ARt & OUTrage 2

[A Louis Armstrong’s Blues For Tinubu]`
{By Jahman Anikulapo}`
[P]`RIVILEGED by circumstances last Saturday to sit directly behind Senator Bola Tinubu and gazing straight into his back-head, certain thoughts danced round ones consciousness. fortunately the engagement with inner thoughts was oiled by the cocktail of luring Louis Armstrong’s master numbers streaming from the skilled hands and guts of the Jazz ambassador trio currently touring some states of Africa.
Provoking the current congress in the innermost was indeed the feast of choice back-leads resting just few metres away from one’s gaze. These include that of from extreme left. Kofoworola Bucknor Akerele, the former broadcaster turned politician (deputy governor of Lagos State); Howard Jeter, (the American ambassador and host of the night); Ahmed Tinubu, the achieving Governor of Lagos, and his delectable wife Remi initiator of the wave making chirty, New Era Foundation; Chief Segun Olusola, the culture activist and art patron and; Professor John Pepper Clark, the erudic literary scholar, playwright, poet and one of the best in the world.
The back-heads came in varied dimensions representing one, the innumerable varieties of the Lagos nay Nigerian culture intellectualism. Ostensibly, the curious irony of Governor Tinubu’s position in that gathering came flooding into ones though. Just like the cruel metaphor of a man sitting by a keg of palm-wine and still thirsting on a thirsty man dumped in a river and still bogged by parched throat. This parable had earlier article, on the recently concluded Black Heritage Festival. It was a preview published last month in the Guardian.
Here was Ahmed Tinubu, the political and civil rights activist who was ushered into office as the second Executive Civilian Governor of Lagos State through a package of artistic and cultural feast recall the art exhibition at Didi Museum. Victoria Island that featured works of Sanya Ojikutu, the now London based former cartoon editor of Fame weekly magazine and Hilda Oti; and the news making premiere of Saworoide, the metaphor riddled film by Mainframe led by Tunde Kelani and Tunde Adegbola. There were pockets of other artistic parties concerts by various musicians, drama and dance pieces by many group at the National Theatre and other parts of the state.
No doubt. Senator Tinubu rode to office on the love, warmth and sweat of art and culture community. And it was just good that he himself graced many of the events and, had been privilege in the past to acknowledge same.
This was why the irony of last Saturday should be brought to attention of the beloved governor, whose star is currently at full glow and will, by providence, never dimmed as a Deliverer that the people of Lagos, daily harangued by traffice congestion power outages, irregular water supply and general insecurity need.
In that same gathering of guests of Ambassador Howard Jeter were among other artists and culture workers.
Steve Rhodes, the patriach of Television broadcasting and founder of the internationally acclaimed Steve Rhodes Voices, SRV that has trained a whole generation of Nigerian youths in music making and performances.
•Newton Jibunoh, the businessman who however, endowed one of the most priceless legacies for the arts the Didi Museum in Lagos;
Gbenga Sonuga, the resourceful culture
administrator, who was pioneer director of Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture, and in whose tenure the state got promoted to its status as culture capital of Nigeria through a visionary and energetic culture of programming;
•Sylvia Bello and Funke Akinyanju two women of substance who unlike socialites in their class, spend their extra time in the service of the arts through their Masoma foundation that has succeeded in stamping Nigerian art and culture on American consciousness.
•Tunde Kuboye, the electronic engineer turned band leader, who since 1975 has been indoctrinating Nigerian youths in the values and virtues of their artists culture legacy through his Jazz 38 International Centre for the Arts, Lagos as well as other NGOS.
•Peju Sonuga (formerly Sodieinde), one of the best costume and make-up artists in Africa.
•Gloria Rhodes, a compulsive singer of international glory.
•Kayode Olajide, one of the very rare youthful generation of musicians, putting Nigerian folk resources in the context of modern cultural discourse;
•Tolu Ajayi, the novelist, poet, physician and pioneer chairman of Lagos chapter of Association of Nigerian Authors.
•Wale Okediran, also a physician, novelist, the secretary general of the National association of Nigerian Authors.
•Soul Irabor, the broadcaster who has spent active time promoting and supporting indigenous youthful talents;
•Theo Alfreds, founding president of the Association of West African Young Writers, a body that has for almost a decade concentrated on promoting literature and reading culture in the grassroots, and among secondary school pupils.
Also in that gathering savouring the rich repertoire of Louis Armstrong many decades after his death, was a club of arts and culture communicators, promoters and supporters. among others.
Now the irony for Governor Tinubu came in varied dimensions. And it provokes many questions.
Did the event for instance, nudge the Active governor that he is indeed presiding over the cultural and artistic capital of Nigeria (and the whole of Africa, because no other city, not even Jo’burg, Dakar and Abidjan three most hyped art cities in Africa - is as robust and busy as Lagos)?
Also, was it possible for the governor to reflect on how much he has spread the goodies of his ‘Active’ ness to affect the lives of the distinguished artists and culture workers. Most of them have spent decades pushing their dreams and accomplishing task and earning both local and international honour without government sponsored endowment fund for the arts, functioning cultural policy, academy for the arts.. among other desired facilities.
Was it indeed possible for beloved Governor Tinubu to discover that his well acknowledged generous sharing of the democratic divids has failed to percolate to the various industries within the arts and culture community, in spite of fact that the vocational groups played roles in giving the former NADECO chieftain, Tinubu a heroic inauguration into officer?
Particularly and significantly, did the just conduct while it ran and after, flash across Governor Tinubu’s mind as Armstrong’s blues lulled him to reflection in that romantic setting of Ambassador Jeter’s palatial residence, last Saturday?
If the BHF came to his mind, was it possible for his excellency to his mind, was it possible for his excellency to ask: But where were all these distinguished artists and culture workers resident in Lagos when my government hosted blacks in Diaspora less than a month ago?...
There are various reason why these people were absent at the festival, but first, a quick cut.
The fact of presence of these people at the American embassy even is only an affirmation that the foreign agencies and diplomatic missions have become, as a critic once observed, the effective ministry of arts and culture in the country. The German Cultural Centre (Goethe Institut), French Cultural Centre, Italian Cultural Centre, former United States Information service (USIS) (now Public Affairs Department of American Embassy) as well as culture departments of embassies of of Russian. Japanese, Chinese, South African... have always rescued the inept culture bureaucracy in the country.
They have offered succour and support where the Nigerian governments over the decades, and in all the tiers, have always failed their own artists and culture workers.
Every weekend, the community of active arts and culture workers and patrons troop to the missions located on various parts of Lagos Island, to be part or guest of one art/culture event or the other, Sample this brief list.
•Three Saturdays ago, visual artists and patrons were at the Goethe Institue at the opening of Women and War, an exhibition by the International Red Cross.
•Every weekend, since beginning of the year, hundreds of Lagos youths and members of the art community are holed up at the French Cultural Centre. Last Saturday, they began the feast at 5pm, savouring Adewale Ayuba’s music, then watched a film till 10 pm before returning to their various homes. Some people left straight for the Jazz concert at the American ambassador’s where they encountered Governor Tinubu.
•Testerday, a good chunk of the crowd was at the French Centre for the World Music Day with about 10 band from Nigeria and neighbouring countries in performance.
•Today, another good chunk of the crowd will be at the residence of Italian Ambassador to feast on Italian classical music...
this is the way it is every weekend, and sometime almost every day, especially at the French Cultural Centre.
Lagos has a department of culture. It has existed for almost two decades. What does it offer the people of Lagos beyond entertaining state’s guests and officials at functions such as the Black Heritage Festival.
it was only in the past that the state’s arts council shot Lagos to the leading position as capital centre of Nigerian culture. Recall the 1988 National festival of Arts and Culture which Lagos through its council, hosted. It almost rivaled the grand fiesta, Second World Festival of Art and Culture, FESTAC in 1977.
One of the reasons why Lagos seemingly shut out the vibrant arts and culture community (which it is privileged to house) during the Black Heritage fesitval, was no doubt, the overzealousness of its culture bureaucracy which seems to have a pathological aversion to intellectual dimension to programming; as well as an inexplicable reluctance to open its bossom to embrace contributions from more knowledgeable.
it was no surprise that when Lagos had opportunity to host the world as the BHF purported to do, it only succeeded, except at the closing Gala nite, in entertaining members of Governor Tinubu’s cabinet, their families and friends, with the twenty something people that from the Dispora.
Where were the real movers of the culture scene of Lagos, who apart from the crowd at the Ambassador Jeter’s even also include accomplished artists as the Bruce Onabrakpeyas. Yussuf Grillos, Cyprian Ekwensis, Chris Ajilos, Victor Oliayas and many more, who have each erected a sort of monument or institution in the peculiar guests of Lagos, who being intellectuals themselves, would have perceived the Slave Route project that fundamentalised the BHF beyond the eventual ‘owambe’ colouration it had.
It will interest the governor to know that the very morning that the Black Heritage Pilgrims from the diaspora were converging in Badagry, a group of distinguished Nigerian art, culture scholars, administrators and activists were leaving the former slave town. they had been there for four days as part of a culure administration workshop initiated by the International Centre for the Arts, Lagos and facilitate by the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON>
Their mission was to fashion out a new administrative cum management strategy that could advance the cultural and touristic resources of the country - the very basic objective of the Black Heritage Festival.
Now the governor should ask his men - the conveners of the Black Heritage Festival - why it was impossible to have enlisted participation of the main men of Nigerian artistic life in the festival. Among the men were:
•Prof. Uche Okeke, foremost painter, culture ideologue and founder of Asele Institute, Nimo, Anambra State:
•Demas Nwoko, architect and founder of the New Culture Studio, Ibadan, and Idumuje, Delta State;
•Dr Bashir Ikara, well acknowledge culture - scholar and ideologue;
•Frank Aig-Imoukhuede, former federal director of culture who has authored most of the developmental projects of Nigerian culture;
•Dan Awodoye aka Mr. Culture, a key menber of the first generation of culture administrators in Nigeria;
•Charles Gomyok, a former federal director of culture, now head of Nigerian Institute Cultural Orientatation, NICO, among others.
In fact, Governor tinubu and his BHF men should have a review of the festival on the WTAR radio, Chicago and various others American publications and web-sites to which some of the BHF pilgrims have since relayed their experiences. Beyond the “warm reception” and “great party” descriptions, none of them seems to recollect any tangible intellectual ideas he took away from the event. One couldn’t even remember theme of the ‘Economic Forum.’
Now, this particular note for the adorable Governor Ahmed Tinubu: It is time to:
• democratise activities of the states’ arts and culture department:
• imbue it with intellectual capacitors, which in the past produce Abinibi (the culture journal that rivaled Nigeria Magazine in the 80s through 90s) as well as the monumental Lagos state Life and Culture, a voluminous book that is found in some key libraries around the world;
• embrace other contributions in programming beyond the inevitable myopic visions of the bureaucrats in the civil service and;
• deregulate the culture bureaucracy and cure it of itys ‘airport dancer’ mentality and; re-launch Lagos as the authentic culture capital of Nigeria and Africa in same status as America’s New York and Britain’s Brixton.

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