National Arts Theatre

Women Are Gatekeepers, But The Girls Are Still Outside The Venue
Those who decide which artist to show in which exhibition in Lagos are becoming, increasingly, women. Just before the current consciousness, Simi Adesanya’s Mydrim Gallery played the lone ranger among male owned art shops that dominated the city. Then Bisi Silva arrived from the UK and disrupted the conversation about what was settled and what was not. With her Centre for Contemporary Art, Silva forced the gaze on conceptual visuals; Kavita Chelaram’s Arthouse Contemporary formalised the secondary art market with regular, predictable auctions; Sandra Obiago’s SMO Gallery is in your face; Denrele Sonariwo’s Rele Gallery organised the Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017; Ugoma Adegoke’s Bloom Art went to Cape Town Art Fair with Marcia Kure; ArtX, the loud, visual art fair, is owned by Tokini Peterside and Bolanle Austen Peters’ TerraKulture remains the referenced venue.

With the gatekeeping of Culture Production being superintended by women, you would assume that the artist on view would be increasingly the female variety. “That, incidentally, hasn’t happened”, notes Hakeem Adedeji, art collector and sometime photographer. “Women have shown that they are better managers of the art house”, he explains in his art-filled office in Ikoyi, “but collectively, as a society, we haven’t decided that the girl would be an artist”. Some galleries consciously go out to run periodic shows of female artists. SMO does one such show every year and Rele Gallery talks up its focus on women. But you can’t give what you don’t have.

The girls are simply not showing up in numbers anywhere compared with the boys. It’s easy to say: What of Peju Alatishe’s phenominal success at auctions, or mention the kind of price that Njideka Akunyili Crosby commands. But the truth is that most of the ladies that came out in the 80s with Ndidi Dike have disappeared, with the exception of, say Chinwe Uwatse. Yes, the highly contextualised works of Modupe Fadugba, Wunmi Natasha Ogunji, and Taiye Idahor are stuff to point to, but these are freak occurrences.

Anger As Excuse For Compelling Storytelling
Sitting down in the audience listening to Wole Soyinka talk about his latest books, you would be forgiven for assuming that he wrote Intervention Series VI and VII out of anger. But go through the books and it’s clear that Prof has used anger as excuse for compelling storytelling. Just after the preface to Between Defective Memory and The Public Lie, in Interventions VI, in which he lashes out at the Eko Foundation for plotting to wreak havoc on Lagos @50 celebrations and dismissing its members as “proud citizens of the Republic of Liars”, the Nobel Laureate slips in his 2011 memoir of his growing up in Lagos, at a time it was “a well laid out maritime city-preserved in surviving plans, sketches and daguerreotypes”. There’s so much rhythm in that story that, alone by yourself, you want to read it aloud. The author presses the anger button in the introductory paragraphs to Peter Pan’s Omelette, and as you plough through the mine of his quarrel with the noted journalist Peter Enahoro, you run into this mother lode of a story; a thoroughly engaging piece on the visit to his house in Abeokuta by Ibrahim Babangida, which provided the opportunity for Ibrahim Alfa, the air marshal, “to cart off a whole deer (antelope for some) from my freezer”.

The essay Green Cards, Green Gods, in Intervention VII is his response to “an orchestrated uproar” over his promise to destroy his American Green Card if Donald Trump won the Presidency of the United States, but the preface to that article, The Parable of Two Dogs, will sit comfortably in a Granta Book of short stories. It talks about two canines owned by one colonial aristocrat living in Accra in the sixties. One of the two “appeared to be of the same class distinction-an air of being thoroughbred, disdainful of the rest of society, aloof and with practiced, cultivated comportment”, Soyinka writes. “The other was a study in contrast: a pesky, screechy, termagant”. The author was alarmed. That dog “always managed to look scrofulous and unkempt. It was noisy!” You need to read the piece.

Bankole Olayebi, whose publishing outfit Bookcraft, publishes the series, admits he has himself noticed that Interventions VI and Interventions VI, the latest in a series supposedly published as pamphlets as part of Soyinka’s campaign against a high “attrition rate in accuracy in public discourse”, have taken on a different life of their own. “If you read the first work Justice… Funeral Rites, there is hardly any space for humour. He went after them”. Published in 2004, Justice… Funeral Rites is a collection of biting essays, with the main article mourning the loss of Bola Ige, the Minister of Justice who was slain, at dinner, in his own house. “It looks like Prof has relaxed”, Olayebi laughs, “and he is beginning to enjoy himself”.

Wedding Party II; More Like Echoes of Mixed Blessings
Forget the cliché; that the sequel is always not as good as the prequel. The Wedding Party II: Destination Dubai, is a different story entirely from Wedding Party. Unless you have a fetish for spotting the similar, the comparison doesn’t leap at you. An interracial story is a rarity on Nigerian screens so the reference that comes to mind for this reporter is of Mixed Blessings, the British sitcom series, which aired on Nigerian Television in the late 1970s.

In that series, the Nigerian actress Muriel Odunton played the black bride to the British white husband, Murray Blake. It so happens that it is the parents- in- laws that bring out the knives in either case. Michael de Pinna, as the white father-in-law in Wedding Party II is so much of a throwback to George Waring’s role in Mixed Blessings. Every time he talks about “these people”, he squeezes his face. The comic gestures are quite exaggerated in Wedding Party II, but the tension created by the accidental proposal is stretched for as far as it could and it is where the movie scores highest. It’s clear that Wedding Party II has refused to learn from a key lesson in Wedding Party, that the Igbo cultural point of view needed more research and the Igbo representation in hip hop culture could be more elaborated. In several instances, it feels that this movie, directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, is a Yoruba man’s poor attempt at telling an Igbo story.
• Compiled by staff of Festac News Press Agency

In this article:
Toyin Akinosho
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