Just came across this quotation ...

... the other day in Chika O. Okeke's PhD thesis. Its taken from a letter by Sir Julian Huxley in support of the remaining of the art department of the Nigerian College of Science, Art and Technology at the soon to be formed Ahmadu Bello University, rather than its relocation to Lagos:

"If I recollect right, the Ashby Commission recommneded the transfer of the deparmtent to Lagos, on the ground that there would be more contacts there. I gather that there have also been objections raised to the coninuance of an art school in a Moslem area. However, I wonder whether the athmosphere of Lagos would really be good for an Art School aiming at the fusion of African style and European technique, and trying to do original work. Lagos is very cosmopolitan. [...] There is the further point that the work of the School has, in general, I understand, been welcome in the Northern Region, and that it was inducing better attitude towards the role the arts play in modern life. In view of this, it might well be desirable to continue with the present arrangement, partly on the gournd that it has been successsful so far, and partly as one means of ensuring better cultural communication and appreciation between the regions." (quoted in Okeke 2004: 135)

"I gather that there have also been objections raised to the coninuance of an art school in a Moslem area" - Interesting. Not only with regard to the fact that most comments about (contemporary) art in the northern region I could originally find basically were in a similar vain - Islam as promoting a negative or even destructive attitude towards the arts. In particular Marshall W. Mount in his 1973 publication African Arts: The Years since 1920 comments very critically on the establishment of the art school in Zaria. And recently when I started telling people that I was particularly interested in contemporary arts in the north I received very surprised and discouraging reactions. So, how comes? I mean, there are apperently quite a number of HE institions offering art training in one way or the other and when I went there images of politicians still decorated almost every street I passed trough.



So obviously there is something going on in terms of the arts in the north. On the other hand, of course, I have heard quite a few times that the art market is not very developed, that attitudes towards the arts on the whole were not very favorable and conservative. However, to which extent religion actually plays a role here in contrast to, say, economic conditions, level of education etc., I can't yet say. And even if, there is still the question whether its just Islam. What about the attitudes of local Christians? But apart from that, what if attitudes towards the arts in the Muslim north were assumed to be that negative were the reason the art department, of all departments of the NCSAT, the art department was established at Zaria in the first place? (Pictures both: Zaria, June 2007)

But the second bit, that "the School has, in general, I understand, been welcome in the Northern Region, and that it was inducing better attitude towards the role the arts play in modern life" is even more interesting: Where in the north? - Just in Zaria or generally? And, by whom? - Emirs, business people, the religious establishment, or lay people? And, how was this "welcome" expressed? And, does "in general" indicate that there was in fact some local controversy about the department's establishment or the students activities?

... Interesting, very interesting. ...

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