Monday, September 14, 2015

MultiChoice spent 800m dollars on Gotv

MultiChoice spent 800million dollars on Gotv

Call it a magical night filled with only the best of African entertainment or Africa’s biggest content showcase extravaganza you are right. That was the atmosphere as MultiChoice Africa hosted its second content show at the Outrigger Resort, Mauritius Island last week. It was a 5-day content extravaganza that witnessed DStv’s biggest channels previewing their latest and greatest contents, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.

If the caliber of guests that walked down the red-carpet on to the sensational night of dazzling event was a measure of success, this year’s content show has not only hit the mark, but also achieved its desire objective-offering the biggest week in Africa’s video entertainment. 
Laced with glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood berthing on the Mauritius Island paradise, guests that included Genevieve Nnaji, Rita Dominic, Desmond Elliot, Ramsey Nuoah, Basket Mouth, Eku Edewor, MC Ik, Banky W, DJ Sose, Flavour, Stoneboy and The Mavins were given the full music and movie-star treatment. It was a night that featured IK and Eku as MCs.  
However, the week-long event provided opportunity for MultiChoice and its various partners to provide answers to some issues affecting the industry, especially piracy, pricing, repeating of programmes and local contents among others. Chief Executive Officer MultiChoice Africa Tim Jacobs described piracy as a massive threat to broadcasters and right holders across the globe adding that ‘they are only enriching themselves.’ He said MultiChoice Africa is however working with rights holders and broadcasters to tackle it, but that it is a moving target because ‘their infrastructure means they can open new portals as we shut others down.’ He said it’s not easy to evaluate how big the impact is, since by definition, a lot of it is underground and spread through social media.
Jacobs who spoke at an interaction with the media at this year’s content show held at OutRigger Beach Resort, Mauritius Island said the challenge is broader as certain competitors broadcast a beam that comes down into Africa. “If you have that decoder and smart card that can pick up a service that is not designed to be broadcast in African territories, that is also piracy because the rights for that territory either haven’t been assigned or they are owned by a mainstream service,” he added.
Reacting to question on video entertainment service provider’s pricing structure, Jacobs said MultiChoice Africa is constantly evaluating its cost structures while taking into account the cost of content relative to its different audience groups.

He noted that there have been massive increases in the cost of content such as the English Premier League football rights, which MultiChoice has factored into its pricing. We’re conscious that a large part of the population is looking for a good set of quality content at the bottom end of the market, in the USD10 area, and we make decisions on the price points of our bouquet structure – it’s a continuous evaluation. We’re looking at alternatives too – there’s strong consumer behavior (especially in Nigeria) where many consumers are self-employed, and therefore, not monthly earners, so we’re looking at whether it’s viable to address a different type of model. However, it’s not something that’s on the immediate cards.
On the potential for a premium offering on GOtv, he said: “The market for GOtv is specific, and targeted at viewers sitting on analogue signals. This is a sector of the population that has never engaged on Pay TV. They get a rich experience on a digital platform but at a price point that’s at the bottom of the affordability scale. If you start to move up the value chain, you start to confuse the market between the DStv product, which is aspirational and high-value, and GOtv which is a fun, new, mass-market product. There’s also a capacity on DTT that’s much more restrictive than what we have on satellite, so there are also technical reasons to why we have to be more cautious.”
According to him, pay-per-view sounds attractive, but it is actually a red herring. He said an easy example is the Mayweather/Pacquiao boxing match earlier this year, which sold on Pay-Per-View across the world – in the USA at USD99 for 3-4 hours of viewing. “Across the continent, subscribers pay less than that for DStv Premium for a whole month of viewing across all our channels – and in this instance, that included that fight, which was broadcast on SuperSport. That’s the benefit of scale for us.
“If you segment sports, for example the EPL, the reality is that the cost of that is much higher than everyone thinks because you need to divide up those expensive rights between a much smaller viewing populations so the cost goes up exponentially. That doesn’t mean we’re not looking at Pay-Per-View as an option – we need to be flexible and we get a lot of requests for it. We’re watching consumer demand and looking at whether it’s economically viable. It’s not on the cards right now, though, but we do have a research team trying to work that out,” he noted.
He disclosed that MultiChoice investment in GOtv is in excess of USD800 million, in 8 countries across the continent and to recover such money means that MultiChoice cannot roll out towers into every city where the population size and affordability aspect lend itself to Free-To-Air (FTA). This, he said, explained why GOtv cannot be accessed in all regions of the continent, adding that ‘we look at each market on the basis of population size and the economics of rolling out a network.’
“Because we’re a Pay TV service, we can’t offer FTA service like governments do. In those areas, we’d typically pair up with an FTA operator, or the national broadcaster, which is a big part of our offering. We have a limit in terms of where our network reaches – we can generally cover 70-80% of a country. Areas that are remote need to be serviced through our satellite services because of factors including accessibility and terrain - the DTT signal needs to go across ground. Normally the national broadcaster or signal provider has the responsibility to ensure that FTA has national coverage, so they put towers in areas that it’s not economical for Pay TV providers to do,” he said.
On striking a balance between the commissioning of in-house and independent productions, the M-Net Regional Director West Africa Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu said: “We make productions in-house, but also commission, do co-productions and acquire content from elsewhere. You can’t generate enough content in-house. We need multiple production platforms to be able to service our subscribers with the quality content they desire. Our premise is that our content is created by Africa, for Africa, and we continue to nurture and build creative talent, in the hope of developing future producers and directors. We invest in building them up to the quality standards we want. A good mixture of in-house and commissioned content also allows for greater variety and allows us to engage with audience and local producers - that’s how we build talent on the continent. As the Maisha Magic channels roll out, our business model is to nurture local producers and once the channels are off the ground that’s a strong focus for us.” 
The show witnessed the hosting of DStv’s and GOtv’s biggest channels such as Sony, SuperSport, Zee World, A+E, Disney, MTV Base, BET, Comedy Central, BBC and M-Net.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New jerusalem in Benue

Behold the ‘New Jerusalem’ in Benue

Given the economic reality especially the increasing foreign exchange rate, intending Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem or Rome may look the direction of Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre in Benue State for spiritual edification and enrichment. The 23 years old religious site is fast emerging as Nigeria’s ‘New Jerusalem’ where thousands of pilgrims converge every August to celebrate the ‘special day of grace’. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME who was at the centre’s 21st anniversary celebration, reports.

The pain of travelling the 7 kilometre bad road from Ugbokolo in Okpokwu local government area of Benue State to Aokpe community did not deter the huge turnout of pilgrims to Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre. Thousands of Christians, especially Catholic faithful drawn from different dioceses in the country and outside Nigeria converged on the centre for 4 days (August 1-4) to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Our Lady of Aokpe Mediatrix of All Graces. Some pilgrims defied the scorching sun and intermittent shower of rain to sit and pray in the open field around the Altar of Perpetual Adoration, Crucifix of Jesus and Good Shepherd garden.  
For the four days, the sleepy and serene Aokpe community was literarily overrun by pilgrims and tourists to the centre. Temporary souvenir and gifts shops dotted the community road to the centre as traders displayed foods and gift items such as rosary, candles, pendants, wall papers, religious cassettes and CDs among others.   
But, to get the centre is like a journey through the Biblical narrow path to heaven. No two big vehicles found it easy to move on the opposite direction easily on the rough road. And all vehicles moved on gear one all through the short distance but ‘long’ and tedious journey. This created a brisk business for operators of commercial motor bikes (Okada) as most pilgrims took bike, which is popular and more convenient mode of transport to transit from Ugbokolo to Aokpe. The fifteen minutes ride on bike took a vehicle a minimum of 30 minutes to cover only on a dry day. 
To the pilgrims the bad road is not only a challenge, but it is also part of the penance for the spiritual edification, enrichment and growth, which is the essence of their pilgrimage. From visitation to apparition room, praying the Rosary, making confessions and penance on penance concrete track leading to the crucifix of Christ, fetching of Holy water from the spring fountain, reciting the glorious mysteries, participating in the Hour of Mercy and the Stations of the Cross, there was no dull moment for the pilgrims. It was marathon prayers, praise and worship sessions accompanied by spiritual talks and the 3-hourly holy mass during which pilgrims made constant supplications and sacrifices to the eternal father for collective and individual needs.
On Monday, August 3 alone, 8 masses were conducted for the nation and state, reconciliation, students, refugees and other internally displaced persons, peace, sponsors of Aokpe project and Holy Spirit. At the grand finale on Tuesday, August 4 the Most Rev Dr. Michael Apochi, Catholic Bishop of Otukpo Diocese took charge of the mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary that lasted for three hours.  
In his exhortation, Rector of the centre, Rev. Fr. Ejembi Vincent said the spiritual and social challenges of Nigerians are enormous as ‘we are living at a time when immorality is gaining ground, insurgency, Boko Haram, youth unemployment and other economic crisis bedevil us.’
The visionary Mrs. Christiana Agbo Ejeh who is now a lawyer said the Blessed Virgin Mary started appearing to her since 1992 when she was 12 and that Virgin Mary told her She would appear on August 4, 1994 to bestow grace on her children. “Virgin Mary told me that every August 4 should be set aside to celebrate a special day of grace,” she said.
The story of Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre, which is marking the 21st anniversary of its apparition (special day of grace) is like a prophet who is unknown in his homestead. The centre witnessed its first apparition of the Blessed Mary twenty-three years ago in October 1992, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a 12-year old girl, Christiana Inebu Agbo. Although the Aokpe apparition is yet to be officially recognised, the Catholic Church has however given it some serious considerations through the appointments of Rectors for the Pilgrimage Centre and the involvement of her priests in the devotions taking place there. The first positive sign that the Church’s approval would come one day was the declaration by the Northern Bishops which was read at the centre by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja, now Cardinal John Onaiyekan at the height of the apparitions in January 1996.
It would be recalled that in July 2013, there was the apparition of Blessed Mary on the wall of St. Benedict Catholic Church at Ubiaja in Edo State. Also, in the same month in 2012, the apparition of Blessed Mary was seen in a tree trunk in New Jersey, USA.
Up till date, Benue State government is yet to fix the 7-kilometre road that leads to the only religious site in the state, which attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year. What seems visible in the community is the electricity supply that is epileptic as usual.
Benue State Director of Tourism Mrs. Dooter Ajoko disclosed that the state government has concluded plans to revive the Makurdi Airport and construct the 7-kilometer Ugbokolo-Aokpe road project that was abandoned by past administrations in the state.
She assured that government is determined to develop tourism as income from oil has continued to dwindle. She said tourism is one of the priority areas the new administration is given attention to generate income alongside agriculture, entrepreneurship development and creating enabling environment for industry to strive.
She stated that Aokpe is of particular interest to the state because it has spent much money on pilgrims to abroad. “With Aokpe, government intends to promote it to encourage domestic tourism instead of spending foreign exchange on pilgrimage abroad. Unfortunately, not many people in Benue are aware of the centre at Aokpe. So, government wants to promote and develop the centre,” she said.
According to report, ‘apart from spiritual benefits the presence of Martian site is of immense benefit not only to the locality but the entire nation. It is estimated that once the Catholic Church gives its formal approval and recognition of Aokpe as a Marian site, Nigeria could earn billions of naira from pilgrims who would throng the site from all over the world. In fact, the Blessed Virgin Mary Herself had during several of her appearances declared that Aokpe would become great and that She would do great things in Aokpe.’
Benue State Queen of Culture and Tourism 2014/15, Miss Mimi Pine expressed shock at the size and quality of pilgrims and activities at the centre, lamenting that she is getting to know the centre at the close of her tenure as Miss Tourism in the state. But to add some cultural elements and colours to the events, performing troupes from Benue State Ministry of Culture and Tourism were on ground to thrill pilgrims to some scintillating dances.

.Making of Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre

According to reports by the centre, the first acknowledged apparition of the Blessed Mary on African soil took place twenty three years ago at Aokpe, a small village about seven kilometers from Ugbokolo in Okpokwu local government area of Benue State. In October 1992, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a 12 year old village girl, Christiana Inebu Agbo. The Blessed Mary made consistent appearances which last till September 2004, which the visionary Christiana Agbo described as the last appearance and the last message. Altogether, the Blessed Mary made over a hundred appearances at Aokpe within the twelve year span that the apparitions took place, most of which were privately done between the Blessed Mary and the visionary. Quite a few were public in the sense that dates were fixed ahead of the apparitions and great multitude of people assembled when the apparitions took place and messages relayed to the audience simultaneously.
The main public apparitions were between August 1994 and May 1996. The most prominent was on August 4 1994, declared as special day of grace by the Blessed Mary herself and celebrated since then by devotees of Aokpe.
On that occasion, the then Catholic Bishop of Makurdi Most Rev. Athanasius Usuh who then had Episcopal jurisdiction over the area was requested by the Blessed Mary to either come to Aokpe or send emissaries to witness the apparition scheduled for that date. This, the Bishop did and the emissary Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ojaje Idoko photographed and video-taped and documented the apparition as well as the miracles that occurred on that occasion which included the receipt of Holy Communion by the visionary from an Angel and the miracle of the sun. 

Landmark features
Despite the various challenges to the actualisation of the dream of becoming a Marina site recognized by the Catholic Church, the centre is witnessing some progress in the area of physical and spiritual development. Already there are the upliftment of the holy spring water discharge point, erection of the Good Shepherd Garden for retreats and altar of Perpetual Adoration built and consecrated on August 4 2010. These were achieved through contributions from devotees as well as the willingness of the local community to receive guests and donate their land for development. Also, the Mediatrix complex which comprises of some guests chalets, a conference hall, and water fountain and garden are among facilities completed and in use.
Currently, it is gathered that a business consortium has also submitted proposals for the building of hostels and tourists sites around the centre on a build operate and transfer (BOT) basis.   

Christiana’s encounters with Blessed Virgin Mary
“I was in my room praying when suddenly Our Lady appeared to me. When she appeared to me she said: “I come from Heaven. I am the Refuge of Sinners. I come from Heaven to win souls for Christ and to hide my children in my Immaculate Heart. What I want you to do is pray for the souls in Purgatory, to pray for the world and to pray to console Jesus. Will you accept?” And I answered her, “Yes.”
“In the same month I was in my room and suddenly I saw two Angels singing. I do not know what they were singing. I became afraid and ran out. My brother went and called my mother who said that she could not see anything. The two Angels remained for some minutes, then one of them said, “I am the Angel of Peace.” Then they disappeared.
“The 1st of December, 1992, I went to the Church to pray. After saying prayers and the Rosary with the people, I left the Church and Our Lady suddenly appeared to me and said: “After saying the Rosary sit down and meditate for some time.” She then disappeared.
On the 1st of October, 1993, Christiana saw a round object like a ball on the floor with flowers around it. Our Lady came and stood on it. Prompted by her mother, she was going to ask Our Lady’s name. Our Lady cut in quickly and said, “Behold, I am a Holy Mother and I will introduce myself another time.”
When Christiana stated, “I do not know your name,” Our Lady replied: “The time of giving my name has not yet come. The name I will bring will be a powerful one. I will do many things in St. Patrick’s Church” The title which Our Lady eventually gave Christiana is one which evokes much doctrinal and devotional history: Mediatrix of All Graces.


Monday, July 27, 2015

How Glo turned leading the pack into art

How Glo turned leading the pack into an art
Call it a big swoop or a bumper harvest of stars and you are right. Telecoms giant Globacom has raised the bar as the nation’s network of stars, with its endorsement of no fewer than 29  leading artistes as brand ambassadors, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. (
Globacom is huge in my industry and I see the evidence of the company’s commitment to improving the industry and the lives of its practitioners everywhere I turn. To be honest, it’s been a dream to have a working relationship with the Glo brand. An opportunity to turn this dream to reality came, and I took it.”
That testimonial by Nigeria’s musical star, Wizkid (Ayodeji Balogun) confirms the strong belief among leading artistes in Glo’s massive support for the creative industry and why they found solace with the telecom giant.
Wizkid, one of the biggest signings this year, was formerly with MTN. He jettisoned MTN and signed for Globacom. According to a statement he issued titled: Why I signed with Glo, Wizkid said Globacom is a brand he had admired for a very long time considering its strong persona and its very massive impact and image in the entertainment industry in Nigeria.
He added that it’s an incredible blessing to be sought after by arguably Nigeria’s two most powerful brands at the same time. “My decision to go with Globacom this time is not an act of spite against MTN. I simply seized an opportunity to move from Yellow land to greener pastures. God bless,” he said.
With these record breaking endorsements, Glo has stepped up its support for the arts and has thus attained the largest portfolio of brand ambassadors by any company in Nigeria. Interestingly, Glo’s massive support for the creative industry spanned themed concerts, reality TV competitions, events promotions and campus tours, which have over the years impacted the creative industry to becoming an economic hub for income generation.
The new ambassadors are nine, while 20 have been with the company for some time. The ambassadors include  Sani Danja,   Sammie Okposo, Ego Ogbaro, Peter & Paul Okoye  (P-Square), Bright Okpocha (Basketmouth), Funke Akindele, Ini Edo, Ime Bishop Umoh, John Okafor (Mr Ibu), Helen Paul, Chiwetalu Agu and Wande Coal. Others are D’banj, Omawumi Megbele, Bezhiwa Idakula (Bez), Chinedu Okoli (Flavour), Jude Abaga (M.I), Damini Ogolu (Burna Boy), Bimbo Oloyede, Bovi Ugboma, Ayodeji Makun (AY), Patience Ozokwo (MamG), Odunlade Adekola, OC Ukeje, Reekado Banks, Korede Bello, Hadizah Blell (Di’ja) and Ayodeji Balogun (Wizkid).
The mega deal is another major statement about Glo’s commitment to the growth of entertainment industry. Globacom has been consistent in supporting the   industry. Apart from supporting through endorsement deals, Globacom avails the industry of its massive infrastructure to facilitate distribution of practitioners’ works. It is estimated that mobile operator including Globacom has generated millions of Naira for artistes by helping them to sell their music as ringtones. Through this deal, Globacom is ploughing hundreds of millions of naira into the entertainment industry. No doubt, the network provider has been able to turn the lives of many entertainment stars around. It is such a deal as this that some up and coming stars need to blossom into mega stars.
Bez, for instance, has metamorphosed into a huge star since he was signed up by Globacom several years ago. Glo is also developing different segments of the entertainment industry as the ambassadors are drawn from Nollywood, music, comedy and broadcasting.
It has also launched a world-class online entertainment portal for the enjoyment of its teeming subscribers across the country which would also help to expose ambassadors to a larger audience.

I will love to reincatnate as artist

‘I will love to reincarnate as artist’
US-based Nigerian scholar and artist Prof dele jegede turned 70 last April. He will be celebrated by his colleagues at the University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology, Lagos from tomorrow.  To him, good artists never die, never fade away, but simply become more vivified; a category  which he belongs to at 70. Though disengaged from teaching, he sees the disengagement as an opportunity to re-engage himself with his studio practice,   Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. 
With the marking of your 70th birthday, you have joined the elder statesmen’s club. How do you feel hitting the mark?
Where’s the King of Soul, James Brown, when you need him? “I feel good….pa para para para!” I am nothing but thankful. There are no two ways about that. The older you get, the more introspective you become. The more exposed you are to occurrences and developments, which humble you and cause you to be appreciative of the grace without which your very existence will be naught. When I was young—let me re-phrase that, because I am still young—when I was much younger, a 40-year-old man was old, very old; a 50-year-old was ancient; and a 70-year-old? That was simply antediluvian! I have since realised that your perspectives on things shift as a result of your age.
I remember in 1995 (when I was 50), a student of mine complained innocuously about the ways of her very old dad. And then I asked how old was her father. “50,” she responded. Of course I changed the topic. Hitting 70 (which, by the way, happened in April) was something that I had no control over. It was not as if I could choose how long I would live; no one has that power. I had been in a position that I wished that death had come for me instead of someone else. It is in that sense that I talked about grace and clemency. Ageing is one thing; ageing gracefully is another. And that is something that I aspire to do, especially in terms of the extent to which I inspire my peers and colleagues, and become a positive role model for the younger generation of citizens and artists. Living gracefully has nothing to do, in my estimation, with your sartorial taste anymore than does your height. Rather, it is your personhood: your moral probity, integrity, principles, forthrightness, professionalism, and commitment to enlightened citizenship. It has to do with using your professional and intellectual abilities to positively influence society. And that is one of my new mantras.
Retiring now at 70, how fulfilling is it to end your career outside your country?
Retirement ke! One point of correction, I have not ended my career. In actuality, I’ve just revved it up a notch. As a vocation, art is not a 9 to 5 job. Rather, it is an organic cocoon: something that you live; a life that you exude. How can you talk of retirement in that situation? The committed artist never thinks of retirement. You have heard of the maxim about old soldiers who never die; who simply fade away. Well, that is not so with old artists. The good ones never die; they never fade away; they simply become more vivified. Examples abound. Look around the Nigerian art scene today and you can construct a strong list of artists, living or departed, vertical or perpetually horizontalised, who are continually written about in the present tense. While it is true that I have disengaged from teaching, I construed that as an opportunity to re-engage with my studio practice. As to where I practice, the age of globalisation has shrunken the world so significantly that location is no longer an issue. While my primary residence will remain where I’ve been in the last two decades, I will also take advantage of the opportunities that my ancestry offers.
Looking back, how fulfilling has it been teaching in the US?
It has been both challenging and fulfilling. It has also been rewarding. Like all countries, the U.S. has its strengths and weaknesses. For everyone, who is career-oriented, motivated, and inspired, the opportunities are super-abundant. Indeed, the United States remains as perennially advertised: a land of opportunities. If you are so inclined, you can chart your own path, create new avenues for personal success, and intuit novel ideas. But, living in the U.S. can also signal perpetual misery for those who are interested in the dream but lack the capacity, willpower, or wherewithal to prepare their beds aright. For many, the U.S. is the proverbial El Dorado. Americanisms permeate the imagination of many young and not-so-young Nigerians, who are desirous of capitalising on life styles that Hollywood has so ingenuously marketed on a global scale. But one of the unwritten canons pertains to the power that culture exerts on many, who go to the U.S. but are ill-prepared for the inevitable culture shock that they will have to contend with. Before I retired from the University of Lagos in 1992, I had worked there as a faculty member for 15 years. It was from there that I went on a leave of absence to study at Indiana, where I obtained my doctorate in 1983. And in 1987, I had taught for one year and curated a major exhibition at Spelman College, Atlanta as Fulbright Professor.
Although exposure to American culture and the qualifications that I paraded certainly helped, they were not the primary reason for my eventual emigration, with my family, to the U.S. in 1993. Two of our children, who were born in the U.S. were asthmatic. In particular, our oldest son, Tolu, was chronically asthmatic. There was hardly a week that we did not make an emergency run from our place at Ikeja to Unilag Health Center for emergency health help, often in the middle of the night. Those were the nights when the parental adrenalin countered whatever dangers were posed by hoodlums and men of the night. Tolu became something of a recurring face at the Health Center, known to virtually all the medical personnel at that time. The situation was so dire that the sing-song by our children was that we needed to return to the U.S. Today, Tolu is professor at a college in Florida.
In retrospect, are there decisions you would have taken differently now concerning your career growth—studying art, media job, teaching at UNILAG—and checking out to US?
With full 20-20 hindsight, it is very easy to second-guess decisions that I took in the past, which have obviously inflected the trajectory of my professional growth and personal development. I have no reason to do that. As one, who has continually advocated the application of contextualism in analyses, I could not envision reversing any of the major decisions that I took in the past without asking for corresponding reversal of the context within which such decisions were taken. On the contrary, I took these decisions with deliberation and embraced the outcomes with pride and enthusiasm. My studentship at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, was the culmination of sheer determination of a young lad, who single-handedly set and attained the loftiest dream of attaining a university degree in the face of adversity. That decision was significant and momentous in my life. In terms of my career, I coveted the opportunity to work at the Daily Times when I was a third-year student at Ahmadu Bello University and worked assiduously towards that end. I was giddy with excitement when I interned at the Daily Times in the summer of 1972. At the end of my NYSC in 1974 (as a pioneer corps member), my career as a cartoonist had been launched with a series of cartoons in Lagos Weekend and Sunday Times. You could not have enticed me with anything not to accept the offer, which the Daily Times gave me, as Art Editor in July 1974.
As students in Zaria, some of us had determined to spruce up the exhibition scene in Lagos after graduation. Kolade Oshinowo, Shina Yussuff of blessed memory, David Dale, and my humble self became quite active in the exhibition circuit. I also took up critical reviews in the Daily Times during this period. I left the Daily Times because I was simply enamored of academic life. Besides, I figured I could continue to do my cartoons from anywhere without being in the employ of the Daily Times. I joined the University of Lagos as Junior Research Fellow in January 1977 and was thrilled to be directly involved in organising certain aspects of Unilag’s FESTAC 77, which the Center for Cultural Studies undertook under the directorship of Prof Joe Alagoa. Hankering after additional degrees was something that you would do as an aspiring young man. So, by 1979, I was on my way to Bloomington.
I should note, with extreme pride, the stable and blessed marriage that I have had. This, indeed, ranks as perhaps the best decision that I ever took. Of course, Joke, my wife of 40 years, took all evasive actions way back in 1972 when I first laid eyes on her and embarked upon the customary pursuit of a love that made itself elusive. But the more unconcerned she appeared the more determined I was to prove that I was worthy of her hand. Although she always contests my claim that it was my cooking that eventually sealed the deal, it seemed that she ultimately took pity on me, especially after learning of the day that I almost got crushed by a “tipper” as I made a dash across Ikorodu Road trying to catch a Somolu-bound danfo to her place at Akoka. No matter. Joke remains my adorable friend, partner, wife, and counsellor. She is a woman of unparalleled strength, something that I became even more appreciative and respectful of in the wake of the cataclysmic shock that the loss of our son, Ayo, unleashed on us in 2011. Without Joke (who was herself grief-stricken), my story would have taken a tragic turn.
Are there any memorable experiences at the early stage of your stay in US?
I learned pretty quickly that the United States is at once opened and closed. It is through its openness and transparency that I was able to secure a job based solely on my academic and professional pedigree. It was the same system, one that places premium on excellence and healthy competition, that ensured my rise within the academic system. I became, at two different times and in two states, chair of two art departments. This could have been achieved only through a transparent academic culture. But I also learned that if you were, like me, thoroughly immersed in your cultural heritage, you would have a steep culture shock to contend with. Thankfully, my immediate family provided the succor that I needed. It could get easily dreadful and lonely for those who do not have that kind of support. I learned that racism, both overt and covert, is alive in this country. I learned that a considerable degree of naiveté permeates the American social fabric with particular regard to how people from Africa are generally perceived or related to. I once ran into an American couple at the mall. Once I confirmed my African pedigree, the next question by my new mall friend was whether I knew his wife’s boss, a certain Stephen who is also an African, from Tanzania! But my overall experience has been nothing but positive.
What are the post-retirement plans?
There is a caveat to this retirement thing: it pertains only to my job as professor. The plan, thus, is to roam; to produce, explore, and become creatively pontifical. This I will do without being bound by geographic demarcations. A two-day conference (July 23 and 24), which Kunle Filani and his team organised, comes under the aegis of the Society of Nigerian Artists. It is gratifying to be accorded this honour and I am beholden to all who are involved in this gesture. In July 2016, I will be having a solo exhibition at Terra Kulture. This is the immediate project. Along the side, I will, where practicable, participate in a few group exhibitions across continental divides. The primary goal is to immerse myself in my studio life and savour the pleasure of professing my art. Of course, opportunities to contribute essays, deliver lectures, and consult for a diverse array of organisations, abound both in Nigeria and the U.S.
Having lived and studied in US for so long, what is the performance level of African artists in Diaspora on the global scene?
Laudable. So much has happened in the last two decades that has catapulted artists of the African Diaspora to the stratosphere. It is probably not that helpful to adhere to the old, rigid idea of compartmentalising artists on the basis of media singularities or geographic location. In the 21st Century, the boundaries have become so pulverised that what emerges, at times, is essentialised more by notional specificities or idiosyncratic givens than by traditional media. From Southern Africa to the Maghreb, from West Africa to East Africa, there is a catholicity of creative expressions that was either not fully made manifest or was simply non-existent a mere two decades ago. As part of this robust emergence of African art on a global scale, we should recognise the origination of vibrant, collateral fields that have quickly become formidable in the curating, analysis, and historicisation of the artists and the various genres that exist. Auction Houses such as Bonhams and Arthouse Contemporary, for example, have broadened access on a global scale. A cursory look at the list of Diasporic scholars of African art reveals the dominance of some of Nigeria’s best scholars.
If you were to come to this world again, would you be an artist?
My answer is unequivocally yes. Additionally, I would, with the benefit of hindsight, amplify my interest and talents in theater and music. But I would still marry Joke.