popular
WURLD performing at ART X Live! Photo courtesy of ART X Lagos.

Here's Everything that Went Down at ART X Lagos 2019

Photos, paintings and a surprise performance by Mr. Eazi—the fourth edition of ART X Lagos was an unparalled celebration of Nigerian and African art.

OkayAfrica is a media partner of ART X Lagos 2019.

As I stepped into the Balmoral Hall in Federal Palace Hotel to view the fourth edition of ART X Lagos, I was welcomed by the painting "Far from all odds" by the Cameroonian painter Anjel (Boris Anje). The vivid acrylic on canvas is arresting because it depicts the obsession with popular luxury fashion brand names—names like Fendi and Hermès—that is familiar to many in the crowd and particularly to Africans for whom it is more than just critique on consumerism but also critique on the notion that aligning oneself with Western luxury items and names equates to superiority. This feeling of seeing shared experiences, particularly shared African experiences, duplicated in art is one that I experience over and over as I immersed myself in the works of some of Africa's most talented artists.


The fourth edition of Art X Lagos doesn't just live up to the standard that Tokoni Peterside has created over the past four years since founding Art X Lagos, it exceeds them. The relocation from The Civic Centre—where the event has been held for the past three years—allowed for a more immersive experience and for the fair to house more artists without compromising on space for attendees.

Photo courtesy of ArtXLAgos

On one side of the hall, was the This Is Lagos exhibition, sponsored by The SAGE Innovation Centre, a collection of photographs from emerging photographers—Amanda Iheme, Nyancho Nwanri and Ifebusola Shotunde—a response to This Is Nigeria by Falz The Bahd Guy and by extension This Is America by Childish Gambino. By the right of the This Is Lagos exhibition was Ala, a two-sided video presentation by Emeka Ogboh and the Art X shop—a lounge where attendees were served champagne. On the other end of the hall was the VIP room designed by art trailblazer Alara whose distinct aesthetics created an undeniably African room fusing the past and the present.

Photo Courtesy of ART X Lagos

The fair kicked off with a crowd of Lagos' elite collectors and art enthusiasts as well as the attendance of the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo. Day One started with the VIP Opening Ceremony and ended with the VIP After Party. Day two featured the younger members of Lagos' art crowd walking into the event particularly for ART X Live!. The live performance segment managed to find a middle ground between the new and old African sound fusing Afrobeats with the more experimental youthful sound that comes from the alte scene.

The night kicked off with superstar Mr Eazi giving a surprise performance. He was followed by the singer BUJU who gave a particularly strong vocal performance and succeeded in bringing the house down followed by Lady Donli who sang a number of songs from her debut album Enjoy Your Life. Lady Donli showed a great amount of stamina dancing and singing, while getting everyone on the dancefloor screaming "my president!." WurlD took the stage next amidst screams from many and performed a rather eclectic and genre-defying set. The Art X Live! arena also featured the eye catching work of visual artists Joy Matashi and Dafe Oboro who went to great extent to capture intricate details.

The final day of Art X Lagos featured a larger crowd than the two previous days and the last of three Art X Talks. They ended on a solemn, nostalgic note as the last talk was dedicated to Bisi Silva, founder and curator of the Centre of Contemporary Art, Lagos who died earlier this year after a four year battle with breast cancer and had been a source of inspiration to ART X Lagos founder Tokoni Peterside and many others in attendance.

A striking thing about Art X Lagos 2019 was the variety of mediums employed by the individual artists. From Emeka Ogboh's sonic presentation "Lagos: 20Hz – 20kHz"—a personal favorite as the experience was a first for me—and Ngozi Omeje's terracotta wonder Not In Sight and Chike Obeagu's Facebook which featured colourful cutouts of lights and lips which had an electrifying effect on the viewer.

There is also the work of Peju Alaitse's conceptual sculpture The Other Side of The Coin, Born Not To Suffer—a highlight of the fair—which will stop you dead in your tracks no matter how many times you see it. Kavita Chellaram, founder of Arthouse Contemporary, spoke on Alatise's work and says it challenged the ''one percent who live in a bubble and don't realize how difficult life is."

Photo Courtesy of ART X Lagos

Another highlight of this year's Art X Lagos was the Interactive Projects curated by A Whitespace Creative which explored the theme of Play. Play as Collective—a wish installationis the result of a collaboration between Nifemi Marcus-Bello, Desiree Craig and Deborah Segun. As part of it, guests are invited to choose an emotion and make a wish in order to participate in a sense of idealized hope and Play as Creation—a collaboration between artist Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu and fashion designer Bubu Ogis. In this one, the attendees were invited to interact with the textiles through an immersive installation that allows them to participate in a production process by designing wearable items of their own.

It is important to note that this edition of Art X Lagos occurred alongside a global rise in interest around African art: representatives from the Tate Modern, Smithsonian and Centre Pompidou were all present. Tokoni Peterside, the founder of Art X Lagos, addresses this and noted that while international press and attention is welcome, it is far from the purpose of Art X Lagos.

''We have a laser focus in pursuing our own mandate, which we have designed with our communities in mind," she says. "When I launched this, I didn't do it because I wanted thousands of international collectors to fly in and buy African art. No. My first area of focus was converting affluent Nigerians, and ensuring they become supporters and patrons of the city's artists."

Photo courtesy of ART X Lagos

popular
Photo courtesy of ArtXLive!

Art X Live! Is Making Space For Emerging Artists In Nigeria

The musical portion of Art X Lagos featured standout performances from some of Nigeria's most promising rising acts like Lady Donli, WurLD, BUJU and more.

It's 10:40pm in Lagos and the Art X Live! crowd has just been treated to a surprise performance from global star Mr Eazi. The audience is bubbling over with enthusiasm that subsides as BUJU takes the stage. A relative newcomer, BUJU has the tough task of following one of West Africa's most charismatic performers and it's not clear yet if he's up to the task.

But BUJU is one of the freshest young talents in Lagos right now and his emotional yet upbeat set quickly wins him new fans among the young Lagosian art lovers and the international visitors in town for the art fair. The applause he receives as he walks off stage is significantly more boisterous than the one he received when he started.

Keep reading... Show less
Interview
Sarz. Photo: Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of the artist.

Interview: Sarz Has Powered a Generation of Nigerian Music—and He Isn't Stopping Anytime Soon

We talk to the star producer about his role in the rising global popularity of Nigerian music, spanning his production on massive singles from the likes of Wizkid, Skepta, Drake and more.

"I think more than the music, the narrative is more important these days," says Sarz as he sits at the offices of his press agency. "So one great song with an amazing narrative can get you farther than five great songs sometimes."

When Sarz talks about music, his eyes light up. They dart with excitement as he runs through topics like sounds, production, trends, and innovation. These are all words that represent his life's work of impactful music production, which has powered a generation of music in Nigeria, and is currently playing a role in its international future. Sitting at the offices, decked in a white t-shirt, red trousers and Nike kicks, he makes a point that he rarely grants interviews. And when he does, it's in spaces like this, in rooms and studios where his business is conducted, and his work is birthed and refined for public impact.

Born Osabuohien Osaretin, the 30-year-old music producer discovered sounds by accident when his ears would automatically pick apart music and focus on the beat. Interestingly, he discovered that he could remember every beat in detail. It was the entry point to a career that took off in 2010 when he scored his first hit on Jahbless' "Joor Oh" remix—during the formative stages of the current Nigerian pop success—and has provided sounds that have shaped the culture and given it its biggest moments.

With afrobeats' global ambitions taking off, Sarz's production is playing crucial roles in celebrated cross-cultural projects. He's helmed Drake's "One Dance," unlocked the chemistry between Wizkid and Skepta on "Energy (Stay Far Away)," and added composition on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift album.

"I'm inspired by the thoughts of how far I can take music. Just thinking about where this music can take me to," Sarz says, taking swigs from a water bottle. The producer has also worked with the biggest stars in afrobeats, and a look through his catalogue has hits every year since 2007.

He talks passionately about his work, the source of inspiration, where good music originates from, and how he identifies where to direct his energies. He runs an academy that has been a vehicle for delivering new producers to the culture. Sarz converses with range, a brimming energy, and a humility that is tied to purpose and achievements. He never shies away from topics that examine his revered place in this ecosystem, admitting without bragging that he is no one's mate. Even his 2019 SINYM EP is affirmation that "Sarz Is Not Your Mate." He has seen a lot and has a lot to say.

Sarz. Photo: Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of the artist.

Keep reading... Show less
Audio
Ayanda Jiya. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

South African Women Dropped the Best Debuts of 2019

We highlight 10 noteworthy albums & EPs from a new generation of vocal talent in South Africa, featuring Elaine, Ayanda Jiya, Ami Faku and more.

The South African music scene has seen an uptick in youthful, vocally gifted artists over the years. Much of this is owed to the recent global resurgence of R&B, as well as the increased significance of streaming sites, especially SoundCloud.

From internet-savvy artists creating jazz, alternative soul and house-infused spoken word to radio friendly iterations of pop and Afro-soul, 2019 has been the year of impactful debut performances.

This year ushered in the voices of a new generation of South African female artists announcing themselves to the world.

Here's a lowdown of 10 great releases from talented female vocalists, songwriters and composers marking this new era.

Read ahead below. This list is in no particular order.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Album Cover Art.

Listen to Stormzy's New Album 'Heavy is the Head'

The British-Ghanaian grime star has dropped his much-anticipated sophomore album featuring YEBBA, H.E.R., Burna Boy, Ed Sheeran, Tiana Major9 and Headie One.

British-Ghanaian rapper Stormzy has finally dropped his much-anticipated sophomore album Heavy is the Head. The album comes two years after he released his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer.

The 16-track project features the likes of American singer-songwriter YEBBA, H.E.R., Burna Boy, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, Tiana Major9 and Headie One.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.