|(L-R) Jean Claude Permal, Chief Operations Officer at Axis Fiduciary Ltd; Michael Ruel, President of MJ; Lance Olagoke, Founder Art-Alive Charity Trust; and Richard Vessot, Business Development Director at MJ.|
artists, among others, on display as part of embellishments at Mauritius' holiday resorts and villas.
Art-Alive's partners, MJ Development - a French group in Mauritius - were in Lagos few days ago and met Nigerian businessmen over tourism and property transactions. The team included Michael Ruel, President of MJ; Richard Vessot, Business Development Director at MJ; and Jean Claude Permal, Chief Operations Officer at Axis Fiduciary Ltd. MJ Development are the owners of Marguery Exclusive Villas/ Conciergery and Resorts.
Olagoke recalled how he has been working for 40 years having gone through drug addiction for a long time. But with Art-Alive's 'Open Door' programme in the U.K and some parts of Africa, recently, MJ Development got him after he had an interview with BBC. The broadcast focused Olagoke's activities on young people. His works got the attention of Vessot who was also interested in community development.
After going to Mauritius on the invitation of MJ, Olagoke had another idea in addition to his Art-Alive project. "I thought it is wise to get MJ here to support Nigeria in tourism and property development."
Vessot confirmed how he and Olagoke met in London "and we talked about Black River," a programme that helps the community. Vessot explained MJ's CSR: "We are in involved in property and of course developing the society." He also mentioned a project known as National Federation in France, which involves developing the youths. 'So, we chose Lanre as the main artist. And he invited us here to Nigeria to do property, art and development."
Few days after the MJ team arrived Lagos, Olagoke organised an evening of meeting with the Nigerian business community. "We met people interested in property and tourism in Lagos," Vessot enthused.
For Permal, it was a new experience coming to Nigeria after his first visit over a year ago. "I was here in Nigeria one an half years ago despite the negative things I heard before coming," he shared his thoughts. "Our firm provides service to MJ Development in Mauritius. But without the arts and developing the society, there is little we can do. Knowing Lanre blows our minds."
Olagoke whose activities are shared between Nigeria and the U.K disclosed that he has been talking to Ogun State Government about giving skills to the locals. "Abeokuta is known for adire, for example, and Art-Alive is setting up an academy in partnership with Ogun State Government." He assured that with Art-Alive, "artists' works will be known to more international collectors and exposed via properties for embellishment of the houses in Mauritius."
As regards youth empowerment, Vessot said "our MJ will be involved here even though we are in Mauritius."
Michael also assured that "Lanre's art projects and our property resorts can work together."
On the wider business interests of MJ in Nigeria, Vessot noted that with about two thousand Nigerians going to Mauritus every year, the prospects are on the increase. Travel time between the two countries is also a factor. The journey to and fro is shorter now through Kenya compared to previously that routes Lagos-Dubai-Mauritius.
"As we get Nigerians to Mauritius, we hope to also invest in Nigeria," Vessot said.
Permal, a familiar visitor to Nigeria noted that "the ease of doing business has improved here compared to few years ago when I came."
The visitors boasted of a Mauritus that is one of the safest place for investments, which is ranked among top 10 in the world in area of economic growth. They assured that the business-friendly policies of Mauritius offer incentives to investors from Nigeria.
Olagoke was a studio assistant to one of Africa's top modernists, Ben Enwonwu in the U.K. His current project involves five young Nigerians in the creative professions who woukd benefit fro the ‘Open Door’ programme of the a rtist.
The ‘Open Door’, which he started based on his personal and professional experience in the U.K., he said, "was designed for youths to rescue them from crimes."
Before ‘Open Door’ was launched, Olagoke founded Art-Alive Arts Trust, as a charity organisation with several thousands of youth beneficiaries. He also founded Soho Arts Fair, with both aimed at empowering young artists. Last year, the charity work was in Harare, Zimbabwe, where it engaged 75 youths from 1 to 18 years at Orphanage Home. The Harare work was done in collaboration with a group known as Mission Direct. Earlier last year, the charity work had collaboration with a Lagos-based not-for-profit group, Omoba Yemisi Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF). The project with OYASAF involved 25 upcoming Nigerian artists with the Turkish School, at Ikeja in Lagos.