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LagosPhoto in Memory Palace

By Eniola Daniel
05 January 2022   |   2:29 am
In its 12th edition, the Lagos Photo Festival, which held between November 4 and December 4, 2022 explored human relationships with memory and the generative potential of photography and images to spark the visual intellect..

Lagos Photo Festival. PHOTO: ThisIsAfrica.me

In its 12th edition, the Lagos Photo Festival, which held between November 4 and December 4, 2022 explored human relationships with memory and the generative potential of photography and images to spark the visual intellect and restore decaying and lost memories.

Memory Palace is experimental and performative in its dissemination with a clear attempt to remediate, restore and reimagine heritage and historiography as they relate to Africa and its Diasporas.

In this year’s festival, where search for Adewale Oyenuga was also launched, Osborne Macharia, Zanele Muholi and Joseph Obanubi were the artists whose work firmly emerged into this new timeline.

Macharia and Obanubi, in fact, represented the very sharp end of the exhibition around futures. Last year, Lagos Photo launched Rapid Response Restitution Home Museum as an online repository for memory and heritage. This year, it moved the conversation from Home Museum to Memory Palace.

According to Director of the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), Azu Nwagbogu, Memory Palace brings familial loci of heritage and history into a sharper focus and closer to home.

“The Memory Palace technique is a memorisation strategy, based on visualisation of familiar spatial environments to recall information. The technique involves recalling to memory a location or physical space that one is exceptionally comfortable or familiar with and in this location attempt to grasp at those visual clues and images that shape memory with an awareness of the fragility of recollection, its fragments and the radioactive decay associated with trying to grasp at memory.”

He noted, “as we build our cosmology and familial safe spaces, we begin to restore, restitute, repair lost memories and archives that are stashed away in our individual and collective consciousness.

“This year, we delve deeper into the urgent burning and unresolved topic of restitution and the role of photography in addressing its intractability, remediating and accelerating the agency and hopes of repair whether through fantastical story telling, pseudologia fantastica characterised by the creation of eloquent and interesting stories, sometimes bordering on the fantastic; or grasping at faint memories interspersed with facts and critical fabulation.”

Nwagbogu, who is also the director of Lagos Photo Festival, added: “there is so much available here, but we don’t tap into that and that’s what the Lagos Photo is trying to do through Memory Palace.”

On the search for Adewale Oyenuga, he said: “Oyenuga left for the UK in 1940 and he disappeared ever since, but he made incredible work, which he left with a friend and the friend contacted me 50 years later to return it to him and have been looking for him and we are hoping to find him or members of his family.”

On his part, Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, whose work the festival’s artists talk revolved around, said: “I’ve been working on projects in Ghana and Azu has been following closely and currently there’s a part of research on the work I’ve been doing and Azu felt will be interesting to have a conversation around so, he invited to give a talk so we can find other players who are also interested in the kind of idea around restitution and institutional building to establish a conversation.

“Ghanaian art is growing exponentially because of emergence of new artists. Artists are now making decent living from the work they do.”

Speaking on the Nigeria art impact in his work, he said: “I have a personal connection with Nigeria because my great grandfather was from the northern part of Nigeria and they migrated to Ghana to spread Islam and they never came back, maybe because they met a woman who gave them jollof rice.”

He said: “I think of myself not just as an artist, but also as an archeologist and also as time traveller.

“The work I do in Ghana is around re-excavating memory and trying to see things that people think are dead to bring them to the fore.”