The public art project of Nigerian artist Emeka Udemba was up for discussion at the weekend, at his stomping ground at Badore, Lagos where his “Lagos Open – Ajegunle Invitation 2013” international public art project was unveiled at a cocktail for writers, artists, and journalists. The street art project itself would be open for viewing on Saturday 16th November at Ajegunle, a result of a week-long work by various artists on public structures and street corners in one of Lagos’ most popular slums.
Of the housing complex called Project Space where the social gathering took place, Emeka was very effusive, and equally effacing. His enthusiasm about what he sees as a chance to make art relevant enough to engage society and engender social change was affecting as he showed us around all the rooms in the house, but so was also his humility. Art isn’t just for money, he said, but for a chance to affect society. The house is indeed private, as seen by the living quarters there where a few artists currently reside who are on residency in Lagos. It is also a public art project of itself, an art edifice built modestly and to taste in a quiet corner of the Lagos Islands. The ornateness of the simplicity of design was evident, as was the craft and deliberateness put into creating wide and stimulating spaces for artistic expression. The furniture was made with deliberate simplicity, crafted likely by local artists, and well places around the kitchen, living quarters, and the man-made lawn where many of the guests sat. Beside the fence were two bicycles resting against a coconut tree. In another corner of the house is a man-made pool, in case any of the residents feel like getting immersed in water.
This space, Emeka tells me, was acquired more than ten years ago, and was developed gradually with personal funds from private exhibitions across Europe. Now, he hopes to open it up for art gatherings and events as a way to contribute to the culture of Lagos art circuits as well as keep the structure utilized during the long spells he spends outside the country with his family in Germany. And while food, drinks, and barbecue flowed through the crowd present (which at some point included musician Ade Bantu, Marc-Andre Schmachtel, the director of Goethe Instituut, Lagos, Bayo Olupohunda – a columnist with the Punch Newspapers, and a number of other artists and journalists), the serenity of a Lagos evening made itself evident through the silence, the soft chattering, the blowing winds of the coconut trees, and the darkening whispers of an Island at night and at rest in good company.
The art project starts today Monday and ends on Friday. Artists from around the world will descend on Ajegunle to paint and work on public structures there in collaboration with the residents of the area. The finished product will be launched on Saturday 16th November. More information here.
Photos taken with a Lumia 820. More can be seen on my instagram feed /kolatubosun.