Yinka Shonibare: ‘I see what’s happening as an African renaissance’
The artist talks about his project spaces in London and Nigeria, and Africa’s untapped artistic potential
Yinka Shonibare and his work The British Library, at Tate Modern in April.
Over the past decade, I’ve been running a project space for emerging artists in east London called Guest Projects. Based just off Broadway Market, it supports practitioners in a variety of disciplines, from visual artists to musicians to theatre companies. Not long after setting it up in 2008, I decided I wanted to make the project international. As I have roots in Nigeria, and the creative scene there is so exciting, Nigeria seemed like the right place to do it.
About eight years ago, I acquired some land in Lagos. Now we’re in the process of building a residency in Lekki, a rapidly developing area in the east of the city. It will house three artists at a time, with studio and gallery spaces on the ground floor, and residents’ bedrooms above.
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The project also extends to a 30-acre farm in Ijebu, three hours northeast of Lagos. We’re in the process of landscaping and building a barn house and studios for artists, using sustainable materials such as mud, as well as a walled garden where people can learn about indigenous plants. Lagos is a very busy urban area with a lot of nightlife and music, so Ijebu will be for artists who need a more quiet space to produce work on a larger scale (there also will be a sculpture garden on the farm).
Yinka Shonibare’s proposed Guest Artists Space (G.A.S) Foundation.
‘A two-way exchange.’ Yinka Shonibare’s proposed Guest Artists Space (G.A.S) Foundation. Photograph: Courtesy of Yinka Shonibare
The Guest Artists Space (G.A.S.) Foundation, as the new project is called, will be a two-way exchange. International visitors will be able to offer advice and support to local artists, but they will also receive knowledge. There’s so much to learn in Africa, and so many amazing artists and intellectuals, and the project spaces will provide a platform for exchange, for debate, for collaboration. There will be opportunities for visitors to work alongside African artists, to debate alongside them, to explore work, and leave with a completely different perspective. I’ve done residencies myself in the past and I always come back with a changed view of the world.