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By Toyin Akinosho   |   08 January 2017   |   1:29 am
National Theatre

National Theatre

Hug Is Back In Lagos, On “Harsh Posting”
Alfons Hug is back in Lagos, 29 years after he left the country with swag and a Nigerian wife. He has returned to the same duty post that he ran magisterially from 1984 to 1987. The “new” Director of the Goethe Institut, the German Culture Centre, is on a one year contract posting. At 66, with a receding hairline and a sliver of greying moustache, Hug is still the straight talking German bureaucrat who declared, famously in 1985: ‘Why should a centre run with German taxpayers’ money have, as its main priority, the promotion of Nigerian culture’? He doesn’t remember he uttered those words, published in the Democrat Weekly and vigorously discussed in several cultural watering holes, as well as at a panel at the Ife Book Fair, weeks after. But he remembers the photographer Sunmi Smart Cole, who, he says “was one of the few practicing art photographers at the time”. It’s a loaded statement, given where we are having this conversation: an open air photo party, featuring over 70 still photographs and moving images by 30 photographers, on the rooftop of the building that houses the Institut’s offices, in central Lagos. Hug also remembers the sculptor El Anatsui, who has, in the 30 years since, gone to achieve rock star status in the global visual arts scene. Given the option, Hug might not have chosen Lagos. He is on this posting because “no one else wants to come”. It’s a harsh posting, he says, but he has retired for a full year and was living in Singapore with nothing much to do. “My doctor said: ”Better a harsh posting than die of boredom”.


Breitz, Modisakeng, Represent SA At Venice Biennale
Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng will represent South Africa at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. The two creators of moving image installations will present a major two-person exhibition in the South African Pavilion in the Arsenale, running from 13 May to 26 November 2017. Both artists have exhibited widely around the world. The exhibition will be curated by Lucy MacGarry and Musha Neluheni. Breitz, 43, has explored the dynamics by means of which an individual becomes him or herself in relation to a larger community, be that community the immediate community that one encounters in family, or the real and imagined communities that are shaped not only by questions of national belonging, race, gender and religion, but also by the increasingly undeniable influence of mainstream media such as television, cinema and popular culture (quote from Between the Lines catalogue, Berlin, 2013). Modisakeng, who is 30, was awarded the SASOL New Signatures Award for 2011 and has exhibited at VOLTA NY, New York (2014); Saatchi Gallery, London (2012); Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar (2012); Focus 11, Basel (2011) and Stevenson, Cape Town (2010). In 2013 Modisakeng produced an ambitious new video work in association with Samsung as a special project for the 2013 FNB Joburg Art Fair. “I am able to work out my frustrations with photography”, Modisakeng told Frieze, the art magazine, “and then move on to sculpture, physically relating to what I am working with. In this way a photo can become a video etc. It is all about how close the audience is. And, whether they are looking at the image after the fact or if they are anticipating the energy”.

In A New Novel, Toni Kan Overhauls, Resets Trading Places, In Slow Motion
In the end, Toni Kan’s Carnivorous City (Cassava Republic, 2016), comes across as a reset of the theme of Trading Places, in slow motion. Abel Dike wakes up beside the naked, sleeping body of his junior brother’s wife and hopes the man, Soni, doesn’t return to claim his space. It has taken most of the novel’s 241 pages for the reader to get to this realisation; that if Abel, who had been portrayed as a saint to all of his brother’s friends, had lived all of his adult life in the same context as Soni, he might have turned out worse than the high profile criminal the latter was famed to be. The nature –nurture theory that birthed the movie Trading Places has spawned many satirical plays, but novels are not usually named as part of the fare. Kan’s decision to use this framework to construct his keenly observed, if cynical, fictional narrative of Lagos, in a novel form, is an imaginative stretch of the norm. Abel had come to the city three months ago as a morally strict, disciplined, poorly paid lecturer from the backwater town of Asaba, with the sole objective of finding how his brother disappeared. He had ended up murdering someone with his bare hands, settling a whistleblower with millions of naira, coveting another man’s wife and generally becoming his brother. The author gives too much credit to Lagos; a lot of the stunts for money and the seemingly unremitting violence he dispenses with are part of basic survival instincts that characterise any sprawling, heavily populated, unworkable third world city. But that’s a discussion for another column, perhaps in the fuller length review. Mr Kan has given us another way of reading a twist; it doesn’t have to be a sudden happenstance at the end of the story. It can start at the beginning, and creep on you.


Art Will Only Be A Sidekick For The Foreseeable Future-Zakhem
The Lebanese born, British constructor Marwan Zakhem says that running the Gallery 1957 is the one that he enjoys most ”out of my three full time day jobs”, but he is quick to say it cannot be the priority vocation. With the Zakhem construction group making millions of dollars from building gas pipelines in Nigeria to installing power turbines in Ghana, it would be hard for the heir to this business empire to overlook all the wealth to focus on arranging artworks in constraining spaces. “I am both fascinated and passionate about the art world and in particular the West African market,” Zakhem told Omenka, the art newsletter produced by Oliver Enwonwu’s Lagos based gallery of the same name. “There is something special happening right now in Ghana”. The interview reports Gallery 1957’s participation at the 1:54 and Art X Fairs in London and Lagos respectively, and quotes Zakhem as saying he was suitably impressed with the art scene in Nigeria. “From the quality of work being created to the sheer depth and vision of the collectors”, Zakhem told Omenka, “the Nigerian art market I believe is a sleeping giant, insular and for now undervalued in comparison to other markets”. So would he leave construction to face the gallery? “I would like to think so, eventually – maybe, but for the foreseeable future it is not an option”.

• Compiled by staff of Festac News Press Agency


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