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Meet the women curating art projects in Nigeria

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
12 January 2020   |   4:15 am
The contemporary art world is always looking for the next big thing—and, if you ask some experts, the Nigerian art scene is it.

The contemporary art world is always looking for the next big thing—and, if you ask some experts, the Nigerian art scene is it. There’s no shortage of female curators making their mark. These women have broken down the hierarchies in art production.

Since Sinmidele Adesanya blazed a trail with Mydim Gallery, a great number of women are becoming curators and gallery owners and most importantly, galleries are featuring women-themed shows, even the ones curated by women. The last decade has been a shining a light on neglected women, resuscitating some careers and raising the commercial potential of others.These women are rethinking the art.

After Mrs. Kavita Chellaram-New Arthouse Contemporary made history as West Africa’s premier auction house, in 2008, the secondary art market space opened up.

TKMG, a joint auction house by Terra Kulture and Mydrim Gallery (led by Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters and Mrs. Sinmidele Adesanya) came next.

The creative industries have shown that women are not ‘playing catch-up’ after years invisibility, or filling the numbers.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, only recently lauded the leading role being played by women in the country’s creative industry.

The minister gave the commendation at the opening of the 2019 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Lagos on Sunday.

He commended the organisers of AFRIFF, which was founded by a woman, Chioma Ude, for using the last edition to celebrate women, hence the theme of the event, Shero.

Alhaji Mohammed identified Genevieve Nnaji’s Road to Yesterday, Austen-Peters’ The Bling Lagosians, Waka The Musical, Saro The Musical as well as Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, and Mo Abudu’s The Wedding Party 1 and 2 as some of the movies and stage shows produced by women, which made waves in the creative and entertainment industry.

“I therefore wish to implore the women of the Creative Industry not to relent in showing the way in this great industry,’’ he said.

Here are some of the women who curated the biggest art projects in the country in 2019.


Tokini Peterside
Peterside is the founder & CEO of ART X Collective. The London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)-trained lawyer has a vast experience in Africa’s art, culture, fashion and luxury sectors.

She has also delivered projects such as the Nigerian film premiere for Half of a Yellow Sun (the film based on Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, starring Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Boyega).

Born in Lagos, Peterside grew up between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, where she studied at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Westminster School.

In 2016, Tokini reconfigured the company, and created ART X Lagos – West Africa’s first international art fair, which holds yearly, and to-date, has welcomed 31,000 visitors and over 300 of Africa’s leading artists. The company (now rebranded ART X Collective Limited) also owns and organises other platforms such as the ART X Prize – the leading arts prize in Nigeria for emerging artists; and ART X Live! – a dynamic show that merges visual art and live music; amongst other projects.

The fair has been described as “West Africa’s calling card for contemporary African art fairs” and has featured exhibiting artists and speakers such as, El Anatsui, Yinka Shonibare, Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Barthelemy Togou, Nastio Mosquito, Godfried Donkor, Zanele Muholi, Nandipha Mntambo, Victor Ehikhamenor, Olu Amoda, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Modupeola Fadugba and Girma Berta.

In July 2018, Peterside led the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron through a special exhibition by ART X Lagos, of contemporary Nigerian art, as part of the ‘Celebration of African Culture’ hosted at the New Afrika Shrine in Lagos, to launch the African Cultural Season scheduled to hold in France in 2020.



Hana Omilani
With a true knack for perfection, Omilani, the founder of Lasmara, is an Eritrean, who has wormed her way into Nigeria’s art scene.

It wasn’t until she returned to London to study art business at Christie’s that she realised that her career should be in the arts. The long-term master plan was the African art consultancy she wanted to launch.

It was 2013 and that was the year she decided to focus on Lasmara, a word she coined by merging Lagos and Asmara (the capital of Eritrea). She wanted to focus on the whole of African art, rather than on just one area. She wanted to represent East and West, and it was important for her to learn a lot about African art. She started working with galleries, connecting artists to residencies and various projects.

Following her interest in art, she was appointed the art director at Alára, the high luxury concept store in Lagos. Six months into her appointment, she left to focus on her art projects.

Last year, she organised an art fair, which brought a lot of artists from Nigeria and outside. Titled, Impart Artists Fair, it was a platform designed to promote African art, and the artists, as well as, to raise the value of African art.

According to her, “we thought of a platform where artists can exhibit themselves, and where they will not be paying for the exhibition boots because we cannot be talking about promoting African art if you are going to have fees that artists cannot afford. At Impart Artists Fair, all that the artists need is to commit themselves to participate at the fair; no boot cost, bring your artworks, and we will do our best to promote the works and bring the audience (buyers) to the artists, which is one aspect, and for exposure and sales, which is another aspect.”


Ugoma Adegoke
Adegoke brings a tireless and energetic presence in her work as a creative entrepreneur. A cultural curator, she trained as an economist and corporate finance professional. Now, she directs the workings of the award-winning design brand, Zebra Living, producing experiential events and programmes inspired by Nigeria’s rich cultural and multi-arts heritage, previously under the auspices of The Life House, which she co-founded. She is also the founding director and chief curator of BLOOM Art and the festival director of Lights Camera Africa Film Festival.

She has curated and produced art exhibitions with exciting and accomplished visual artists.

She has successfully closed several private secondary market transactions, placing invaluable modern and contemporary artworks in the collections of some of the continent’s greatest collectors – works by Ben Enwonwu, Ben Osawe, Obiora Udechukwu, Yusuf Grillo, Gani Odutokun, El Anatsui, Uzo Egonu, and more.

She was invited to participate as an ambassador in The African Art in Venice Forum, during the opening of the 57th Venice Biennale. In the same month, she was selected by the German Consulate General and Goethe Institut as Nigeria’s representative to attend a special segment and one -week curated immersion of documenta no. 14 in Kassel, Germany, one of the world’s most important modern and contemporary art festivals since 1955.


Sandra Mbanefo Obiago
Obiago has spent most of her career in the creative industry as a filmmaker, social activist, media for development specialist, and recently as an art curator.

Before going into arts consultancy, she had travelled around the African continent, photographing the Sub-Saharan region and dealt with different situations that marked her life.

Sandra founded the Communicating For Change (CFC) as a social enterprise that tells stories about the environment and development of an African perspective and human.

During the 14 years of existence of the CFC, Sandra produced documentaries and fictional films in partnership with filmmakers of Hollywood that dealt with issues such as youth development, democracy and good governance, female empowerment, etc.

CFC also contributed with the growth of the creative industry of Nigeria and the training of young people for the labour market.

For the lady, who, art is something that brings light and joy to the lives of people, since 2016 when she founded the SMO Contemporary Art, an art consulting company, she has dedicated herself to innovate ideas in the visual narrative, curating artistic exhibitions in unconventional places. An example is the Wheatbaker Lakes, a boutique hotel that now has a space of curators of art.

Bolanle Austen-Peters

Bolanle Austen-Peters
Austen-Peters is the founder of Terra Kulture and Bolanle Austen Productions (BAP). She is a lawyer, a theatre and onscreen movie producer and director. She is an art enthusiast and has changed the perspective of the Nigerian theatre industry.

Terra Kulture was established in 2003 as the first private cultural centre in the country. Today, the organisation owns a private theatre. She built this theatre with the intent of creating a cool spot and palatable environment for artists to discover, create and showcase their works and talents.

She started with stage musicals, instead of the normal stage play known in Nigeria. BAP has produced several award-winning shows that have enjoyed international reviews. She started with ‘SARO the Musical‘ in 2013. The production raised the bar for the theatre industry in Nigeria.

Owing to the success of the musical, BAP made five additional plays and eventually produced ‘SARO the Musical 2‘ in December 2014 and April 2015.

After SARO the Musical 2, they produced a Broadway-style musical production titled ‘Wakaa the Musical‘. This is the first Nigerian musical to be staged at Shaw Theatre, West End, London (from July 21 to 25, 2016). She produced ‘Fela and the Kalakuta Queens’, which premiered in December 2017.

Other stage plays, and onscreen movie productions are: The Phenomenal Woman, Rhythm of the Times, Music of Africa, Full Circle, Queen Moremi the Musical and Blinging Lagos. 93 Days is a feature film documentary produced and directed by Bolanle Austen-Peters, on the Ebola crisis in Nigeria. The movie premiered on the 13th of September 2016 in Lagos. 93 days was selected to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, Johannesburg Film Festival, Africa Film Festival at Cologne and Germany.

Mo Abudu

Mosunmola Abudu
Mosunmola Abudu, popularly known as Mo Abudu, is an accomplished woman. Abudu is a talk show hostess, TV producer, human resource management consultant, media personality, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and a philanthropist.

Mo Abudu has always been passionate about telling Africa’s story in the right way. This is what birthed Inspire Africa, a platform created to celebrate African culture and diversity.

This brand spawned the birth of ‘Moments with Mo’, Africa’s first syndicated daily talk show that celebrates Africa’s achievements and its people. She wanted Africa to be the one to tell their own story.

Mo Abudu has created other TV shows with the same theme of telling Africa’s story but targeting different demographics. The Debaters, one of her creations, is a reality TV show that gives African youths a voice. There is also Naija Diamonds, an award winning documentary series that celebrates unsung heroes of Nigeria.

In line with her vision of telling Africans stories, Mo established Ebony Life Films, a film production unit in 2014. She debuted as a movie producer with a movie titled, Fifty. Others movies produced by Ebony Life Films are, The Wedding Party 2, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel.

Ebony Life Films was part of ELFIKE Film Collective that produced the romantic comedy, The Wedding Party. The flick was one of the Nigeria’s biggest blockbusters in 2016.

ELFIKE Film Collective is a partnership of renowned moviemakers in Nigeria: FilmOne Distribution, EbonyLife Films, Inkblot Productions and Koga Studios. These film houses bring in their years of experience and resource to produce high production value Nigerian movies with global appeal.

Mo Abudu is the founder and CEO of Ebony Life, Africa’s first global black entertainment network, which began broadcasting on July 1, 2013 on Multichoice DSTV Channel 165.

Peace Anyiam-Osigwe
Peace Anyiam-Osigwe is a filmmaker and entertainment executive who has been called ‘the queen of Nollywood films’. She is the founder of globally acclaimed film ceremony, Africa Movie Academy Awards. She pioneered the screening of Nollywood films at international film festivals. She directed the first music video of hip-hop sensation, P-Square.

In 2012, she was bestowed a Member of the Federal Republic by the Nigerian government for her contribution to the entertainment industry. She is a TED fellow.

The lady, who has a degree in Law and political science from Oxford Brookes University, founded the Africa Film Academy, a body that governs the film ceremony since 2005. The award ceremony is reputed to be one of the most recognized awards for Africans in filmmaking. At the 10th edition, she stepped down as CEO of the AMAAs. In 2015, she began the AfricaOne initiative to commemorate Africans in the entertainment industry.


Chioma Ude
Chioma Ude is an entertainment executive. In 2010, she founded Africa International Film Festival, a film festival that holds yearly in Nigeria.

Ude founded the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in 2010, and envisioned that it will be a platform to train individuals in film then develop and monetize content for the public.

She believes that the inability of indigenous filmmakers to adequately convey the language, story and cultural elements of Nigerians into film was responsible for non-selection for the Academy Awards.

The founder and executive director of AFRIFF is an ardent film lover. An avid film watcher and commentator, her passion for the industry grew more intense after her involvement in the production of the 2007 Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) UK Roadshow.

The ensuing relationship culminated in Chioma producing the 2008 Africa Movie Academy Awards and the institution of a brainchild of hers called the AMAA Charity Benefit. This novel initiative was designed to be an annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform for industry practitioners and stakeholders to give back to society.

In 2009, Chioma went to become the local producer of the ION International Film Festival (IONIFF), held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in Nigeria. IONIFF is a global touring festival originating from Hollywood, whose objective is the promotion of global awareness and peace through arts, culture and films.

Ronke Ademiluyi
Princess Ronke Ademiluyi is a fashion expert and entrepreneur. A graduate of Law, Ademiluyi is the Global Ambassador of Queen Moremi Ajasoro Initiative and the creative mind behind Moremi the Musicals, a stage show, which dwells on the life of Queen Moremi.

Ademiluyi is the founder of the Africa Fashion Week, a project that promotes African fashion designers through its subsidiaries, the Africa Fashion Week Nigeria and the Africa Fashion Week London.

“I am passionate about Africa, Africa stories and that was why we started the Africa fashion week, been able to express ourselves and our culture through fashion. I moved further working with his Imperial Majesty Ooni if Ife on the Queen Moremi project which is going to evolve to some other things as well. So we are passionate about telling the Africa story.”

Lola Shoneyin
Lola Shoneyin, the author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, runs the yearly Aké Arts and Book Festival. She is also the Festival Director of Kaduna Arts and Book Festival.

Shoneyin has forged a reputation as an adventurous, humorous and outspoken poet (often classed in the feminist mould), having published three volumes of poetry. Her unpublished collection of short stories was shortlisted for an ANA [Association of Nigerian Writers] Prose Prize in 1999.

In April 2014, she was named on the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.

Lola has won the PEN Award in America as well as the Ken Saro-Wiwa Award for prose in Nigeria. She was also on the list for the Orange Prize in the UK for her debut novel, The Secret of Baba Segi’s Wives, in 2010. In 2017, Brittle Paper named her African Literary Person of the Year.