SNA has just published the Annual Report 2013–2014, which describes the Society’s accomplishments in the past year.
The 50th Anniversary of the Society of Nigerian Artists coincided with an important period in the global appreciation of modern and contemporary art from Africa. These global shifts were marked with increasing prices for art from the continent on the domestic and international art market, the inclusion of African artists at seminal exhibitions and art fairs, and most importantly the increase mention art and artists in global contemporary discourse.
The Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) continues to respond to these changes by repositioning contemporary art in Nigeria through the creation of more platforms for its production, display and dissemination. Indeed, the Society is partnering with regulatory bodies like the National Universities Commission and the National Board for Technical Education to seek ways in amending and improving the art curriculum in tertiary institutions. For example, a cursory look at the curriculum would show a near absence of entrepreneurial courses to assist students in preparing for life outside of the university walls. The result of which, art graduates have great difficulty compiling a formidable portfolio of work, building business relationships or applying for grants to funding bodies.
In addition, the SNA is building partnerships with various cultural institutions and government agencies with a view to building cross-cultural relationships while increasing exhibition and exchange programmes for Nigerian artists.
In furthering these developments, the SNA commenced its 50th Anniversary celebration last year with the National Abuja Children Art Workshop. Mobil Nigeria Ltd sponsored this educational-based initiative. It aimed to lay a strong foundation for the development of contemporary Nigerian art by encouraging children in over twenty primary and junior secondary schools, to develop their creativity while sharing their experiences and ideas on issues affecting their environment.
The celebrations continued in June last year with a lecture, The Role of Art in National Development, held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos. Internationally renowned artist, Romuald Hazoume from the Republic of Benin delivered it.
In continuation of events to mark its 50th Anniversary, the Society held the 3rd International Convention on Art and Development (CONADEV) in 2014. The convention was themed The Role of Art in National Transformation and featured a 2-day conference at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. The convention aimed at evaluating Nigeria’s 100 years of existence through the performance of the visual art sector, the engine of technological growth of any nation. It also aimed at exploring the role of the visual arts in causing desirable changes in society while enabling practitioners compare favourably with their colleagues in other sectors of the economy.
An award and fundraising dinner was also held at the Shell Hall, MUSON Centre. The dinner featured the induction of new members, cultural performances, an auction, as well as the award of prizes and fellowships to outstanding artists, individuals and corporates that have made significant contributions towards the development of art in Nigeria. The gathering also provided a delightful atmosphere for social interaction between the artists and other professionals.
In addition, The Next Fifty Years: Contemporary Nigerian Art, an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and installation was held at Omenka Gallery. The exhibition featured the work of the most exciting contemporary Nigerian artists exploring new themes and visual vocabularies in their work. It is the first in a series of shows to provoke contemporary discourse and encourage the development of new techniques around these traditional media, which feature albeit prominently on the Lagos contemporary art scene.
The Next Fifty Years was grouped broadly around three themes; the body and society; the abstract and the poetics of materiality; and contemporary African politics. Working mainly with acrylics, oils, and gold leaf, artists like Joseph Eze, Uche Edochie, Ibe Ananaba, Lemi Ghariokwu and Jefferson Jonahan engage with the body and how we negotiate our identities in our society and within a larger global context, while others like Gbolahan Ayoola draw on Yoruba folklore and mythology.
The abstract and works crafted from found material also featured prominently in the exhibition. They underscore the African way of making things as against the technological processes of the West. Artists like Uche Joel-Chima, Peju Alatise, Adeola Balogun, Raqib Balogun and Olu Amoda are notable in this respect. These artists’ chief concerns lie in recycling and the sustenance of our natural environment.
Many of the artists like Jerry Buhari, Yomi Momoh, Michael Kpodoh, Victor Ehikamenor and Bob-Nosa Uwagboe engage with contemporary politics. Theirs is a critique on the leadership and government of many African countries who line their pockets with earnings from oil and vast natural resources while the masses live below the poverty line, and are left to deal with issues such as epileptic power supply and poor housing infrastructure.
In all, the works presented were strongly individual and a testament to each artist’s quest in exploring new visual possibilities. Collectively, the works form a part of a significant trajectory in our recent artistic history− a glimpse into the next fifty years of contemporary art in Nigeria!