Preperatory Trip June/July
During this summer I have been on a brief preparatory visit to Nigeria, spending a couple of days each in Zaria, Kano and Maiduguri.
This proofed helpful in many regards. During the last academic year, the first year of my degree and the one during which one is expected to read as much background literature on one’s topic as possible, I had faced two major problems: First, although there is a relative wealth of literature on contemporary Nigerian little has been written about contemporary artists in the Muslim north of the country, the one major exception being the modernist Natural Synthesis movement in Zaria in the 1950-60s. Secondly, it proofed harder than expected to establish contacts in northern Nigeria from the UK. Hence, after almost a year into my PhD I had achieved very little, at least in terms of knowledge about my actual topic, i.e. not the history of the region or the general history of contemporary Nigerian arts. Hence, the decision to go to Nigeria for a relatively short visit of three weeks before officially setting off for a prolonged period of fieldwork in the region.Not surprisingly given my previous lack of information, I found that much of what I had concluded from the available bit of literature was out of date or plainly wrong and I had to completely revise my original fieldwork plan.
First and foremost, I was under the impression that besides ABU there existed only one other university arts department in the northern region, i.e. in Maiduguri. Even of the latter I had not found any mention in the literature but only knew about it thanks to the fact that my former Hausa lecturer’s daughter was a student at the department Hence, I had planned to conduct in-depths studies of the art worlds in both university towns, hence, what’s going on in terms of arts and craft within and outside the campus. However, as I soon realised the ‘landscape’ of tertiary art education in northern Nigeria is (of course!) far more complex than that: apart from university departments art education is offered at Kano State Polytechnic and a number of Colleges of Education all over the region.
And, of course, there are art courses also at further universities, i.e. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi and Federal University of Technology, Yola. In addition, the influence of local cultural institutions such as the History and Culture Bureau in Kano or the branches of foreign institutes such as British Council or the Alliance Française needs to be taken in account. Accordingly, I have decided to invest some time during my fieldwork period to explore different HE institutions and their art departments all over the region, try to find out about their historical background, curriculum, teaching staff and students.
I also learned that the different art departments in HE institutions in the north (and surely beyond) are interrelated in a number of ways that appear worth exploring, e.g. education and career history of members of teaching staff or external examiners.