Okay, it has been a while since my last entry. Why, well, first there was this week the uni was closed and then, well, I caught quite a cold and after almost passing out on campus on Wednesday I decided to take things easy for a few days. So, I haven’t really managed to fill the gaps I found in my knowledge about the department. I only have to report that the week before I managed to talk to some of the owners of art shops in the town, well, to talk to … have an informal chat, will have to see them a few times more often to get a bit more information out of them. Some of the artists in town I spoke to actually also make music. Quite an interesting mixture: hip hop basically but in Pidgin English and Hausa! And, believe it or not: They are quite good! If anybody can think of a way to promote them a bit, let me know. Another one of them interestingly is from Niger, which is as much as I could find out about him. He’s really sweet but only speaks French and Hausa. Interviews in Hausa? I’m not quite there yet! And don’t you even mention French!!! By the way that’s the pic he painted for me.

I’d love to know where he learned that. Doesn’t really look like he had some formal art training, doesn’t it. And I’m also not aware of any school of this kind in Niger. Though, that doesn’t need to mean anything. He might have attended art school in Cameroon or elsewhere. More interestingly though: What brought him here? Has it anything to do with attitudes towards arts in Niger and Nigeria? Or is it just the economic situation that is even tighter across the border then down here? I guess I just have to try in Hausa … or organise somebody else to translate for me. The friend of a friend who did it for me on a previous visit, Dr. Ibrahim, has deserted me to take up a job in Kaduna. By the way, just in case you’re reading this: Thanks again!!! That’s him, by the way.

By the way, it seems quite normal for you as the customer to quite clearly agree a motive and everything with the artist in advance. We spent quite some time looking through journals to find some motive for my painting. It’s a weird situation for me as a “researcher” – I’d like to know what he’d chosen, don’t want to impose my own vision upon you but at the same time this appears to be the practice. On the other hand, he chose the magazines in the first place and the only motives he offered to me where kind of cultural or wildlife. … Not yet quite sure what to make of this.

On an interesting side-note: In one of the studios I saw a painting of the Chinese Wall that had been commissioned. Crazy in a way. Abakura is most successful in selling his fantasy European landscapes, there somebody is asking for a Chinese motive, Abdullah of the Islamic Art Gallery tells me imported Chinese low reliefs sell better than his own work and Wale explains to me that the only African style landscapes that sell are extremely kitschy version … so, maybe Abakura has a point when he resists my pressures to rather than copy landscapes from books to go out and paint some of the idyllic places around him. … But then, is that really that different from those people collecting African masks, if possible really old and at least once used in some kind of ritual? I mean, at the end of the day this has as much to do with their reality of life as those European style landscapes with the life of Abakura’s clients. Maybe the only real difference regards the imported Chinese factory made wall reliefs … or maybe not, even though many of us would regard something handcrafted more highly at lot of people wouldn’t be able to afford it and happily buy in what I regard to be kitsch shops. And even those of us who disregard this as non-art - how much has the fact that we treasure individualised handcrafted works more than imported factory made once to do with the price of manual labour in Europe, which the fact that is a sign of a certain status that one can afford this? Maybe labour is simply cheaper here and because of that it’s the fact that something is imported that makes it more desirable? I really don’t know.

Tomorrow I’m hopefully off to Kano to attend a course at the British Council. I keep you updated!

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