#LABAF2019 celebrates Pius Adesanmi, Bisi Silva and many others – Toni Kan
2019 saw the grim reaper at work within
the creative sector. Creatives
of various stripes made the transition from this realm to the next. The Lagos
Book and Arts Festival (LABAF) will celebrate and honour the lives and memories
of some of these newly minted
ancestors like Bisi Silva, Okwui
Adesanmi, Paul Emema, Eddie Ugbomah, Molara Ogundipe, Stella Oyedepo, Jide Ogungbade, Frank Okonta, and Idowu Nubi.
It will take place on Wednesday November 6, 2019 at the Food Court of the Freedom
It is fitting that the 20th edition of LABAF is dedicated to
David Dale, the Scottish Nigerian artist whose artistic journey began at St.
Gregory’s where he was taught by Bruce Onobrakpeya.
David Dale was a pioneer in many respects and was famous
for his stained glass technique. A 1971 graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University
art school, he specialized in Graphics and Design. Post-graduation, Dale worked with his old
teacher, Bruce Onobrakpeya before setting up his own studio practice, dabbling
in advertising and teaching part time. His early works evinced influences of Onobrakpeya’s
lino engraving and foiling but he later delved into printmaking and stained
His works were visual explorations of the frenetic urban conurbation that is Lagos and have been described by PM News as characterized of sparse lines “eliminating superfluous adornment to create a visceral connection to his viewers.”
He died in August after a stroke that led to a long and debilitating battle for his life which saw him slipping in and out of coma.
was a force of nature, a fecund mind with a prodigious intellect. He was a
poet, academic, essayist and public intellectual of the highest caliber. But he
was above all, as friends liked to call, him, an ogbonge man. That was what he
called you before he burst into his trademark laughter.
left this realm in March when the Ethiopian Airline Flight 302 he was flying in
went down shortly after take off in Bishoftu, Ethiopia while enroute Nairobi. Faculty
member at Carleton University, Ottawa, Pius began his academic journey in Nigeria with a Master’s
degree from the university of Ibadan after graduating with a First class from
the University of Ilorin. The story is told that he was so brilliant such that
when he went back to Ilorin for his youth service, he was assigned final year
projects to supervise.
Bisi Silva was both
matriarch and champion of the arts. She bestraddled the contemporary art scene
as founder of Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) the quietly impressive space
she set up in Yaba. She courted and introduced us to new, avantgarde and wave
making artists from Nigeria and beyond. She was style and ideology agnostic,
what mattered was beauty and talent and skill. Enterprising and intellectually
curious, her curatorial exertions were novel and envelope pushing. Her “Gallery
of Small Things” was a case in point, an experience which she theorized thus – “The conceptual and curatorial premise behind the
gallery is to create and encourage intimacy in an art world saturated
with large works that require that we move back in order to experience
She died in February
after a battle with breast cancer and Hannah O’Leary, the head of modern and contemporary
African art at Sotheby’s in London, had this to say in a New York Times
tribute: “I wouldn’t call her an African curator, but an international curator.
She promoted African artists to the world and brought the international art
world to Africa, and did it tirelessly. She never did the obvious: Her knowledge
and vision were unrivaled.”
Eddie Ugboma was a film
maker’s film maker. Educated in London with a short career at the BBC, Ugboma
had a small parts in Dr. No. Returning to Nigeria in 1975, he set up his film
production company, Edifosa, and quickly made a name for himself as the uber
filmmaker with such films as Rise and Fall of Oyenusi in 1979, The Boy is Good and Apalara.
But he is best known for his movie Black President based on the life and death
of General Murtala Mohammed.
He was without a doubt, Nigeria’s answer to America’s Oliver
Stone in his predilection for mining history for his movies. Old school to the
core, he shot many of his films on 16mm and is credited as the African to
have shot the most films on celluloid – 13 in all.
Eddie Ugboma who was honoured with the Order of
the Niger (OON), in recognition of his services to the arts was Nollywood
before Nollywood was born a fact acknowledged in a tribute by Lai Mohammed,
Minister of Information and Culture who
wrote that “In
his lifetime, Ugboma produced a number of avant-garde movies that blazed the
trail and fired the imagination of those who would later become the top
producers in today’s Nollywood. In a way, the success of the industry is a tribute
to him and his co-pioneers.” Eddie Ugboma died in May.
Okwui Enwezor was the first African to direct Documenta and the
only curator to direct both Documenta and the Venice Biennale. A political
science graduate, Enwezor, through dedication and hardwork, became a leading
figure in the global art scene. From writing art criticism borne out of his
frustration with the provincialism of the New York art scene of the 80s, he
founded the journal Nka and quickly became a theorist and promoter of African
art and artists bringing to the attention of a global audience cutting edge
contemporary works from Africa and the middle-east.
A tribute in The Guardian described him as a “peerless” and “charismatic”
curator who helped place non-western art histories on an equal footing with the
long-established narrative of European and North American art. Part of a
generation of auteur curators who rose to prominence in the 1990s, he, more
than any other, was one with a mission.”