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. The tuition-free school at the Nike Centre in Osogbo has over 150 hard-working students. Only the Nike Centre in Abuja has not as yet lived up to its potential. The time is right to make it happen.
Abuja is a purpose-built capital like Brasilia in South America. Like Brazil, Nigeria decided to move its federal capital from a congested coastal city (Lagos) to a more central site within the country. The chosen location was sparsely populated and not identified with any major Nigerian ethnic group. Most of the infrastructure and major construction was completed in the 1980's. It was an enormously ambitious project.
Like Brasilia, Abuja boasts stunning modern buildings. A new Nigerian architectural style is being defined in Abuja. The city enjoys well maintained parks and open spaces. Lush lawns and well tended trees line wide streets. When I return, I will find out more about the architects, designers, and planners who are responsible for creating Abuja and the people who maintain the public spaces so well. Stay tuned; I'll report back.
In spite of its obvious assets, Abuja is a capital city in need of culture. People who work here and can afford it, fly to Lagos at the weekends to enjoy the music, art, theater and vibrant life of the unruly former capital. The Nike Centre for Art and Culture Abuja can and will make a contribution to the culture and livability of Nigeria's capital city.