Wednesday, February 15, 2012

IMF mission in Lagos museum

IMF mission in Lagos Museum
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christen Lagarde was at the Lagos Museum during her visit to Nigeria. The visit, which followed that of the Vice-President of Ford Foundation, Mr Darren Walker, demonstrates the place of culture in global networking, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.

When the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ms Christine Lagarde, visited Nigeria, not many expected her to visit the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos. She had earlier met with President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate president, David Mark and chieftains of the organised private sector (OPS), among others.
Her visit came a few weeks after that of Vice-President of Ford Foundation Mr Darren Walker during the opening of Nigerian arts in the cycle of life at the museum.
Lagarde was received at the museum by the Minister for Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, and Director-General of National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) Yusuf Abdallah Usman. Lagarde toured the on-going exhibition, African Lace:A history of trade, creativity and fashion in Nigeria, which first opened in Vienna, Austria in February and the permanent exhibition, Nigerian arts in the cycle of life, which opened last month.
Lagarde’s visit showed her willingness to work with African leaders in providing a platform for the expansion of their economies.
Impressed by the exhibits on display, she praised the museum’s management for mounting a classical exhibition, saying she “recognises the quality of what Nigeria has in its cultural heritage”.
“It is really a great pleasure for me to be here and I recognise the beauty you have. What you have is the beauty of a remarkable time and period. Unfortunately, for me, my time is too short ... So, I will like to come again,” she added. Duke later presented her with an artefact, a reproduction of a crown head of an Ooni of Ife as a gift from his ministry.
Duke said Nigeria has the largest collection of art on the continent, spreading across most leading museums and galleries in the globe.
According to Duke, the IMF boss has been busy attending business and political meetings, adding that it would be appropriate for her to have a feel of the other side of the country. “None of these memories would last longer than what she would witness at the museum. Economic policies and postulations can be the same in all countries, but when she walks through any of Nigerian museum’s exhibitions, the experience will be memorable. With her visit, the sector will be better for it,” he noted.
Duke said Lagarde’s visit would deepen her knowledge and awareness about the biggest black nation in the globe, especially its rich culture. “It is when a foreigner visits Nigeria that he will appreciate the abundance and colour of its heritage,” he added.
Duke, while explaining that funding from IMF was not likely to be on Lagarde’s schedule, said future support from the organisation could not be ruled out especially “when the nation is working on its Endowment Fund for the Arts. There could be collaboration and support from IMF.”
Last month, Walker hailed the partnership between Ford Foundation and the museum that brought about the hosting of the Nigerian arts in the cycle of life exhibition. He said the gesture was in recognition of the value of a Nigerian culture, which is vibrant and rich. “In Houston, Texas, there was a long queue of visitors wanting to view Nigerian arts. This is because it is rich and vibrant. Also, that is why there is much interest by Ford Foundation,” Walker said.
Culture, Tourism and National Orientation Minister, Chief Edem Duke is not moved by the tasks ahead of him.
He said even though they are daunting, they are not insurmountable. The tasks included human capital development; reinventing the National Theatre complex, re-engineering the Abuja National Carnival, and implementating the tourism master plan, among others.
At the opening of a permanent exhibition, Ezi Na Ulo Ndi Igbo (Igbo Household) at the National Museum, Owerri, Imo State capital, Duke said the exhibition has the magnifying effect of not only boosting tourism in the state but also reminds us of the peaceful co-existence and harmony that existed before now among the Igbo people.
The minister, represented by the Director-General of National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman, said the exhibition, which is a recreation of the Igbo life style, was curated to integrate all aspects of the nation’s cultural heritage for development and enjoyment.
“This is one task that needs the unalloyed support of international organisations, corporate bodies and well-meaning successful business men in Nigeria to actualise. The concerted effort will in great measure deliver mutual benefits for the development of our great country,” he said.
The director-genral commended Imo State governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha for providing the expanse of land for the construction of a new museum in Owerri.
Among dignitaries at the opening were House of Representatives’ Committee on Culture Chairman, Mr Ben Nwankwo, representative of Imo State governor, and Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Alex Ogwazuo; the Eze of Owerri, Samuel Emenyonu Njemanze, OzuruIgbo V; Dr. Musa Hambolu, Ms Ronke Ashaye and Mr Ozoboile Alasan, among others.
The exhibition, which captures the various socio-political and economic life of the Igbo people, is put together following the realisation that the technology and other intangible heritages are being threatened in the waves of modernisation and globalisation. The exhibition is made to capture and preserve the Igbo world views and the sustenance of the rich cultural civilisation and institutions, for which the people are known worldwide.
Earlier in an interview with The Nation, Duke said there is need to skew the reorientation of the nation’s leadership towards making creative industry be at the centre of national developments. He stated that the foundation of the nation’s development must first draw from sources of its being- culture and values that make Nigeria. He added that failure to do this would amount to building a house from the roof.
According to him, this requires lots of advocacy to address this fabric for the sustenance of the nation state. “This advocacy can only be led by the government but, most importantly, the media must lead the campaign for value orientation…This is an agenda for the sector for the period of transformation,” he said. As an advocate of private-public partnership (PPP), he said we must move away from the old ways of doing things, though change is very challenging.
He said the ministry is seeking the help of corporate Nigeria to rescue the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, noting that four proposals have so far been received on the re-investment plans. He said this is a significant development for a complex that has been lying fallow for years. He said the Presidency has approved a plan for the establishment of a Museum of National Civilisation in Abuja.
On the new spirit of Abuja carnival, the minister said: “I have spoken with Trinidad and Tobago’s High Commissioner to Nigeria on the need to hold workshop on creative industry, especially on carnival. We have to open the eyes of the youth to the fact that not only is carnival a tool for economic empowerment, but also that of fulfillment.
“Carnival is not an expression in of useless energies. We must prove to our youths that when you drum and dance, you can earn a ticket to mount stage of global performance. There is no reason why in two years, we should not have an institute of carnival...In 2012, you will see an Edem Duke’s hand in Abuja carnival.”

‘Lagos Photo is bigger than me’
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)

Founder of African Artists Foundation (AAF) and organiser of LagosPhoto festival, Mr Azu Nwagbogu, has described the last edition of the event as “challenging”. He said despite the challenges the festival recorded impressive turnout of participants and quality works. He disclosed that the foundation did not get its first payment by sponsors until three weeks to the opening, which made things very difficult.
“The maiden edition was great in terms of my emotional attachment to a debut show of that magnitude. The format of the presentation was imposing. Though energy sapping, this year’s festival also made great impact, especially the quality of its content,” he said.
The LagosPhoto festival was initiated by AAF as a new yearly photography festival aimed at representing African sensibilities. It hosted an indoor and outdoor exhibition featuring a mix of 41 Nigerian and international photographers, workshops, and a fashion exhibition. LagosPhoto attempts to challenge the idea that “discourses on the African continent are not necessarily applicable to their object and that their nature, their stakes, and their functions are situated elsewhere.”
Nwagbogu admitted that AAF promised to take care of the welfare of the participating photographers at the initial stage, but that due to paucity of funds, the foundation could not meet their demands. According to him, this was one of the setbacks experienced at the opening of the festival because some of the sponsors had not redeemed their promises to the foundation. “Still overheads cost continued to increase. Above all, we had a wonderful interaction with both local and international participants,” he noted.
But he assured that organisers of the festival would, among others, expand the outdoor centres in order to reach a larger audience, increase the number of indoors across the state, as well as open the centres simultaneously.
Nwagbogu is not unmindful of the need to preserve the collection of photographs in the foundation. He said efforts are on to build a rich collection in collaboration with major sponsors of the festival adding that the project would be discussed with similar festival organisers in Africa, such as Bamako photo biennale, in Mali.
Nwagbogu, who once contemplated entering the world of professional boxing before pursuing a master’s degree in public health from Cambridge University, switched his focus to promoting African arts, and photography took the prime position among visual arts.
On plans for African photography, he said: “We would love to show LagosPhoto, and we have been speaking with other partners like Foam in Amsterdam. We want to represent African sensibilities to a wider audience. I don’t mean showing the work of local photographers—I mean showing the photographers who we think are representing the continent in a truer fashion, as opposed to showing the work of people who are coming for two weeks on an assignment and heading back to New York and sitting back with a drink after their hardship posting on the continent. We want to show the work of people who actually spend time here, who are emotionally invested, who have captured sensibilities on the continent. It’s very important that the world take notice of these stories.”
He recalled how he started his journey into the world of photography. “I’m a fan of photography as an artistic medium. I flirted with a bunch of ideas around photography: I have set up a photo agency because there’s a massive pool of talented photographers here. But there isn’t really a formal school for photography here, and I thought, how do I stimulate this industry? Beyond that, in my international travels I have been to various exhibitions, various art shows around the world. Going out there and being inspired by images captured on the continent, especially in Lagos, made me think. Foreign photographers coming to Africa, working here, are documenting something really important, and a lot of people back home are not able to dialogue or really engage in these images because they’re not exhibited here,” he said.
Nwagbogu added: “So, I thought it would be great to have a festival where local and international photographers can dialogue and exchange ideas, can share work and have a working partnership. This is really the key thing for LagosPhoto -to create a dialogue for local photographers and photographers based elsewhere to tell the stories and give voice to the stories that we feel are underrepresented on the continent.”
He explained that it is also meant to develop the talent pool and tell our own stories in our own way adding that a lot of the stories that ‘we want to tell are less commonly seen or represented in popular media. But his dream is for the festival to be bigger than him and the foundation.

‘Eko Hotel too elitist for photo festival’
By Ozolua Uhakheme
A participant in the LagosPhoto Festival, Mr Nana Kofi Acquah, from Ghana, has described the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos venue of the opening ceremony as too elitist and restrictive for the appreciation of photography.
Acquah said the event would make better impact if held at a venue that reflects Lagos and where people can feel free to interact.
“Take the photographs to the people where they will feel free to view them,” he said.
LagosPhoto Festival, which was organised by African Artists Foundation in collaboration with the European National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC), had as theme: What’s next Africa? The hidden stories. It held at Murhi Okunola Park, MKO ABiola Park and Falomo Underpass, in Ikoyi. It featured over 40 photographers from Nigeria, Ghana, Italy, South Africa, India, Holland and France, among others.
Acquah observed that the festival has greater potential than other similar festival in the continent because of the huge market in Nigeria and the calibre of photographers in and outside it. He, however, noted that such potential could only be transformed into reality if the organisers look outside the box in the planning and execution of events. He noted that it would make economic sense if the festival is held once in two years like a big biennale in the continent.This, he said, would allow for better planning and reduction of donor fatigue.
“It does not make sense holding the festival every year as donors will soon get fatigued. And this can affect the survival of the event. Also, if staggered it will allow photographers enough time to create quality works that will make the festival,” he said.
He observed that much as the festival was successful despite the rain, organisers should consider hosting the event when the rain is less to allow good attendance of the various outdoor shows.
Acquah decried the organisers’ non-payment of per diem to participating photographers, as many photographers went through tough time during the festival.“It was of no use lodging me in a five star hotel like Eko Hotel and Suites and I can’t afford a breakfast. It is bad still if am not given per diem to support my stay in such hotel,” he said.
On the quality of works, curatorial and presentation, Acquah observed that all of that could still be improved upon in future editions.
This year’s theme is aimed at using the power of photography to showcase everyday hidden stories on the continent as opposed to the over represented, sensationalised, dramatic images on Africa popular across the globe.
Over 200 colourful photographs of Africans, places and institutions shot by 41 international photographers drawn from across the globe adorned the walls of the underground park of Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos at the opening. The festival curated by Mr Marce Prust featured incredible, historical and awesome images of the continent.

‘How much is that artwork?’
When an artist ‘pours’ out his heart on canvass, what you find is an artwork that is as close to his heart as his new born baby. Can a collector really pay for that ‘soul’ of the artist? If not, what then is the real value of such an artwork? Can it be an alternative investment? These are some of the puzzles resolved by a team of financial experts, collectors and auctioneers in Lagos. Assistant Editor Arts Ozolua Uhakheme was there.

If I give my artwork to GTBank as collateral for a credit, assuming the bank accepts it, how will it value the artwork? How do you convince bankers that art is worth investing on and how do you value the artworks for insurance?" These were some of the questions raised by Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Arthur Mbanefo, the Odu of Onitsha, at a business seminar organised by the Ben Enwonwu Foundation in Lagos.
Ambassador Mbanefo, a renowned art collector, said he paid one pound for his first artwork- a used envelop on which the late Ben Enwonwu sketched some drawings. The artwork, he said, was, however, lost to the civil war in the late 60s.
He regretted that but for the civil war, the old envelop would have fetched him millions of naira today. "If that art piece is still with me today, it would have fetched me lots of money up to an annual salary of a senator in the National Assembly. But each artwork I acquire, I find it difficult in disposing because it is like a baby to me," he said.
Mbanefo, who was chairman of the seminar, said he started collecting artworks in 1962, because of two reasons. "I collect for sentiment, which is a way of supporting the artists. I also collect because of the aesthetic of the artworks," he said in a remark to set the tone for the discussions.
Participants were drawn from various sectors of the economy to jaw-jaw on the topic: Art as an alternative investment? Leading the speakers was the Director of Contemporary African Art, Bonhams Auction House, London, Mr Giles Peppiat; President, Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Foundation (OYASAF) Prince Yemisi Shyllon; Chairman, Philips Consulting Group, Mr Foluso Philips, founder of Femi Akinsanya African Art Collection (FAAC), Mr Femi Aknisanya, and founding Executive Director, Communicating for Change, Mrs. Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago.
Peppiat, a chartered arts and antique surveyor, said art could be a good investment, adding that sound judgement and good fortune are both needed for this to be so. He, however, noted that only a small fraction of all the art ever produced around the world, sells at a value above its initial purchase price. The majority of this, he said, is bought solely for enjoyment and not for investment.
"I do believe that for the long term, art can be the best investment that a collector or individual can make. If astutely bought, correctly maintained and properly sold, the returns will easily outstrip any other asset class," he said.
Peppiat recalled how Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves & Bust was bought by its owners, Mr and Mrs Sidney Brody of Los Angeles, US for $17,000 in 1950, and was later sold for $106 million in May 2010."I will leave you to do the mathematics to calculate how good an investment this was," he said.
In any investment, he noted, dividends are important, pointing out that, unfortunately, artworks do not pay investors any dividend except for their long term appreciation in value. "The most important fact is to remember that art is an investment that does not pay a dividend. The non-tangible dividend to the owner is the enjoyment and appreciation. Buying an asset in the hope that someone else will pay more for it in future is ‘speculation’. But speculation with considerable benefits," he said.
Peppiat explained that establishing insurance value is a difficult task, advising that it should be done by an independent party. On how art can transform into an alternative investment, he said art collectors must determine what to buy and sell and take curatorial decisions that would shore up the value of his collections, which could, ultimately, become an investment alternative in future.
"Buy what you know about and like. Knowledge of the artwork is very important. Collectors should attend auctions and talk to professionals to know more about pricing. There is, however, the international effect on art pricing. For instance, the five highest prices of Ben Enwonwu works were set in Bonhams sales. But any art market needs a domestic platform to thrive," he said.
The buying of artworks, he said should be an investment of passion, made with the heart not the head. He said it is for this reason that enormous prices are paid at auction. Collectors, he said, are thinking with their hearts and not solely in pecuniary terms.
The Bonham chief said collectors should buy what they could afford and not be fearful of asking questions about pricing. He noted that buying works with good provenance is as vital as the quality of the work. "Aim to acquire works with good provenance, preferably traceable back to the artist. It also helps if works have previously been in an eminent or famous collection," he said.
He added: "Selling is important in many ways as this will stimulate new collection and entry of new artworks into the market. The timing of selling is, however, important but difficult. Timing should be when sales are strong because taste changes."
He advised collectors to always loan their works for exhibition as well as research their artworks to record the valid details about the pieces. These, he said, would add value to the collection. Buying into fine art funds such as the British Rail Pension Fund, according to Peppiat, is one sure way of investing in art without buying artworks.
On his part, Akinsanya never saw art collection as a business but a hobby. He noted that for art to be an alternative investment, there must be lines of interested participants in the business of buying and selling. According to him, "we have to create a network on how works change hands. There are different tiers of collections. Artists should set their minds on globalisation when creating artworks because art is one way to cross borders. We need to have a staying power to remain productive. So, gallery owners should provide means to boost artists’ productivity."
Philips called for the creation of a structured market that allows artists to focus on practice. He charged the artists to develop brand and add value to their works.
Shyllon, who noted that the British Pension Fund example would not work in Nigeria, said investment is not always about returns. He noted that other variables like risks should be considered when examining arts as an alternative investment. He said: "I did not start collecting arts from the point of view of investment. I am enjoying the arts. But what happens when collectors die? In Europe, private collectors donate their works to galleries and museums for keep before they pass on."
He said Nigeria does not have a befitting gallery that could house the private collections. Apart from that, he said preservation and conservation are vital to the sustenance of value of artworks.
Obiago challenged investors to look at the long term investment opportunities in the local creative industry as investing in arts makes sense.

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