‘High number of talented but struggling artists in Abuja worrisome’

THE co-founder of Retro Africa, Omodolapo Balogun, at the weekend, decried the high number of talented yet struggling artists in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, describing the development as worrisome.

This came as a university don and retired Cardiologist, Professor Chimele Abengowe, accused the Federal Government of not doing enough to encourage art in the country, appealing to the media to help stimulate the government into action.

Speaking with Tribune Online at a contemporary art exhibition organised by Retro Africa, in collaboration with Enigma Art Collective, Balogun, stated that the group realised that there was necessity to have thriving art scene in Abuja, which it thought was currently lacking.

She told Tribune Online that, “My assessment is that in Abuja, there are a lot of talents but not enough platforms to showcase them. There are lots of struggling artists; there are lots of them that I have met that could be exhibited in the United Kingdom and anywhere in the world, but they don’t have the platform, they don’t have the capability to showcase what they can do.”

She disclosed that the exhibition titled Afro Modernism was driven by the need to express Africa in a modern context while seeking to question the inspiration and drive behind the contemporary African artist.

According to her, the organisers of the exhibition aimed to delineate or shatter the boundary between the traditional and the contemporary.

Balogun noted that the aim was equally to spread awareness and encourage a cycle of growth and learning within the African art scene.

She said: “We did that assessment and we saw that there was a vacuum and we are willing to fill that vacuum

“We started this platform basically because we wanted to build a network of exhibitors, art lovers, curators and collectors; basically a community of those who have interest in arts and those who are willing to showcase their talents

“We realised that there was necessity to have thriving art scene in Abuja that we thought was lacking

“Art scene in Nigeria is thriving; it is already established. If you go to Lagos and Jos, you will see that there are lots of art that are being displayed at home and abroad but I feel there should be more platforms. We are looking at unveiling the talents that we already have.

“What we saw that allowed the Lagos artists to thrive was the emphasis on collaborations. If you are too isolationist, if you want to keep your talent and your passion to yourself, then nothing is going to grow.

“We want to show to the world that we are open to collaboration, we are open to different ideas, and we are not rigid in any way.

“We would want our platform to become an international network and so we have already gotten a lot of positive responses from people across the continent. We are looking forward to showcase in South Korea,” she said.

Speaking also, Prof Abengowe urged the government and other individuals to do everything possible to promote art in the country.

He said, “The government and people of Nigeria are not doing enough for art and we are not doing enough for other forms of education either.

“Art is something that shows the people in a way; Nigerian artists in many ways portray Nigeria. I don’t even think in European countries they are doing enough.

“You need help from everybody. But the government is not doing enough to encourage art and I think the media can help to stimulate the government.

“The media is not doing enough. You don’t have to wait for the government to give you what you need. The media can play an important role in every aspect of Nigerian life and art is one of them.”