Eko Art Expo: Attention Arrested

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Lagos State’s three-day art expo in honour of the late renowned economist, industrialist and art patron Rasheed Gbadamosi united the arts community with a colourful pageant of visual and performing arts. Yinka Olatunbosun reports

It was 9:15p.m. The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in company of his entourage walked through the maze of exhibition stands at the Eko Convention Centre, Victoria Island. He didn’t appear to be in a hurry at all. Apparently, his first tour of the hall at the opening night wasn’t sufficient.

Then, he took his time, even as many guests were leaving that evening to appreciate the works while photojournalists scrambled for vantage positions to take some shots of him. He was completely arrested by the sight of incredible display of talents.

The event was a part of the year-long Lagos @ 50 celebrations which kicked off last year with colloquium series, cultural displays and movie screenings. For the first time, Lagos State government hosted a major show for the visual arts sector with the three-day Rasheed Gbadamosi Eko Art Expo, which took place in Lagos last weekend. It was a fascinating sight to see works from Lagos-based galleries and other independent artists all in honour of a late art patron whose commitment to the arts is simply legendary.

The participating galleries at the show titled, Dey Your Lane include Mydrim Gallery, SMO Contemporary Art, The Pallete Art, One Draw Gallery, Nike Art Gallery and Henrimoweta African Art Centre. Paintings, sculptures, photography and other experimental exhibits were on display. The miniature photographs at the entrance to the hall conveyed varied emotions which captured the essence of a multi-cultural, multi-temperament state like Lagos.

Curated by Mrs Simisola Adesanya, the grand opening of the exhibition was packed with eclectic performances ranging from dance to spoken word poetry performances. Titi Sonuga gave a reverberating start with her near-rap delivery of her poetry. A few minutes later, the veteran journalist-poet, Akeem Lasisi launched the audience into an avalanche of oral Yoruba poetry that naturally inspired spontaneous responses.

Lasisi’s uncommon ability to deliver bi-lingual poetry helped to connect the older and younger generations as well as non-native speakers of Yoruba language who watched in awe. His poetry paid homage to Chief Gbadamosi as the poet reminisced on the active backing of the patron in his rhythmic, “From Glover Hall to Civic Centre”, which was well-received by the honouree’s family members at the ceremony.

The air in the hall became electrified when Qudus Onikeku, the freshly retrieved Nigerian dance export to France, brought life to the stage and the surround sound system. His dance performance titled, “Iwalewa” was performed by his home-grown Q-dance made up of young dancers with sweeping moves. What began like the mosquitoes’ buzz provided cues to the dancers who assembled on stage to tell their African story, albeit in illogical manner. Q-Dance production earned a standing ovation in the end.
Governor Ambode expressed his satisfaction at the group’s performance and other acts at the ceremony.

For him, their performances attest to the fact that Lagos is a city of arts and cultural champions and he described the performances as “World Class”.
In turn, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, commended Governor Ambode for taking quick strides in promoting arts and culture.

“The first thing that the Governor did for the creative industry is the enhanced security in Lagos State,” he said. “That is the type of infrastructure you need for the creative industry. Without security in Lagos, there will be no nightlife’, no cinema. Today, you can move around Lagos and enjoy yourself because of security. Another provision is electricity. The Light Lagos Project is one of the best things he had done for the creative industry.

“You may think there are intangible. In terms of the tangible, he is the first governor that is building theatres around the state. In addition, I am going to give you a brand new national museum.”
In a recent tour of the National Theatre with industry stakeholders, the minister assured theatre-goers that the main bowl of the theatre, the exhibition and banquet halls as well as the two cinema halls would be renovated in partnership with Lagos State.

The minister recalled how the One Lagos Fiesta has boosted and changed the perspective of the creative industry.

“Nobody wanted his son to be a musician, an actor, dancer, and sculptor,” the minister recalled. “But they have now seen the success of these. But when a musician is wanted by a governor, and he comes and shakes hands with the governor, it changes the perception about the profession.

“As I always say, we have a story to tell the world. But we lack the wherewithal. I have spent the first one year trying to diagnose the industry. We have been unable to move forward due to systemic failure and lack of enforcement to protect the intellectual properties of artists. Illegal reproduction of music and movies had driven away investors from the industry.”
The minister added that a training programme is scheduled for no fewer than 40 festival managers across the country.

“We are also going to have taskforce for the creative industry. Every year, we are going to give 300 young artists grants to enable them to perfect their skills in the art,” he assured.
Former Ogun State governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, who was a close friend to the late Chief Gbadamosi reflected on how art had evolved over the years, citing examples of the songs he grew up on. He left his audience with a taste of Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again” a 1961 smash hit and Grammy award-winning song, which he couldn’t get anyone to sing along.