Monday, 7 November 2016

Lagos Art Fair X

Nigerian | Akinwande Ayodeji Akinola

 It is quite an art to offend and impress at the same time. You have to find the rhythm in the words written and have a great sense of poetic timing along with plenty of old-fashioned love. African Art can do this so simply especially when it comes to how to commercialize Art. To make African Art as desirable as European Art. To Westernize a Continent, to create honey traps for Artlovers. Art Fairs, Auction Houses, Benefits and Private Views. This seems so upside down for most Africans but it is essential for the best of African Art be made visible to the wider world. What is usually so inclusive and necessary within most African Societies has been replaced by something more commercial, soulless and empty art. Art that is appealing in it's obvious availability for the Super rich and doable for those on a budget. The tables have turned and Westernized Africans are coming home with different appetites than previous generations. Many are seeking new creative identities. Talk of Cultural Independence is still something relatively few discuss but there are those that are finding creative ways to sell artworks and take control of what is regarded or considered culturally significant in order to stay one step ahead of the Western influences on Africa. Many are also wanting the exclusiveness of a London Gentlemen's Club, along with a what-is-mine-is-mine style attitudes and a selfishness that would make even the first explorers turn their heads in despair. We are here, stuck between a British Colonial black-lead style future or finding a comfortable solution to an authentic African Art experience that satisfies all parties. 
South African Cartoonist | Karl Schulschenk
So why Art? What is in it for the people? To create an elite group that can then exclude the majority. The Colonialists must be smiling in their seats of power. "They trained you well in London I see." The aim is to break the chains of cultural serfdom Highlight what Art can achieve and gather together various artists from Africa that can seek to find commonalities and build bridges not create divisions. And what of imagination, the way West Africa has for centuries been able to converse with spirits and gain a far greater understanding of their inner-selves via Voodou. Are they to reject all that they are and keep on nodding, whilst knowing that what they are giving up is their whole identity, their uniqueness? The Organizers are just asking those participating in this rush to Market, to be framed and essentially frame themselves in more ways than one. They are trying desperately to show the Continent about how important it is to package yourself up for Market. To be pigeon-holed like some Jack-in-a-box for a chance to make some paper money. What use is money when nobody sees any value in it's currency. If the artists are to sell their original works of art, how are the Museums able to exhibit their works, when they have all been sold to the lowest bidders? This irrational desire to sell Art in this way is like putting the cart before the horse.

Zimbabwean Photographer Kudzanai Chiurai - State of a Nation

We will always be misunderstood. Some even choose to misunderstand because to understand is to take the responsibilities of actions, investments made. Who wins out in the end, perhaps nobody. The truth-tellers must hold their ground and make what they say resonate with others. The words are of no importance but it is more about the intent. The purpose of using the words. The struggle to seek truth and to find the best solutions that makes the most sense. That is all we can ever finally achieve, if anything at all. What Power doesn't understand is the importance of feeling included in the conversation. To be active and having a voice however small or large, it is of such importance. That sense we were here when this happened and we hardly ignored it, we spoke at great length about it. We were included and that was the importance of our time. To start to change what has gone on for far too long. The systematical institutional racist educational upbringing that has set African minds thinking they are inferior or superior if they only excluded the majority. How very Un-African, a strange and vulgar mentality and an ugly way of understanding the world. There must be a better way.

Nigeria | Ade Adekola | Flags and Conflict

The work all looks the same, the subject matters are for Western eyes. That pathetic prerequisite, that vacant global middle-class feeling of self-satisfaction. That empty sense of a false consciousness in creating illusions and seemingly doing something worthwhile but so incredibly insincere about the outcome. In fact, so cynical most vote for both sides equally, taking no stance but more, taking no chance of the possibility of being wrong. Ensuring a safe outcome in a calculated Machiavellian style way. Those in the World of Art, well the better part of the Art World, are trying to discourage this type of buyer as it effects the works created and destroys the joy and pleasure in the making of the Art. The real excitement comes when the effectiveness has been achieved within the production process.  Generally speaking, World Art has become far more theatrical and almost plays into the hands of the Africans and as the middle classes within Nigeria rises this truth will have far more of a punch, or impact than it does right now. There has to be a turning point, a way forward that is on African terms, rather than those set up by the Europeans. The guidelines need to be put into place so that the best of Africa has an opportunity to be seen and celebrated. The pettiness of Academia with only make matters worse with their imperious, officious ways. The thrill of African Art is in it's rawness, in it’s natural state. In it's glorious "otherness", a superb alternative to what is otherwise being mass-produced and sold like tins of beans. The idea an Artist should not be able to live from the creation of Art is absurd, but that difficulty is the life of an Artist the world over.

The reason we remember the Civil Rights Movement in America of the 1960's and 70's is that feeling of wanting so badly to be in that Number. The strength came in the numbers, those so willing to put their necks on the gallows and be counted. That passion is born out when we observe the queues for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History. A waiting-list that stretches right up to Summertime 2017. To be included is a wonderful thing, to be allowed to take part is an unique experience for a Westerner. Lives in America and Europe have been exclusive, they have been State Affairs and are dealt with by trained monkeys from the military. All the responsibilities have been taken away by their so-called, "betters" who have taken up the reins. This reeks of Dictatorship but the West have been so blind to see it, too busy raising money for Wars and Starving Children and HIV/AIDS. Those in the West have unknowingly taken the lazy option but Africa must take note and must grow in confidence to have the basic instinct to know what is good and what is trying far too hard to please? These issues are raised every year yet nothing is done to improve. This reminds me of Cancer Research, it is not in their interest to find an overall cure but more importantly they need to expand, they need to exponentially grow, grow into the Cancer Industry. Now the focus is not so much on a Cure but on Cancer. Next, create the fear by stating half the population will have Cancer. Put out statistics like 1 in 2 will have Cancer in their lifetime  and then the focus is on the necessity and desperate need to increase the budget year after year. The same is happening to the African Art Industry. The constant wheels of power turning, finding ever increasing ways to extract cash from deep pockets and twisting the common donator into a lucrative Cash-cow. This is the merry-go-round of Modernism, the illusion of change is created but only to keep the cogs of power well oiled and turning. What is the necessity for change, there is no motivation to change a thing? We live in a world that relies on technicalities, ways in which we can embellish and exploit those that need us most.  This has created a very cynical and sick society in the West, it would be sad if that same unhappiness is transported to Africa. It is essential that we become aware of what we do today will reflect on Tomorrows World. Throughout all the countries of Africa, Governments need to start to wake up to the true potential and overall benefit for supporting the Arts. Only then can they take back control of their Cultural Identity. In conclusion, by creatively blending Traditional Africa with the Modern in a way that insults neither, African Nations can successfully achieve a genuine and authentic notion of Modern Africa that is in a constant state of creative positive change.


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