The success and popularity of Nollywood (and its new breed of visually-appealing movies) and the Nigerian entertainment industry, in general, are good indicators of the value that is placed on art in Nigeria, as is the success of ART X Lagos in the past two years.
George Bernard Shaw once said that “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” Reality is ugly enough as it is, especially in a country like Nigeria where it seems like everything is out to kill you. But art, born of imagination and fueled by creativity, tries to subdue this ugliness and overlay it with beauty, more so visual arts. It’s why we find solace in comic sketches, cartoons, movies, photographs and paintings; they help us escape reality, even if its temporarily.
But, apart from its ability to add to colour to our reality and make life worth living, art is also an important relic of history, an artefact that tells us about the time in which it exists. This is why Festac ’77 and the ancient art cultures of NOK, Benin, Ife and Igbo Ukwu will always remain vital lines woven into the fabric of Nigeria’s history. We remember them largely because they have been preserved in one way of the other.
So, for art to last and transcend time, its active preservation is important, as is its promotion. And that is what the Alter’ NATIVE Artist Initiative (A.N.A.I) was created to achieve. ANAI is a non-profit foundation for the promotion of visual art endeavours in Nigeria.
Founded by award-winning visual artist, writer, storyteller and sculptor, Peju Alatise, the foundation also aspires to become a custodian of some longstanding creative and cultural industries and practices in Nigeria – particularly ceramics. It will house a ceramics studio – a first of its kind in Nigeria that would hopefully serve as model inspiration and resurrection for ceramics micro industries across the country – and kick-start the creating of quality, indigenously made ceramic goods. It is interesting to note that, as of the moment, Nigeria imports all of the ceramics it consumes. None is produced locally, not coasters, floor tiles, teapots or even water closets.
Alatise’s works sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds at international auctions. ANAI is her way of paying it forward locally, by investing in raising, training and upskilling a new generation of artists. She is also seeking to restart an industry that has huge economic potential: ceramics.
ANAI will also create a bridge of mutual cultural exchange between international and local artists. World-class experts in chosen mediums will train local artists on same. Local artists will engage with industry best practices. International artists will tap inspiration from the cultural and artistic wellspring that is Lagos. The foundation will be a platform for the exchange of ideas, culture and experiences. In doing all of this, ANAI will bridge the divide between the traditional, contemporary and the experimental, favouring community involvement in a way that encourages learning, empowering the people of the community and making positive contributions to their local economy.
Here are pictures of ANAI’s facilities in Lagos.