Showing posts from May, 2011

VOXAFRICA STM interviews Bino and Fino creator Adamu Waziri

A worthwhile distraction while I amend my thesis:

BBC4 Interview with Stuart Hall

Via Africa Is A Country, , Stuart Hall on BBC 4’s Thinking Allowed

The Prime Minister recently criticised what he called 'state multiculturalism' and said it had failed, arguing that Britain needs a stronger national identity. Is it time to turn our backs on the multi-cultural idea? And what would a stronger national identity mean to people who feel at the cultural margins of our society? As the politicians debate, Laurie Taylor speaks to Britain's leading cultural theorist, Stuart Hall. They discuss culture, politics, race and nation in a special edition of Thinking Allowed.

Producer: Charlie Taylor.

Stuart Hall is a British cultural theorist, Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the Open University (UK) and former chair of INIVA whose work has been highly influential in media and cultural studies in the UK.

Paper Worlds Popular Imagery of Wissembourg

To my best of knowledge, chromolithographs illustrating Muslim religious motifs were exported from Europe to the Arab world from about the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. In a new publication, an exhibition catalogue, that I still need to lay my hands on, Malou Schneider explores images of this kind produced by an Alsatian printing house based in Wissembourg/Weißenburg. The printing press was founded in 1835 by Jean Frédéric Wentzel. According to the Wissembourg Herald Tribune, the company maintained close trade relationships with Egypt in particular.

Outre cette actualité politique, les images traitèrent sans disctinction des sujets religieux aussi bien protestants, catholiques, juifs et même arabes comme ce retour du Tapis sacré à la Mecque grâce à Hassan Auvès, le correspondant de l’entreprise au Caire qui diffusa les images de Wissembourg en Egypte !

The below video documents provides a sneak preview of the exhibition which was shown at the Alsatian Museum between October 2010 and January 2011. If you pay close attention you can get a glimpse of the prototype for one of the motifs produced for Muslim markets. It depicts a Muslim man on horseback fighting demons. A chromolithograph depicting this very same motif and collected in Morocco can be found in the collection of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, 'The Faithful's Fight against Demons.’

(Video Source: CultureBox)

The Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency in Action

No comment.

(this video was published here by Next Magazine)

Oh, well, I cant help it.

As somebody who derives visual pleasure from the accidental collages of different kinds of posters and graffiti (at their best, they do liven up otherwise drab urban spaces) I have mixed emotions about this. Yes, when I was in Nigeria, the part of me that grew up on moral tales about taking responsibility for your local environment grieved at the sight of Pure Water bags in the streets. This part of me appreciates the value of what these guys are doing. But, it also makes me sad, somewhat. The colourful collages of these posters in the background of photographs documenting the recent elections (and, sadly, the violence that followed) have become an integral and iconic part of my memories of (the reporting of) these events. Imagine our ancestors had approached the graffiti at the walls of the caves of Lascaux with the same zeal for stainlessness!

You got to admit they add colour, no? (source: 2SpaceNet, ultimately poss. Reuters)

Yes, I do acknowledge that this are not the caves of Lascaux and that this act of iconoclasm, I am sure, is informed by an earnest concern with public hygiene (which is why I put the ‘…’ around iconoclasm). But, that doesnt mean that policies about the management of public spaces arent informed by ideologies that favour some forms of (public) expression above others and that these distinctions do not reflect broader discourses about (cultural) citizenship. I believe they do. One (wo)mans act of vandalism is another ones expression of a disadvantaged minority or a piece of street art. One (wo)mans act of reconstructing a public space is another ones act of erasing artefacts of local history or even an act of iconoclasm,’ … and to this art historian the Lagos State authorities removal of election posters is also the destruction of a visual artefact of the 2011 elections and an exercise of control over a local visual culture which, to my mind, is always also a form of expression and reflection of relations and identities within a local culture.

Again, I do understand the criticism of some that election posters were pasted upon almost all available surfaces and, significantly, obscured vital signage. But, to my mind this is also evidence of an ingenious use of limited resources (here, space) and symptomatic of my experience of Nigeria: never subtle, always … well, as somebody ones put it: Nigeria is live in Technicolor. (image source: France 24)

For the record, I do not mean to criticise Lagos authorities for the removal of election posters in their state. This is not my call (even less so since I am currently still writing from London). Nevertheless, the mixed emotions with which I responded to the video got me thinking again about the contexts in which we label some objects as pieces of art and their destruction as acts of iconoclasm while we deny others this label and routinely discard and destroy them and, yes, a reminder that at one point I will have to dig further into the use of terms such as sanitation in policing local cultures, for the record: not only or even primarily in Nigeria.

But for now I leave it at this.

Good Morning Newspaper Procrastination

No, despite living in London I havent watched the Royal Wedding. Instead I tried to combine pleasure and work by taking my laptop to the balcony to soak up the sun while typing away at my article. Or so the theory went. The truth is that not much work was done that weekend. Not for a lack of trying. Honestly. Each morning I got up with the intention to work hard. I started the day with a healthy diet of tea, muesli and the news. And then the news got the better of me. And, here I am today wondering how to finish this article on deadline

But, again, habit got the better of me and I started the day with the news. And, of course, I came across a number of articles Id like to take time to reflect upon. But, lets face it: Thats a luxury I dont have with a deadline looming. Lets be honest: An intellectual exercise it might be, but its also just another excuse to procrastinate and not face the peer reviewers. So, instead, of writing a nice and thought through blog entry, I have scraped together whatever self-discipline I have left and decided to just post an extract and a link.

ART OF THE MATTER: In the web of plagiarism

Next Magazine, By Mufu Onifade, April 30, 2011 10:27PMT

Last month, Abiodun Olaku, one of Nigerias most brilliant artists and seductive colourists, alarmed the world through his Facebook page. He posted a screaming protest on his wall: People, see what I discovered... This is the criminal activity of a young artist called Fagorusi Segun, whos been copying and doing only-God-knows-what with my paintings Hell be feeling the hot breath of my lawyers very soon!

What came to mind immediately was to search for the accused on Facebook. Lo and behold! There lay one of the pictures showing Segun at work, unbelievably plagiarising one of Olakus popular Gray Tunes painting series. There were other paintings with an eclectic transfiguration still from Olakus collection. The next question: who is Fagorusi Segun? He is a final year painting student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, but beyond his location or affinity, Olakus alarm was strong enough to attract mixed reactions from many Facebook subscribers. Virtually all of them without exception know Olaku, but Fagorusi seems wallowed in obscurity. The reactions are as diverse as they reflect the perceptions of Nigerian society.

Read more here.

Update, 08 May 2011

Fagorusi Segun responds to the accusations of plagiarism in Next Magazine.

Given the economically damaging role of pirates in the industry, Mufu Onifade’s concerns are justified. Perhaps, in his and Olaku’s shoes, I might have done even worse. The work in question has a similar colour scheme but is not a copy. If you divide the two paintings into equal halves and consider the right side of mine to Olaku’s; you can hardly point out similarities. The left side could boast of only a 25 percent similarity: the road network of his is the opposite of mine, et cetera.

Thank you to the anonymous poster who alerted me to Segun’s article. I hope updating the blog post rather than publishing the link in the comment section does you justice.

And, since its Sunday morning, let me take a moment to add some thoughts.

First, maybe I should have taken the time to frame Onifade’s article when I reposted the first two paragraphs here. It uses a particular example of, naming (and shaming) a young artist in the process of raising the issue of plagiarism in the arts. In other words, what to me is one document in discourses about originality and artistic integrity has a personal dimension and, potentially, professional repercussions for the artists concerned that my particular perspective cannot account for.

Second, with hindsight I am struck by the legalistic language of plagiarism and copyright that frames both Onifade’s article and Segun’s response. Borrowing and copying are fundamental to processes of creativity. Where we draw the line between a copy and an ‘original’ reinterpretation of works that have gone before is as much a cultural as a political issue. It is highly contested (e.g. see this recent-ish discussion in the Arts Newspaper). It is also more flexibly shifting than we sometimes give it credit. We apply it differently in response to a variety of factors including historically particular cultural conventions and, let’s be honest, our personal and economic investment into particular works and traditions of art. After all, it affects an artist’s access to patronage and an art dealer’s asking power. This last point is (implicitly) acknowledged in the authors’ use of legalistic language. But that language cannot, by definition, account for the complexity and flexibility of processes of artistic creation and the ways in which we assess art works. Or at least, I don’t think so. I don’t think mathematical models of similarity are appropriate approaches here and in particular not to comparing two works of art that (as may be the case here) derive from the same tradition or genre and tackle similar subject matter. Such artists draw from a shared set of expressive and productive techniques. They may independently and without (conscious) copying derive at very similar works. Or not. In any case, formal comparison alone cannot account for these processes nor situate them within the spectrum between inspiration and intellectual theft. Or at least, I don’t think so.

There are reasons that I don’t think so and they as much reflect my intellectual engagement with the art historical literature I have read as my use of technologies (including blogger) that enable and thrive upon the recycling, responding to and rethinking of ideas and images from other (online and offline) sources. Equally, there are reasons that both Onifade and Segun chose to frame their articles in legalistic or technocratic languages (rather than, say, more philosophical approaches). – And that is where it gets interesting. That is the point at which I cannot help but see sources and starting points for discussions for the day that I return to Nigeria and get a change again to talk to Nigerian artists and art historians. Despite the fact that this limited perspective on the articles I link to, repost and discuss may not always do justice to the personal dimension of the issues they discuss.

Oh, and as were at it (yes, another minute I don't have to think about peer reviewers): There is an interesting article in Leadership suggesting that propositional material used in the recent election campaigns was to an unprecedented extent commissioned to printers outside of Nigeria.

For Ndubuisi of Prime Printing Press, Abuja, the Independent National Electoral Commission and other political office aspirants have forgotten Nigerian Printers and taken all the businesses abroad. For any election, the politicians must bring money for publicity and that is how we make our own profit but I think INEC and politicians went abroad to print their campaign and elections materials leaving us with no business this year. The 2003 elections were much better than this year. It is sad that what we can do here was taken abroad to be done at a more expensive rate.

Even during my limited experience in Nigeria, I could not but notice a fashion for all things foreign that also affected the arts. This is, of course, a problem by itself but further exaggerated by the comparatively low level of art patronage anyway (which is more than understandable if one considers the economic realities of the majority of Nigerians). Many of the artists I met struggled financially. The few who didnt derived significant shares of their income from commissions by businesses and, to an even larger extent, political organisations. Which is why I got a lot of sympathy for Okorocha Nyams position:

Going abroad to print campaign or election materials is not just untidy for these printers but also rubs off on Nigerias economy.

Though he acknowledged that going abroad to print election materials is for expertise and quality purposes, he posited that, the outcome is not favourable to Nigerians in terms of employability and development of the Nigerian printing press as we are in other words, helping another nation to develop its printing press and leaving our own in Nigeria to suffer.

Read the full article here.

I am instinctively wary of all talk of economic protectionism and cultural nationalism, especially of the kind that seeks to impose rigid and essentialised categories economic and cultural citizenship, but sometimes I wonder and then I think of the more or less successful buy local campaigns here in Europe and how they combined arguments about quality and quality control, ecological arguments from growing organic to carbon footprints, and a sense of local community (the better ones, focusing on locality eschewing ethnic or nationalistic ideas of belonging) and, come to think of it, the pride my Nigerian friends and acquaintances took in the work of NAFDAC

But, here I go again, getting lost in an argument I am not actually qualified to make instead of working on my article. So, let me find whatever self-discipline I have left in the face of the blue sky and sunshine out there and make an effort to finish this article. Today.