Having glimpsed the post-pandemic recovery for the arts in the previous year, it is logical to expect a return of arts festivals, a burgeoning scene for new visual artists and remarkable growth in digital arts and culture journalism in Nigeria, says Yinka Olatunbosun
An undulating calendar that peaks towards the end of the year has been the trend in the arts and cultural scene in Nigeria. There is a gradual shift in the normal-a growing population of young visual artists are taking over the exhibition scene. More solo shows are being recorded. In 2023, we expect the pace to pick up and new galleries will emerge. But not so fast.
The first few months of the year will likely record low activities as the attention shifts to politics. The general elections will inevitably stall many art-related events but there will be a handful of artists who will use the election theme to prepare their body of works. Artists will be active on the social media making commentaries on the political climate through their creative expressions.
Later, the cultural staples will return. The Lagos Theatre Festival, Lagos Book and Arts Festival, Ake Arts and Book Festival, Lagos Fringe, SNA Lagos’s October Rain, MUSON Festival, Felabration, Art X Lagos, National Festival of Arts and Culture, Quramo Festival of Words, LagosPhoto Festival, Lagos Jazz Festival, Livespot Music Festival and more. The much-anticipated mega-festival of Afrobeats will be held this year. The signals from the organisers indicate that the festival will be the biggest for Afrobeats in Africa. With the ace broadcaster and music critic, Benson Idonije on the chair for the planning committee, this festival will revive leading acts of the decades while giving a platform for new artists to thrive.
In January, Abuja will host the International Conference on Ancient History and Art organised by World Academics. The primary goal of the conference is to promote research and developmental activities in Ancient History and Art. Another goal is to promote scientific information interchange between researchers, developers, engineers, students, and practitioners working in Nigeria.
A decline in arts and cultural reportage in Nigerian traditional print media will propel more digital platforms to emerge this year. The cultural scene has become fast-paced and there is a need to have a corresponding reportage that reflects the speed and development in arts. More digital platforms for the arts will emerge to reflect the diversity of the arts scene while democratising the publication of arts and cultural news.
The existing cultural venues would get some facelift. For instance, the Freedom Park, Lagos Island, while retaining some elements of its colonial history, will be remodeled to accommodate more activities. For sustainability, the park now wears a new green look- the artificial carpet grass which is easier to manage than the real grass. Also, the cells are being remodeled- with each able to accommodate two persons. The cells have become workstations to many who desire to work in an eco-friendly environment.
Art Auctions will return as the purchasing power becomes stronger after the general elections and more art residency programmes will evolve in Lagos and other states. With the establishment of Tiwani Contemporary in Lagos as well as Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Artists Space (G.A.S) in Lekki, more art residencies will be recorded.
It is also expected that the Lagos Blue Rail Project will help to increase the foot traffic at the cultural events in Lagos. Infrastructural deficit had always been a challenge to holding cultural events in Lagos. The prolonged vehicular traffic can discourage fun seekers from participating in cultural events but with an alternative transportation system, Lagos commuters can enjoy the festivals on the island even if they reside on the mainland.
Abuja’s cultural scene is growing. There are more theatre performances, art festivals and exhibitions than ever before. A number of theatre producers and filmmakers have relocated to Abuja where the land is green. Though Lagos is still the urban culture capital, Abuja will reposition itself as a cultural destination with fledging art programmes this year.
Goethe at 60 celebrations continue in 2023 with audio documentaries that feature the catalysts in the cultural sector. From cultural entrepreneurs to artists, Goethe Nigeria has been a centrifuge of cultural vibrations in the past six decades with workshops, collaborative projects, exhibitions, film screenings, book projects, music concerts, German language hub and others.
In all, 2023 is a year filled with apprehension owing largely to the current political climate. Many investors in cultural events are anticipating a non-violent election period. Still, the celebrities in film and music will be split along political lines and ideologies while others would prefer to show their patriotism while watching from outside the Nigerian shores.