2020 was such a lacklustre performance year for the cultural scene across the globe because of the Covid-19 protocols that placed restrictions on large gatherings and events. Art, by nature, is people-centred and many art event organisers were, at first, confused as to how to proceed with their projects. As a result, many projects were postponed till 2021.
Unfortunately, many woke up on January 1, 2021 to the reality that Covid-19 pandemic is really far from over.
For the visual arts, the pandemic provided a theme and indeed great content for other creatives. Many paintings, sculptures, collages and drawings document the mask-defining moment in history in beautiful pieces that in reality contrast the doom that accompanies Covid-19 infections. Writers had found isolation to be quite rewarding for their career as they are able to devote more personal time to writing and sparing a few to engage with their readers online. The award-winning feminist writer, Chimamanda Adichie is a case in point in this regard. Her Instagram live sessions had helped to shed light on the world of her popular novels. From mundane to serious issues, Adichie tackles questions in quick succession, however below sound reasoning that some might sound.
For Professor Wole Soyinka, the release of his first novel in 48 years in 2020, titled Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth, was no coincidence as this was followed by the release of the biographical novel on the life of Chief Nike Okundaye, the founder of the popular Nike Arts Gallery, Lagos. Whilst the literary scene is bubbly at this perilous time in our history, one cannot say the same about music and live theatre shows. Many virtual music concerts had emerged online to build resilience in music fans. Still the sudden surge in the cases of Covid-19 in December did a great disservice to music concert organisers who had born some measure of optimism for the end-of-the-year shows. Mass cancellations of shows were recorded.
Fast-forward to 2021, the arts scene seems quite bleak at the moment as many projects that had been rescheduled for 2021 are being reviewed in the light of the current pandemic. For instance, the opening of contemporary museum of arts in Lagos and Oyo State had been delayed for a while. But the Oyo Kingdom is determined to begin the museum of African women in history without funfare. This is likely going to be the trend in 2021. Very limited gatherings will be held and more organisers will begin to think digital in order to be able to sustain their brands and connect with the people.
There will be more music releases, collaborations and for now, it is very dicey as to how the 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony will be held. But it is very certain that the Recording Academy will honour the memory of music artists who had died as a result of Covid-19 and other health challenges. The Recording Academy had done more than just to thrust plaques in the hands of artists; they had instituted a bill to provide for music artists and other cultural workers who had been largely affected by the Covid-19 restrictions. Have you ever thought of how tour organisers, tour managers, supporting staff and band members are coping without the performances, concerts and festivals?
2021 should be the year for artists in Nigeria to renew their call for the government to show support for the sector. Artists are underrated yet they are working selflessly to build the nation in a non-political way. At the time of this report, government-owned hospitals in Lagos and Abuja are being given more than just a facelift by the Arts in Medicine Cohorts. These are volunteers who use their personal funds to beautify the walls of the hospitals that were eyesores. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, these artists hope to impact on the mental health of the patients, health workers and visitors. If artists with limited funds can do such great service to humanity, more is expected from the government.
2020 will be a deciding moment for artists as many may seek other means of survival. Hopefully, this will not be the end of theatre but a reinvention of it and other art forms that are in comatose.