Nigerian arts & culture: Great expectations for 2013

Posted: January 14, 2013 in general

ImageIn a year in which the country’s arts and culture community was hit by the demise of such iconic and irreplaceable figures as Nollywood iconic face Enebeli Elebuwa and culture patriarch Chief Segun Olusola, there were, however, bright spots that tended to signpost a prospective turn of events for the sector in 2013.

For the entertainment industry, 2012 could well go down as the year of dominance of the practitioners in the sub-region further driving their fame to the rest of the world. Unlike in the manner South Korea’s Psy single-handedly Gangnam Styled the global music scene, raking in over a billion hits on YouTube alone, Nigeria’s prevalence and conspicuousness on the entertainment scene is credit to a whole plethora of artistes who all combined to register the country on the map of world recognition whether via the movie or the music industry.

Nigeria film industry’s repute went global for the 2012 when even the World Travel Market (WTM) 2012 Industry Report and WTM Global Trends Report which was released at the last quarter of last year acknowledged the country’s booming film industry on tourism.

The report clearly stated that the popularity of Nollywood all over the continent (in such countries like Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and The Gambia) means ‘ that Nollywood films on their own attract domestic and regional African tourists to Nigeria, visiting film locations’.

The report went on to predict a three per cent rise in tourism to Nigeria in the next four years – claiming that in addition to leisure tourism drawn by the industry, the growing revenue generated by Nollywood will attract business travel.

Beside the entertainment industry, however, the arts and culture sector, as a whole succeeded in making a bold statement of intent by way of landmark achievements in the year gone by. From the literary, performing, visual genres, the culture industry apart from having shown potential to become a top revenue earner for the country, kept its various practitioners relatively engaged all through the year, with the entertainment artistes grabbing the lion’s share of activities.

Two major events topped the list as far as the culture circuit is concerned; Fela finally getting his long-overdue museum in October and Nigeria hosting the International Scientific Committee (ISC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s Slave Route Project in Calabar, the Cross River state capital in March.

Nigeria thus follows in a roll call of countries that have previously hosted the event which include: Cuba, Angola, Toronto and Colombia.

October 2012 was  the time Afrobeat originator and legend got his befitting tribute courtesy of the Lagos state Government along with a number of organization which put together the nearly N40 million museum converted from the late musician’s well known residence at 18, Gbemisola Street, Ikeja, Lagos.

The Lagos State Government approved and supported the ultra-modern project features an exhibition area, a coffee shop, a 5-room boutique hotel, a roof-top restaurant, a bar and stage, a souvenir shop, a passenger lift, the tomb area and the car park.

The year also placed Nigeria in the history books as a group of private firms, Gemstone Group in collaboration with Airtel Nigeria made history in December with the first ever simultaneous global book reading in 17 cities in Nigeria and 17 countries across the world.

The book, 17 Secrets of High Flying Students, authored by Fela Durotoye, was read via life streaming on the occasion with participants estimated at over 50 thousand high school students. The book reading session was simultaneously held in 17 cities across Nigeria and 17 countries across the world.

The effort has earned the organisers a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in the category of the largest global reading session in different countries simultaneously, a new category in world records.

It has also broken two existing records of the highest number of children being read to by an adult and the largest book reading event by an author that stood at 4,222 and 5,406 people respectively.

Continuing, on the literary scene, Nigeria’s Rotimi Babatunde in July won the 2012 Caine Prize for African writing for his book titled; Bombay’s Republic, as he beat authors from Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa to win the prestigious £10,000 (about N2.54m) award for a short story by an African writer published in English.

Following in his steps, Nigerian contemporary writer Pita Okute scored another major high by winning the internationally coveted Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction in 2012. Okute, whose masterful novel Wild Spirits beat out competition from many authors in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Latin America, joined the esteemed realm of such revered Catholic writers as Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton and many others whose writings reflect the thoughts of the great poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Not also forgetting contemporary writer Jekwu Anyaegbuna, for bagging the Commonwealth Book Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize’s  Africa Regional prize for his book titled; Morrison Okoli (1955-2010), in May 2012.

And in July, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) surprisingly announced Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital city, as the 2014 World Book Capital. Port Harcourt was named the World Book Capital. Port Harcourt is the 14th city to be designated World Book Capital.

For the visual arts in the country, November in 2012 also brought cheery news that Nigeria along with seven others countries will finally get pavilions at this 2013 Venice Biennale.

Remarkably, it was Nigerians proudly exhibiting abroad who stole the show and dominated the scene for the year 2012.

Beginning with Andrew Eseibo, who showed one of the major attractions in his current collection of photographic works titled; Alter Gogo, at the 11th Havana Biennial, that held from between May 11 through to June 20, in Havana, the Cuban capital city, to another Nigerian contemporary photography artist Adolphus Opara  who presented a solo selection from his body of work, titled: Emissaries of an Iconic Religion, a photo-documentary series which brings together portraits of traditional Yoruba priests from three different western states in Nigeria, at the at the Cape Town, South Africa-based art gallery, Brundyn+Gonsalves from June to August, the allure to exhibit abroad went to no-limits.

Also, including Nigerian contemporary artist, Obiora Udechukwu’s who presented a selection of  his drawings and paintings in the solo exhibition of works titled; Uli to Li: A Natural Synthesis, at the London-based and partly Nigerian-owned art gallery, the Tiwani Contemporary, in July.

Besides, these remarkable events and perhaps a couple of others, the rest of the year, practically belonged to the entertainment genre of the arts as Nollywood beauty Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde, eventually got rewarded in December by continent’s screen giants, DStv with her own reality television series, titled; Omotola: The Real me. In the same period that news of another screen favourite Jim Iyke was reported to concluded plans for his reality series.

D’Banj despite the bitter split with Don Jazzy and the Mo’ Hits crew, continued his awards grabbing run all through 2012 with the Best African Act of the “2012 MTV EMA award in November and along with a league of other Nigerian acts dominated the 2012 Channel O Music Video Awards (MVAs).

The Nigerian music industry dominated at that awards, with recognition for Davido, P Square, Brymo, Tiwa Savage, Ice Prince, Mo’Cheddah and D-Black and of course D’Banj. However, topping the domestic entertainment scene was the May 2012 Oleku Concert featuring the two icons of Nigerian music, Chief Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade performing together on stage at the at the Harbour Point Events Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The October’s A Tale of Two African Cities event of the Nigerian and South African High Commissions also provided a veritable platform for the country’s entertainment practitioners to get busy with showcase of their acts.For a year that jazz music artistes will forever remember as one their best in terms of engagements and performance opportunities, 2012 will arguably go down as one that jazz music enthusiasts had their fill with seemingly endless shows sprouting up at every corner of events centres.

There was the Sax Ensemble at the Agip Recital Hall of the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos in July as well as the Sax Appeal at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, in addition to the Love Music, Love Life Luxury Concert of the Smooth 98.1FM station, in Lagos, in October 13 with George Benson the Jazz Master and 10-time Grammy Award-Winning legend as headline act.

And of course, the National Troupe of Nigeria also coloured the official opening ceremony of the newly-opened African Union (AU) building in far-away Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January as the South African theatre sensation Africa Umoja, courtesy of First Bank wowed Nigerian stage in April at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos.

As the Eko Hotels and Suites location dominated events and entertainment destination for 2012, two individuals also ruled literary discourse topics in Nigeria; Prof Chinua Achebe and Prof Wole Soyinka.

2012 was also the year that Prof Chinua Achebe’s newly-released book; There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, raised uproar and dusts of bitter criticisms almost threatening to re-ignite the sheathed flames of the Civil War that ended four decades ago between the Igbo and the rest of the country.

Achebe rounded off the year in December also in a spectacular climax as his award-winning and multi-translated book, Things Fall Apart, was included in the 100 Greatest Novels of all Time list. Till date, Things Fall Apart remains the most translated literary work of fiction in the world in over 40 world languages.

On his own part, Prof Wole Soyinka became a resident face at virtually every literary meet, in addition of being regularly bestowed with laurels at events that in some cases had nothing to do with culture and the arts.

Such was the fame of the Nobel Laureate that even the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation named him the recipient of the Foundation’s Prize for Excellence in Leadership in December few days after the Rivers State Government had also named him the International Ambassador for its state carnival, also known as Carniriv.

Prof Soyinka doubles as Festival consultant for the Lagos Black Heritage Festival, among a host of other consultancy positions for cultural and literary foundations coupled with having a plethora of literary prizes named after him.

Not failing to acknowledge the feat by some of the country’s top fashion designers who flew Nigeria’s flag high while raising the bar in African fashion.

Designers like Remi Lagos Collection, Rouch By Ronke, Adebayo Jones, Adaora’s Collections, proved their worth at various fashions show they either put up individually or at the fashions show outside the they country that they participated in.

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