Black Art Studio - fine African textiles and contemporary art
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Nike Gallery Lagos
The Story of Osogbo
Discovering South Africa After Madiba
The next challenge
Dinner with the Governor

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Nike Gallery Lagos

I returned to Nigeria after three weeks in South Africa.  The bitter-sweet contrast between the national mood of mourning and our exploration of the magnificant Western Cape lingered in my mind.  I will return to South Africa, Gods willing.  

An uneventful Kenya Airways flight from Johannesburg to Lagos via Nairobi landed at Muratala Muhammed Airport at midday.  I was met by two young men from the Nike gallery.  It was Sunday so the infamous Lagos traffic did not pose a problem and we arrived at Lekki in good time.

The Story of Osogbo

Fifty years ago four young men responded to flyers posted around the old town of Osogbo, Nigeria calling for people to participate in an experimental art workshop.  They were Adebisi Fabunmi, Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh, and Taiwo Olaniyi (known as "Twins Seven Seven").  The workshop was held in the Mbari Mbayo club, a building owned by Duro Ladipo, the director of a popular theatre company.  Ladipo was a friend of the expatriate history professor from the University of Ibadan,  Ulli Beier, who organized the workshop.

Discovering South Africa After Madiba

            I arrived in South Africa the day after Nelson Mandela was buried.  I didn't plan it that way.  I was joining my daughter and her family in Cape Town for the Christmas break and my itinerary landed me in Johannesburg on December 16, 2013.
             Like the rest of the world, I had followed Madiba's long decline and passing in the media.  In my lifetime, I know of no public figure so universally mourned as the first black President of South Africa.

The next challenge

Africa gets hold of one and doesn't let go.  Forty-five years after first landing in Lagos, I will be going back to Nigeria to take on a new challenge - a new opportunity.  My dear friend and sister, Nike asked me help her develop the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in Abuja.  My long career promoting Nigerian contemporary art and textiles has prepared me for this work; I am delighted and excited to undertake it.

Nike's Gallery in Lagos is an important center of the lively art scene there.

Dinner with the Governor

Dinner with the Governor
 
Nike and I and her entourage leave the Culture and Tourism Conference and head directly for the Governor's house with a quick stop for my quick change.  We arrive and are ushered through security into a pavilion furnished with closely spaced, large, round tables.  The stage is inexplicably adorned with Union Jacks.  The Ambassadors are seated at the head table; the rest of us are shown to Nike's table in the center of the room.  People gradually enter and find their places.

Following Nike

August 22   FollowingNike
 
Following Nike is usually and adventure and today is no exception.  We leave the Guest House at Offa Tedo in the morning with a simple mission – to buy white cloth for the chieftaincy ceremony being held that afternoon.  The Ambassadors from France and Holland are in Osogbo to receive the honors and Nike is concerned that all should go well.  The Oba conferring the titles is her cousin and they are staying at her Guest House.  As it happens we don't return until 3 a.

The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party
I celebrated my 60th birthday in Oshogbo.  This year is 70, and I am back to mark another decade.  The party will be at the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in Abuja rather than in Osogbo because Jenny and Jeff have started their new jobs at AISA and can't get away.  Jenny invites teachers and staff from the school and Amy, the Director, provides a van to carry us all to the Nike Center off Airport Road.

The party is planned for 5 to 8 p.m.  The evening gets off to an unpromising start.

Getting Settled

Getting Settled
 
Our apartment is spacious, high-ceilinged and comfortable.   Floors are cool, marble tiles throughout.  It is sparsely but adequately furnished.  Each of the three bedrooms has an adjoining bath.  Like a lot of new buildings, the windows are tinted, further dimming the light from overcast skies outside. 
My window at the back of the flat overlooks what appears to be a car park for earth-moving vehicles.  The city is still under construction.

Back to Nigeria 2013

For all the problems Nigeria faces - corruption, Boka Haram terror, 419 scams, traffic jams, power cuts, unreliable water supply, etc., I learned to love the people and the place.  (Incidentally "boka haram" is pidgen for "book is forbidden".  The Nigerian Electric Power Authority, NEPA, is commonly referred to as "never enough power always")  So, when my daughter announced that she and her husband had signed on to teach at the American International School in Abuja for two years, I was pleased.

Nigeria in the 1970's

I am an art historian by training.  Sometime during my undergraduate work in the 1960's, I "discovered" African art.  That did it for me; my life's work was decided.  I've been studying, admiring, collecting, documenting, and loving African art ever since.  Most of what we knew in those days were wood sculptures with an expressive power and directness unequaled in my experience.  I was moved to the extent that I went there and spent ten good years in Nigeria - the decade of the 1970's.
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