I'm becoming a patron of the arts!!!

This looks like it is going to be a rather quiet weak, at least research-wise. The campus is still closed because of the incident on Friday … or in fact, security has even been reinforced o the effect that I was unable to go onto the campus on Monday. I had spoken to my host mum in the morning, checking whether she’d consider it safe to go to uni and she had indicated that there shouldn’t be any reason to worry as things were likely to have calmed down over the weekend. However, when I arrived I found that they had increased security measures and only allowed people in who were carrying their student ID. Of course, I still haven’t got any and the security guys didn’t really look like they were up for a discussion. What had happened? Well, on Sunday eve a young woman was attacked on campus. According to different sources she was either on her way to an evening event at the Chapel of Grace, which is on the campus, or worshipping in the open field. But the really scary thing were/are the rumours that the guy who attacked her was actually not just a robber but a member of some cult trying to suck her blood!!! Apparently there was still blood coming out of his mouth when they caught him. I don’t know while nobody seems to consider the possibility that this was actually his blood, that he bit his tongue or something of this kind – a version I prefer in any case. In fact, the rest of the version I was given at the motor park did sound like he might have been on drugs which would make it likely that he bit his tongue, wouldn’t it. – Please, no comments on this that question my version of the story. It’s scary enough without considering the possibility of some blood-suckers or cannibals running around! And I anyway don’t really know what to make of these rumours about all these cults … apart from that I just keep away from any discussions surrounding that topic.

However, apart from spreading horror stories, why am I putting that here, well, because I was meant to meet a local artist, Alh Mai Gana, at the campus on Monday. I had commissioned a painting from him as a means of establishing contact and we had agreed to meet up at the Creative Arts Department for him to hand it over to me. But as I wasn’t allowed into campus I had to return back home and without any telephone number I didn’t even know how to let him know! In fact, it seems he somehow made it onto the campus (I really don’t know how as he’s not a student or member of staff) and was waiting for me. So, hours after our agreed meeting time I received a call from him but we were disconnected before we agreed a new time and place to meet. And when I rang the number he had called from to be told that this was a payphone and he had already gone. So, panicking as I was – I neither didn’t want to loose the painting nor the contact – I made one of these stupid quick decisions: He had given me his ‘address’ at our first meeting. Well, address is a bit exaggerated, he told me in which quarter of the town he lives. Nevertheless I just got onto a bike, hoping that the driver knew the quarter and Alh Mai Gana would locally be well known enough for people in the area to guide me to his place. Well, turned out the driver didn’t know the quarter. So after first driving into the wrong direction he finally asked somebody who sent us all the way back. The next obstacle was that the neighbourhood is called Deribe Palace quarters; Deribe Palace being the locally rather famous house of the later Mai Deribe, formerly the richest man in town. So, now the driver insisted on getting me to the house itself, telling everybody I apparently was expected there on some business. Accordingly it took me shouting at him to get him to stop before we actually went into the compound of some people who don’t even know me. However, fortunately – and I’m proud I managed to do this in Hausa – the guy just outside the gate actually knew Alh Mai Gana and was able to give us directions to his place. He wasn’t around and it took me another half an hour to make somebody understand that I in this case I wanted to leave a message for him. Anyway, when I returned the next morning he was actually expecting me having received my message. And, in fact, something good came out of the whole chaos: I saw his house/studio. It’s beautifully painted with imitations of Moroccan style tiles, but very tastefully. On hearing me comment upon it he suggested that when I buy a house in Maiduguri he will paint it for me. Well, don’t yet have any plans of this kind. And, he showed me some of his paintings in progress. And turns out that – rather curiously – he produces a black and white sketch indicating all shapes, light and shades and his son actually colours the paintings. While Alh Mai Gana himself is, to my current understanding, an alumni of the Creative Arts Department here in Maiduguri and also studied painting at some school in Oxford in the 1980s, I assume that his son does not have any training of this kind but is the apprentice of his father. On a side-note: Something similar, i.e. a university graduate passing on his knowledge of painting to others outside the university context appears to go on with Abakura, whom I think I mentioned in an earlier entry. Anyway, I finally got my painting and now I’m curious for comments:

Comparing with the photo I gave him: Is it just me or did the portrait of Tobi to the right really work out the best of all of them? Part of me would love to commission him two more paintings, one of a European friend of mine and one of an African friend. Just to see whether this has to do with the fact that he perfected technique and colour palette for painting Nigerians but that portraits of light skinned people challenge him, or rather his son who does the colouring? It shouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that he worked from a photograph because this appears to be his usual mode of work. He chooses a good photo of some rather famous or well-off person, paints it and then offers it to them rather than to wait for commissions. And, usually, people seem to be either flattered or impressed enough by his work to actually buy it off him. I’d love to know to which extent this has actually to do with the fact that he works a bit like a praise-singer who starts to come after you with his band of drums to praise your virtues and whom you are expected to pay for this service – even if you didn’t request his service.

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