Art is very profitable in Nigeria, but…

Duke Asidere is an established Nigerian artist with a difference. He has successfully conquered his craft, having his paintings on exhibition around the world. In this interview with ROTIMI IGE, he speaks about his experiences as a visual artist from Nigeria, as well as how government can assist in making Nigerian art one of the most sought-after in the world.

Tell us a bit about yourself, growing up and memories of early life.

The experience I hold dear were my days in primary school at the Anglican Primary School, Marine Beach, Apapa, Lagos. The beautiful scenery was really inspiring.  The fire brigade office was almost directly opposite my primary school.

My mother’s shop was at Alabiagba market, boundary road, Ajegunle, Apapa. The regular shifts between school and weekends. My mother sold wrappers (Dutch wax, English wax, Georges, Abada etc..)

Do you own a gallery?

I don’t own a gallery. I have gallery representations in Lagos, Abuja, Lebanon and in the UK.

Would you say, as a connoisseur of the arts, that it is a profitable venture in Nigeria or largely promoted by passion?

Contemporary art is a profitable venture. The business of the artist is to produce good quality pieces. To exploit and explore his creative ability. To project a new way of thinking and expression. Patronage can be better. The quality of works can always be improved upon.

What influences you to paint/sculpt?

Passion is what drives both the artist and his patrons. Passion to produce quality art and the passion to collect the art works. The artist draws inspiration from everything happening around the world. Social media is also an additional slate. I have things happening to me some emotional, some social. I have feelings and sympathies. I am also a member of the larger society. I experience the consistent failure of leadership that complicates life in Nigeria. The pressure of the inability of successive governments in Nigeria to fix the electricity crisis takes its toll on everyone. Not to mention the quality of government schools or hospitals. The general inability of our government to elevate and improve the living conditions of Nigerians is sad.

Would you say Nigerians, as a people, appreciate arts or it is just a past time for the wealthy?

No, I don’t own a gallery. I run two painting studios in Lagos. I know for a fact that Nigerians love and appreciate the arts. The rich and the wealthy are Nigerians too. Nigerians are culturally informed. Nigerians patronise artists a lot.

What challenges have you faced in the business?

The major challenge for most artists is the high cost of art materials. The art material dealers are essentially in business to make profit. Most of the art materials are sourced from Europe and America. With today’s exchange rates, the materials are very expensive. It’s a tough business climate. We are determined as artists to give our best always.

What do you think can be done to promote the arts in Nigeria and from Nigeria?

The Ministry of Culture and Information and the National Theatre have budgets allocated to them. Some artists certainly get support from these agencies of government. Most artists may not get the information and will not get any support for their projects and exhibitions.

The National Theatre, until recently, was largely an abandoned project like many others across the country. Another issue is the theft of many of our artefacts and heritage which are on showcase abroad. What is government’s role in promoting/securing art and future for artists in Nigeria?

The government role is to make Nigeria a tourist destination. This has not worked, because we have had square pegs in round holes. This is deliberate!

How do you relax?

I love to paint. My preferred medium is oils. I use practically all media (Acrylic, water color and drawings)

Tell us about some of your paintings/collection.

I paint a lot of women. I paint figures. I love to paint houses and in my imagination I put families in my dream”homes”. I do some experimental works where i use enamel paints, auto paints because of  the fluidity of the medium. I do some more experimental stuff with collage etc.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day starts at 5 a.m.  I do a routine 30/60 minute walk almost daily. I love to scribble. I write a lot of “things”. I love to draw. Drawing makes me connect with God and my spirituality. Painting is work. Real hard work. Six to 10 hours of just moving  between the painting pallete and the painting easels. Painting is tough work. I enjoy painting.  I am an early bird. I love to sleep early. I wake up early to think, pray and plan my day.

How do you relax?

Sleep is the best form of relaxation.  I read. I go on holidays.  I love nature. I love to dance. Drawing for me is a form of relaxation. Talk about live music. Every man must find what gives him happiness.  That’s test in itself.

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