located in four major areas of our Book life. One is our kind of writing. Two is our kind of publishing, three is our kind of distribution and four is our kind of selves.

The very nature of our colonial experience foisted our post colonial literature on the stimuli of the colonial state, and lately on the pull of globalisation. We hardly write for our national audience. We write to sate the thirst of what Jeyifo calls the ‘deterritorialised audience.’ It does not matter if the subject of writing hardly interests our own nationals. Related to this is the fact that Literature for some of us must be ‘committed’. It should be the instrument of the vanguard of the proletariat. One that must be used as a means of correcting our ailing order. It must carry the pains and conditions of the society it exists in. It must in a nutshell, be an extension of our journalistic passion. Great ideas. Fantastic classroom dicta.

So who is our audience? Are they not the same people who experience what we experience, the same people who have read, one way or the other, the subject of our tale from newspapers? Our books gradually begin to sound like the political columns of our newspapers. What happens to the escapist function of the novel? What happens to the celebration of the beauty of language, life, light and love of poetry. What happens to humanity and what happens to the alternative, the greener other-sidedness of our life? Is political commitment the only engagement our senses experience? The answer is no. There is love, there is crime, there is human nature and there is the real colourful, and exciting life of Nigerians. There is even football, ugba and more.

But wait. I must confess that in recent times some new writers are exploring these paths and it counts heavily in favour of their success. Look at the works of Jude Dibia, Toni Kan, Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo, Kaine Agary and recently Ahmed Maiwada’s Musdoki. These writers have chosen to bring fresh tales that stir our sensibilities. The question is will these same writers not be accused of writing flesh and wine literature? Will they not be forced to go back to doing what we know how to do best - our kind of writing? But let us be truthful to ourselves. Is our kind of writing not a child of our kind of publishing?

The problem with publishing has been like a cliche in recent times. In different fora practitioners have identified the problem of our literature with the kind of publishing we inherited from our kind of history. What kind of publishing? What kind of history? A cynic may ask. It was part of the colonial agenda. The industry was set up to publish for colonial schools. It was never meant to serve the pleasure of the reading public. After all, they believed we could not read. They left entertainment publishing to the so-called Onitsha market literature. Those grand old pamphleteerers made their money. The publishing houses in Nigeria became mere cyclostyling agencies of the colonial publishing houses of Europe. They published books by British writers and in some merciful cases, adapted them by adding dots of Nigerian huts and names. When writers were published, their books were mainly for the use of schools. The publishing malaria then became kwashiokor when in early 1990s the Nigerian economy collapsed. The major houses either sold off and left or shifted their operations to greener pastures. What was left were houses who were willing to do for writers the same thing a Shomolu printer would do for anyone. Bring ya book, pay me money, I go publish am for you. That is the state of Nigerian literature. The consequence of this is a motley of badly edited and sometimes badly printed books.

In summary, no proper publishing structure exists to carry the weight of our literature. The few Nigerians who invested in publishing afterwards inherited nothing. They have to build new structures from the scratch. They do this with shoestring budgets. Here, I must mention the exceptional efforts of Kraftbooks, Farafina, Lantern and Cassava Republic. These houses with all their challenges have been able to keep the publishing industry alive. This lack of structure is more evident in the distribution network in Nigeria. 

I stand to be challenged if I declare in this forum that there is no book distribution network in Nigeria. What we have are a set of unco-ordinated bookshops, few wholesalers and Publishing houses who send reps about town with carload of books to bribe school teachers to force children to buy their books. Imagine a country of one hundred and fifty million people with half of the population assumed to be literate yet we cannot sell upto 150,000 copies of some of our best selling authors. This happens because of a disconnect between active writing and active buying of books. That is why I say the mute button is pressed down. That is the state of Nigerian literature.

Finally, writers are part of the problem. Our kind of selves. Yes! Our kind of selves. What have you done for Nigerian literature? What have I, Odili Ujubuonu, done? I will answer “nothing.” Some may be quick to exonerate themselves by saying that they have contributed by writing good stories and poems read by people and studied by scholars. Thanks . But that is not enough. We must begin what our founding fathers did. They did not wait for the government or publishing houses to recommend their books. They created a vibrant critical industry - reading, reviewing and criticising works of their peers. We are too self conscious. Too Self worshipping. I am good; the other is bad. I am an award winner; the other is just starting. My language is wonderful; the other writes trite. We have become the centre of our own world so much so that when critics tell us a bit of what we truly are, we become incensed. We like critics that tell us what we want to hear but condemn those that hit us as hard as we have abused the beautiful art of literature. That is also the state of Nigerian literature.

Can we get better than we are now? I think we can. One step towards this is calling to mind where we are and where we are heading. We must in the words of Chinua Achebe discover where the rain started beating us in order to know when and where to ask for an umbrella. Creating this forum for us to talk about our state is a progressive lever towards achieving this. For over five years now Nigeria LNG Limited has intervened. Writers have been drawn out of their quiet corners and placed at the centre of national attention through The Nigeria Prize for Literature. The prize has also stimulated interest in all the genres of literature thereby opening a dialogue box between Scholarship and writing. Sometimes, this relationship has been challenging and, most times, it has been exciting but, at all times, it has been engaging.

Finally, I believe that NLNG, by now, has recorded some successes sponsoring The Nigerian Prize for Literature. A greater joy, however, will be theirs and ours if we all, this evening, take more than a cursory glance at the state of Nigerian literature. It calls for pause and reflection.

Thank you my dear colleagues.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

'On Independence and the Ambivalence of Promise'

8 February to 6 March, 2010

Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9, McEwen Street,
Sabo, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria

CCA, Lagos is pleased to present On Independence and the Ambivalence of Promise, a year-long programme that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Independence of seventeen African countries including Nigeria. The intellectual and conceptual underpinning of the project questions the limits of postcolonial critical thinking and ideas. Furthermore, it considers dreams, realities and possibilities for full independence that have engaged people and communities across languages, cultures and regions. The project attempts to engender new methods of reflecting on the economic, cultural and socio-political concerns of the present as well as questioning one's relationship to the larger totality. This provides a platform on which artists and cultural practitioners can explore new ways of engaging and articulating the conditions of our contemporaneity.

Under the principle theme of On Independence and the Ambivalence of Promise, CCA, Lagos starts this landmark year with an ambitious international art photography residency programme that explores the ever-evolving aesthetic, conceptual and technical potential of art photography. Over an intensive 30-day period, the residency deemphasizes hierarchy in order to promote a profound level of dialogue and exchange among its participants. Artists will take part in lectures, seminars, portfolio reviews, and group critiques – in addition to pursuing independent and collaborative artistic projects.

Over the course of thirty days the residency will feature experienced local and international artists, critics, and curators including: Akinbode Akinbiyi (Nigeria/Germany); Miriam Backström (Sweden); Giovanni Carmini (Switzerland); Tam Fiofori (Nigeria); Marja Helander (Finland); Jide Adeniyi Jones (Nigeria); Heta Kuchka (Finland); Simon Njami (Cameroon); Senam Okudzeto (Ghana/Switzerland); Phillipe Pirotte (Belgium/Switzerland); Rosangela Renno (Brazil); Carrie Schneider (USA); Mats Stjernstedt (Sweden); Daniella Wennberg (Norway).

Among the participating artists are Aderemi Adegbite, Nduwhite Ahanonu, Lucy Azubuike, Ndidi Dike, Chidinma Nnorom, Richardson Ovbiebo, Adeniyi Odeleye, Folarin Shasanya and Uche Okpa-Iroha, William West from Nigeria; and their counterparts Landry Mbassi (Cameroon), Sabelo Mlangeni (South Africa) and Mauro Pinto (Mozambique).

Project conceived and developed for the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos by Aura Seikkula, independent curator, Helsinki, and Bisi Silva, director/curator, CCA, Lagos Project Co-ordinated by Antawan I. Byrd, 09-10 US Fulbright Fellow/curatorial assistant, CCA, Lagos

CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART, LAGOS is an independent non-profit visual art organisation founded in December 2007 to provide a platform for the development, presentation, and discussion of contemporary visual art and culture. CCA, Lagos supports the intellectual and critical development of different art and cultural practices through talks, seminars, publications, workshops and exhibitions. In addition it encourages and promotes the professionalisation of artistic and curatorial practices in Nigeria and West Africa by collaborating with national and international artists, curators, writers, theorists and organizations.

CCA, Lagos gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Nordic Culture Point, the Finnish Fund for Art Exchange, and AECID through the Embassy of Spain in Nigeria. Further support from Ministry of Culture, Brazil, ProHelvetia, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, the Kunsthalle Bern, the Swedish Institute and the Public Affairs Department of the US Embassy, Lagos, Nigeria. In partnership with PictureWorksExtra, Nigeria and FrameshopExtra, Nigeria.

For further information please contact:
Antawan Byrd
+234 702 836 7106

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Importance of Midpoint Corrections

The President - J F Kennedy Center
January represents the midpoint in the season for many United States arts organizations. By this point, many of us know whether the year is progressing as we had expected when we developed the budget for the year.
For too many of us, the news this season isn't good. A major grant may have been lost, a production may have died at the box office, or a project went wildly over budget. For most organizations, at least one element of the fundraising campaign is not meeting target. At this rate, many arts organizations are headed for a serious deficit for the fiscal year.
So what do we do? 

One thing we cannot do is 'hope' that things get better. They rarely do by themselves.
Too many arts managers simply accept the fact that this season is not going well and believe that next year will be better. (And a good percentage of these managers base next year's budget on this year's budget, rather than this year's actual results; this makes next year's budget even more difficult to achieve.) These managers are often so busy planning for next year they forget that there is work to be done to salvage this year. 

This month we must split our focus. Of course we must plan for the season ahead, develop our subscription brochures and finish (start?) our budget for next season. 

But we must also change course midstream for this season if the results are not good enough. We must cut budgets and accelerate the search for new contributions and new audience members. If we wait until spring, it will be too late to make meaningful budget cuts and to implement revenue-enhancement programs. 

Because I talk publically so often about not cutting programming or marketing in the face of fiscal challenges, some people believe that I don't cut budgets at all. This is, of course, untrue, as my staff will readily attest. Virtually every year, somewhere from December to February, I cut the budget if I see that revenue is not what we had expected or costs have gotten out of control.
We cannot wait for our boards to demand cuts; we have to make them ourselves. 

I, personally, cannot sleep when I have not figured out how to balance my budget. This is not a happy way to live but it is a healthy one for the organizations I manage. 

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