Thursday, 21st September 2023

Yinka Shonibare’s space lift for emerging artists

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
27 February 2022   |   4:01 am
For the British-Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, the best thing that can be done to anemerging artist is to provide him or her a space to operate, at no cost.

Yinka Shonibare

For the British-Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, the best thing that can be done to an emerging artist is to provide him or her a space to operate, at no cost.

Shonibare, who spoke on Friday in Lagos, while inaugurating his new Cultural Centre, Guest Artists Space (G.A.S), at Oniru in Victoria Island, Lagos and a 54-acre Ecology Green Farm at Ikise in Omu Ijebu Ogun State, said, “the two facilities are to offer exciting opportunities for those working in the fields of contemporary art, design, architecture, agriculture and ecology by giving space and resources to research, experiment, share, educate and develop work.”

The artists space is an evolution of Guest Projects, Shonibare long-standing, London based artists residency project.

For the past decade, he has been running guest projects from his London studio, offering emerging artists of any discipline opportunity to propose collaborations, have access to a free project space for one month – a laboratory of ideas; a testing ground for new thoughts and actions.

As a result of the current global crisis affecting arts spaces across the globe, Guest Projects London had to close its doors shifting to a digital residency format in 2020.

According to him, but for COVID-19 pandemic, the facilities would have been ready much earlier than now.

“We would have opened earlier but for COVID-19. That delayed us. And the process of trying to build a unique facility is quite difficult. It is a learning process for us. But I see challenges as opportunities to learn… And I am just one individual, I cannot do everything. You do your own little bit in your own little corner. But more can be achieved,” he said.

Set across sites in Lagos and Ijebu, GAS is a non-profit dedicated to facilitating cultural exchange through tailored residencies, public programmes and exhibition opportunities primarily for creative practitioners from Africa and its diaspora.

The first G.A.S. building located in Oniru, Lagos is a modern, brutalist inspired structure that wraps around a central courtyard.

Designed by Ghanaian-British architect, Elsie Owusu, in collaboration with Lagos- based Nigerian architect Nihinlola Shonibare of NS Design Consult who were additionally commissioned to execute the interior design concept and delivery, it intends to support international cultural exchange establishing connections between Africa’s art markets and the international art community.

“The space comes equipped with live/work units and an adaptable multi-use project and gallery space,” the international artist said.

The second building designed by Papa Omotayo of MOE+ with interior design by Temitayo Shonibare sits on the lush 54-acre Ecology Green Farm in Ijebu that produces crops ranging from cassava and cashew to peppers and maize. “It will also provide a residency space for artists, scientists, agriculturists, and researchers and was created with sustainable infrastructure and food security for the local community in mind,” Shonibare said at the unveiling.

“The art world needs to evolve – there is a rich vein of talent out there, but we might lose them if the status quo of the last 30 years remains. We are working with local community, whilst opening doors for the next generation, equipping them to thrive not just survive,” he said.

Already, GAS and Yinka Shonibare Foundation have called for applications for three one-month residency programmes from Nigerian and West African creatives to hold between May this year and March 2023.

Two of the residencies will hold in Lagos while one is scheduled to hold at Ijebu.

As part of the launch, an exhibition featuring a selection of works acquired by Shonibare over the last 20 years is currently on display in the gallery, resident rooms, and the common areas of the G.A.S Foundation in Lagos.

This installation of photographs, sculpture, paintings, works on paper, and mixed media collage curated by Temitayo Ogunbiyi encourages people to navigate the space, while considering contemporary art in conversation with works from Nigerian modernism and antiquity.

The building has stayed true to the farm’s guiding ‘sustainability first’ ethos by only using local materials for construction; they include 40,000 bricks made from soil dug up for the foundations. The site has an exciting future ahead with construction on four workshop buildings dedicated to craft practices including weaving and ceramics commencing this spring.