From Nwagbogu, a strength in promoting artBY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Sunday, 29 May 2011 00:00
IN the last few years, Azu Nwagbogu has quietly been contributing to the development of Nigerian art by initiating events, particularly art competitions.
Through the group, African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), which he founded, quite a number of new artists have emerged while established ones have been partaking in local and international shows.
In fact, the 2011 edition of AAF’s national art competition, which holds this year, has bigger prizes for winners in any locally organised art contest. For example, the first prizewinner would be two million Naira richer Nwagbogu states.
AAF placed N700, 000 money prize for the first prize at the second edition, theme Nigeria, the Future I See, held in 2009. The 2010 edition Chronicles of a Great Nation at 50 moved a step further with N1.5m for First prize, N1m Second Prize and N500, 000, Third Prize. Chronicles of a Great Nation appeared to have blazed the trails in monetary prizes for art competitions.
He explains that the challenges of running such an organisation is more than managing regular art gallery. The group, he stresses, has been working with the same financial provision for the last three editions, yet increasing the prize money each year. “We started with N750, 000 for each winner, then last year N1.5m for the winner, this year the first prize is N2 million.”
INDEED, AAF has set a culture of setting pace in art promotion, despite its claim of ‘non-profit charitable foundation.’ From having consistently organised the national art competition, to regular art shows for artists and the debut edition of Lagos Photo, last year, which was, perhaps, the biggest photography show in the country, AAF keeps proving that the prospect of art in the country is worth the efforts.
Also, in the art circle where traveling art show is hardly organised, Nwagbogu has the support of the corporate bodies to stage such shows as photographer George Osodi’s Driver’s Dexterity, a focus on road accident and the 10 Contemporary Female African Artists show in Lagos, Abuja, Warri and Port Harcourt. Sometimes the educational and enlightenment focus of these projects were not adequately explored. For example, Driver’s Dexterity done in collaboration with Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), which had fantastic images on road accident should have been shown in more cities. This, Nwagbogu notes are some of the challenges of AAF. While commending the corporate partners for the various sponsors, he stresses that more needs to be done.
“Aside from the promotion and artists’ empowerment aspects of these projects, the education values are important,” he states.
“AAF works to develop artists, as we are more interested in individuals with raw talent that need nurturing, regardless of art training background. This is a challenge and we are constantly looking for better ways to achieve this,” he says.
AND the artist empowerment focus of the art competitions did not take long to manifest as Sangodare Ajala, who won the first prize of the AAF / NB plc-sponsored Chronicles of a Great Nation explained the gains of the monetary prize won: “part of the prize money would go to the repair of Susanne Wenger’s house and her art.”
The 2011 edition, Nwagbogu explains is aimed at building upon the developments made in the previous projects, particularly, Chronicles of a Great Nation at 50 by strengthening the core of Nigerian art society to develop the creative approach and intellectual content of art. These, he says, include often-neglected skill areas in the creative industry.
The project, he states, requires participants to propose in writing a detailed plan of their creative approach on the theme.
“Based on the submitted proposals, 15 finalists will be invited to partake in a series of workshops that will result in the creation of works to be shown at the grand finale.”