Arts + Culture

Here's What Went Down at the Second Edition of Art X Lagos

Art X Lagos indeed returned bigger and bolder this year. Here's a recap of the three-day affair.

The second edition of Art X Lagos received over 8,000 people at the Civic Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, where over 60 artists representing 15 African countries and 14 galleries engaged guests with visual art, talks and live performances.

The first piece of art on display was Olatunde Alara's Smile installation, two parallel, smiley-adorned wooden boards spray-painted a bright yellow on the outside and a sombre red. Curious visitors walked between and around slabs of contrasting colors—a metaphor for the conflict that sometimes occurs between the mind and body of individuals battling mental illness.

As part of the installation, Alara asked the unsuspecting audience their views on mental illness before his collaborators, mental health professionals, 'intervened' with answers.

Another interactive project that welcomed patrons outside was Olalekan Jeyifous' Colouring Bus. White and pristine on opening night, the vehicle was completely overlaid with a riot of resplendent colors by the second day.

The exhibition saw artists, gallery representatives, patrons, the young and old mingle amid a plethora of creative manifestations: wooden busts, plastic bags molded into a pretzel-like structure and the body of a man, rubber slippers repurposed to resemble the warp and weft patterns of kente cloth, a monitor playing different repetitive scenes on a loop and abstract art of various styles and compositions.

"If the idea is multifaceted, if the idea spans different genres, if the idea transcends a certain meaning, I try to suggest form instead of show form," Tony Nsofor, an exhibiting Nigerian artist with a penchant for abstraction, says. His painting, Red Complacent in White, presented in bold strokes of red and black paint on a white background, personifies people comfortable living in a space they're seeing red. "They've been corrupted, bribed or dazed by the shining white of the space and they forget their humanity," Nsofor explains. "They forget their personal identity."

Greeting patrons on the second floor were Ghanaian Yaw Owusu's massive 8ft by 24ft sculptural creations. Part of his All that Glitters series, the three copper coins on wood installations not only symbolize the economic gap between the rich and the poor, but also explore materiality and the value of the 'worthless' one pesewa coin, which is still legal tender in Ghana.

"I'm interested in the complexity of what point a material becomes valuable and [when] it loses its value, and what comes out of that," Owusu says. "Are the coins transformed into something valuable or am I deteriorating the value it had to a mere material?"

Fellow countryman and second-time Art X Lagos exhibitor Jeremiah Quarshie reinterprets the definition of power in one of two displayed paintings, with famed Nigerian photographer Kelechi Amadiobi sitting on a generator smirking. The Lagos-based artist was quick to add that the generator wasn't referencing to Nigeria's power woes but an emblem of power.

"What I'm doing with [the Dynamics of Power] project is to capture […] powerful people alongside powerful objects," Quarshie notes. "If you have a generator and you have your fuel, that's light. So it's a powerful object that many people have to survive on."

The six curated talks proved popular among patrons. King of Covers featured Lemi Ghariokwu, the brain and hands behind Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti's iconic album covers (which were on display), narrating stories about his life with and without Fela. He also discussed some of his infamous cartoons, including one lampooning the military government's brutality and Nigeria's perennial potholed roads.

Passing around his decades-old membership card for the defunct Young African Pioneers, the political youth arm of Fela's Afrika Shrine, Ghariokwu encouraged youths to challenge political class "because the people who run the affairs here are not the right people. They're not conscious. There's no purposefulness, there's no ideology."

Senegalese art writer and independent curator N'goné Fall moderated a lively conversation titled Witnessing the Present, the Artist as Citizen, with artists Peju Alatise, Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Modupeola Fadugba, a late impromptu addition. Each woman spoke about the inspiration behind their various work, why representation in art matters, the role of artists as citizens, and how they hoped consumers would translate or experience their art.

"I want to imagine that my work is a mirror," Alatise says, "and that people can see themselves and their reactions, and become aware of who they are."

She also cited a lack of facilities for the art as the reason why her critically-acclaimed installation Flying Girls, the winged, life-sized girls showcased at the Venice Biennale this year, hadn't been exhibited in Nigeria.

Ogunji presented the last live performance of the fair. In keeping with her work's recurrent theme of women negotiating public spaces, If I Loved You interrogated the concept of beauty. Standing on pedestals, Ogunji alongside her co-performer took turns to utter the titular phrase, while spinning a spool of thread over their faces until they were 'deformed.' Open to interpretation, the 'You' in the phrase: If I loved you, it was for your beauty. Now that you're no longer beautiful, I don't love you anymore, referred to the audience, another person or the performers themselves.

Art X Lagos culminated with the announcement of the 2017 Art X Prize winner. Blacklist (Candle night) Series ii, the acrylic on canvas painting that depicts Nigeria's infamous power outages, won Habeeb Andu the coveted X-shaped trophy. The over 600 Instagram entries submitted by up-and-coming Nigerian artists were whittled down by voters to four finalists, from which the Art X panel selected the winner.

"Right now [I] am just still speechless and wondering why me. Thank you so!!! Much More greater things awaits us," Andu wrote on his Instagram page.

And if the successes of previous winner Patrick Akpojotor are anything to go by, chances are Andu's work will bear red stickers at the fair's next installment.

Photo courtesy of Junior Achievement Africa

Tonight, Come Join Junior Achievement Africa in New York City

Frank Aswani, Special Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at Higherlife Foundation will be giving the keynote speech at the Facebook offices about investing in Africa's future.

Sponsored content from Junior Achievement Africa

In just 15 years, Africa will have the largest workforce in the world. How we prepare them now will determine the course of our businesses and our economies.

JA Africa is moving the needle of youth economic empowerment in Africa, bridging the gap between education and the world of work through: Entrepreneurship education, Financial literacy and Workforce-readiness. Over 240,000 students are equipped each year with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in the workforce and take on business leadership in the future.

Photo courtesy of Junior Achievement Africa

Join JA Africa, Facebook and OkayAfrica for an evening to learn why youth economic empowerment is important in Africa and how you too can invest in Africa's future. You will hear the stories of JA Africa alumni—brilliant young Africans who are changing the trajectory of the continent.

Our keynote speaker, Frank Aswani, Special Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at Higherlife Foundation, will also be speaking about the importance of work and economic growth for youth. Until last month, Frank led the Business Development team at African Leadership Academy delivering on corporate partnerships, network development and managing strategic relationships.

We hope to see you this Friday, September 21st at 6:30 PM at Facebook's office: 225 Park Avenue South. Email with your full name and email address to RSVP.

Photo: Zahara Abdul.

The Spirit of Nyege Nyege, Africa's Best Underground Music Festival

It was a non-stop four-day celebration of music, art and culture.

The thousands of local and foreign party-goers who made their way to the Nile Discovery Beach Resort in Jinja, Uganda for this year's MTN Nyege Nyege festival had a weekend of intense fun in store for them

Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by the town's most significant geographical sight. Jinja Town prides itself of sitting right along the northern shores of Lake Victoria, next to the source of the River Nile. From several parts of the district, one can get a stunning view of the famous river as it starts its journey to the Mediterranean Sea.

The annual four-day festival also breathes life into this otherwise laid-back and charming town. With the introduction of MTN as a sponsor, Nyege Nyege promised a bigger and better event. This would include a venue tripled in size, with two additional stages (Spirit of UG stage and Dark Star Stage) and a larger self-contained camping area. For those who do not favour camping, there were several hotels and guesthouses near the city centre, a few minutes by motorcycle taxi (bodaboda) to the venue.

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Mannywellz & Adekunle Gold's 'Yeoo' Will Soundtrack Your Weekend

You're going to have this one on repeat.

Mannywellz is a buzzing Nigerian-born artist whose music blends influences from hip-hop, RnB and West African rhythms. His recent Soulfro EP has earned him millions of streams online and he's even opened for Jidenna on tour across the US.

Manny is now sharing his latest single "Yeoo," an uplifting and addictive remix of his Soulfro standout track that sees him link up with Nigeria's Adekunle Gold.

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