Hakeem Shitta: A Post Humous Appearance At IREP’s Closing Panel
At the time of his death in 1997, the photographer Hakeem Shitta had, in his library, over 6,000 images of Nigerian poets, actors, dramatists, visual artists, dancers, filmmakers, essayists, journalists-anyone who was, or had any claim to involvement, in culture and media production. Over half of these photographs will be on view at the Freedom Park in Lagos this afternoon, Sunday, March 19, as a panel of archivists makes conversation around the theme: The Other Archives. It is the closing panel at the five day long iREP Documentary Film Festival. As these photographs are spooled on the screen at the Kongi’s Harvest hall in the Park, it would be the first time in 20years that the public will get a view of what Shitta has achieved. Mr. Shitta wanted his to be the go to library to source every stage of evolution of any accomplished Nigerian artiste or intellectual. He photographed everyone at every event with a view to assembling a collection, and so he insisted on having a story board on every artist; the actor’s first performance, his education, his ‘break’; the playwright’s first publication, etc.
On any given photograph that Shitta printed out, there were credits on the edge of the photo: Scene: Death And The King’s Horseman. Date: March…Venue: National Theatre. Photo by Hakeem Shitta. But a wave of deaths coursed through the Lagos arts scene in 1997, sweeping off the mega-musician Fela, the jazz singer Francess Kuboye, the essayist Ely Obasi, Shitta himself as well as scores of emerging and veteran culture producers, inspiring an art stampede (a debate) at the Jazzville (the city’s main culture hang out at the time), entitled Either the Borders or the Graveyard, a theme that suggested that the political and economic difficulty of the time was too much for artistes to handle, and it was forcing them to leave the country either through death or migration. Veteran painter, Yussuf Grillo, invited to participate at the event, dismissed the talk of a death wave as “nonsense”. Professor Grillo’s objection notwithstanding, the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) went ahead to organize the event, where tributes to the many departed artists mixed with critiques of the economy and the polity. Shitta died from complications arising from what seemed, at the beginning, a mere bump at the back of his head. This afternoon’s event, which is CORA’s contribution to the iREP Documentary Film Festival, runs from 12.30 to 2.30pm.
“Ladbone” Was The Absent Hero At The Tributes For Onukaba
The gathering of friends for tributes to the late playwright and journalist Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, turned out to be about reminiscences of the early days of The Guardian newspapers of Lagos, Nigeria. Ojo, who died on March 6, 2017, was one of the finest reporters of the generation that wrote for the newspaper in its first five years (1983 to 1988). He was credited with many of the enduring cover stories of The Guardian, which at the time was fixated on exclusives by its correspondents, and wasn’t keen on leading with stories from Press Conferences. Onukaba left The Guardian as associate editor of its Sunday edition in 1989, going to America in pursuit of masters and PhD degrees in Theatre Arts.
With tribute after praise -laden tribute to his humanism and professionalism last Saturday evening at the headquarters of The Journalism Clinic in Surulere (founded by Taiwo Obe, first copy editor of The Sunday Supplement of The Guardian), one other name kept recurring. It was that of Lade Bonuola, aka Ladbone, the founding associate editor of The Guardian. Sunmi Smart Cole, the pioneering photo editor, Niyi Obaremi, who went to become the news editor at the National Concord, Lanre Idowu, publisher of Media Review and convener of the Diamond Awards For Media Excellence(DAME Awards), all alluded to Bonuola in their tributes to Ojo. Obaremi pointedly described him as the man “who had figured out what The Guardian was going to be”, when he met him in his small office at the Daily Times in 1982. Chido Nwakamma, who now teaches media studies at the Lagos Business School, remembers Bonuola asking him: “So where are the stories, what are we going to publish today?”, hours after he had shown up in the newsroom, 33 years ago, hoping he could be hired at the newspaper. “I think it is time that Ladbone gets a book”, Gbile Oshadipe, who joined the Guardian stable as a correspondent with Lagos Life, and now is a lecturer at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, whispered to me. “Such book will be a collection of stories written by those who encountered him in the early days of their careers”.
Ezema, Idahor And Isiuwe Are Those To Watch Out For
Ngozi Emema’s Against All Odds, installed right at the entrance of the lobby of Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi, will stop any keen follower of contemporary art in his tracks. What s/he makes of the encounter is up to his or her personal experience. With this work, SMO Contemporary, an art dealing company which sets up pop-up exhibitions at the Wheatbaker and other places in Lagos, clearly gets it. The central content of the installation is a pink, human sized figure with the structure of a slightly distended hour glass, “imprisoned” in a cubicle constructed with aluminium. The see through “curtain” into the cubicle is a silver coloured thread. The aesthetic strength of the figure comes from its not being a squat solid figure, but loosely made up of tiny spherical pink materials which the artist says are made of ceramics, but which could easily be tiny beads. Emema is one of the 11 female artists in the SMO produced exhibition titled Standing Out II, dedicated to the 2017 International Women’s Day. The exhibition is uneven. There are works, and many of them are, which you’d think: ‘’this could belong to so and so artist and I have seen the type in many places”. But the hair piece sketches by Taiye Idahor shows the several meanings that mere line drawings can evoke. And Amami Isiuwe is an artist to look out for.
Compiled by staff of Festac News Agency
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