Showing posts from October, 2013

Interview with Alhaji Gwadabe Yamulo, Sarkin Gini Kano in the Daily Trust

Another article that’s of interest to this blog and which I almost missed. This one was published by Musa Giginyu in the Daily Trust. It contains excerpts from interview with Sarkin Gini Kano Alhaji Gwadabe Yamulo.

By Ibrahim Musa Giginyu, 22 September 2013


Fifty-five-year-old Alhaji Gwadabe Yamulo is the Sarkin Ginin Kano (Chief Builder), in a recent interview with Sunday Trust, he stated that architectural designs were traditionally a major characteristic of royal edifices, adding, however, that development has allowed non-royal blood and wealthy families to own such type of buildings.

Backed by over 45 years of experience, Sarkin Gini said the art of traditional architectural design has witnessed various changes in the area of equipment, raw material used and the even the process. He said even local colours that were used for the paintings have now been substituted for chemical paints.


He observed that over the years, things have changed significantly, such that traditional buildings and their designs are fading out. "Demands of modernity is forcing us to adopt new innovations in what we do as traditional builders," Sarkin Gini stated.

He recalled that traditional architectural designers, formerly, used raw materials that were sourced locally, adding that the colours that were used in those periods were usually obtained from bark of some selected trees or their fruits and some types of rocks usually brought to Kano city from Rimin Gado area of the state.


"However, one has to be very creative and innovative to be a good builder. Unlike now when builders are different from designers, during our days we combined both and we were good at each. Let me not forget to tell you that as a traditional builder in those days, you will not have an idea of what design you will do to a particular building until when you are through with it. The design is just something that has to do with your sense of creativity."

According to Sarki Gini, though modernity was creating decline in patronage for them, they were not ready to abandon the profession. "The art of traditional architecture is usually part and parcel of the Hausa man. Therefore, no matter the penetration by the modern architectures, it will still have that traditional touch," he said.


What can I say, I love that Alhaji Gwadabe Yamulo emphasises the significance of creativity and innovation as part and parcel of the builder’s job. Although he is using the terms ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ here to emphasise the changes that have occurred in the last 50 years, the Sarkin Gini is beautifully illustrating here that there is very little point of thinking of artistic practices in northern Nigeria (and elsewhere) in rigid categories of ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’. Even less so if ‘African tradition’ is thought of as mostly unchanging and ‘modern’ as ‘influenced by “the West”’. As Alhaji Gwadabe Yamulo emphasises, innovation and creativity have been inherently part of the tradition of building in northern Nigeria, at least throughout his career.

And, this is interesting in terms of the relationship between religion and artistic practice in Kano and wider northern Nigeria, because as the article makes clear, the master builder is in high demand across the region.

When asked how the designs were developed, Sarkin Gini said: "You see a Hausa man has this strong inclination to his religion. Our religion decreed that whatever design we want to make it should not be in human form. That is why you will notice that most of our past and recent designs have no human reflection.

I wonder what to make of the ‘most’ in his last sentence. I know Musa Yola produced some murals that depicted people but does anybody know of other examples that have been documented?

Anyway, lovely article that is worth reading in full on the website of the Daily Trust or via AllAfrica.

*Link to AllAfrica repository.

Call for Participation for 2014 Invisible Borders Road Trip Lagos-Sarajevo

Note, that the applications are open for the next Invisible Borders Road Trip from Lagos to Sarajevo. Sounds pretty interesting, if you have the time.

ANNOUNCING! Call for Participation for the 5TH EDITION of the INVISIBLE BORDERS ROAD TRIP from LAGOS to SARAJEVO 2014 // Application Deadline 10 November 2013

In 2014, the Invisible Borders Trans-African Photographers Organization will embark on the 5th edition of their Road Trip Project. This trip will be the first Trans-Continental Road Trip of the collective and will be from Lagos (Nigeria) to Sarajevo (Bosnia) through 21 countries in Africa and Europe notably Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and eventually Bosnia.

During the last four editions of the Road Trip the group has explored African countries from the West to the East and Central Africa. The impressions of the last four years have given rise to reflections and subsequent evolution of questions surrounding the complexness of borders. This year’s road trip is therefore an attempt to approach the core of what necessitates borders: Movement.

The road trip project is an attempt to draw a tangible line of connection across chosen geographic locations in order to transcend the limitations proposed by the existing demarcating lines.

The road trip will assemble artists from divers part of the African continent whose previous works are well rooted in the reality of the African continent. It will be made up of photographers, writers, video artists, art historians and performance artists. There will be ten participants in a whole. The journey will last 151 days (22 weeks) from the 2nd of June – 31st of October 2014. They will make stops of about five to seven days in major cities of these 21 countries.

Applications open 15 August and close on 10 November 2013.

Gbenga Offo on Relations between Artists and Galleries in Nigeria

Some interesting views regarding (the) Nigerian art world(s) by Gbenga Offo in an article in the Guardian (Nigeria) the other day. Here some excerpts. Read the full article on the Guardian’ (Nigeria) website.

How Art Galleries, Historians Can Add Value To Nigerian Art

By Tajudeen Sowole*

… For every artist, the immediate environment appears to be peculiar, isn’t it? “Yes”, he agrees. The Nigerian environment, for example, “where the artist struggles to pay his bills, there is a compromise”. Such compromise, he adds quickly, depends on the status of an artist. “At my level, I should be able to do my thing and get the public to follow me”. […] Between the artist and galleries, the vacuum of management and professionalism is widening. It‘s been noted that most of the galleries in Nigeria are just event venues and art shops. …

… “It’s not for the artist to be submissive; gallery should say to the artist ‘I want to do business with you’. The artist, he admits, is not a good businessman. “But he wants to earn a living, so needs somebody who is honest enough”. Offo, an executive member of Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria {GFA} indicts most galleries for “running down artists” to create impression that the artists’ works have no value. Such galleries, he discloses, “based on my experience would still go ahead and sell the same works at higher prices after acquiring them at ridiculous prices from the artists”. He describes the behaviour as the mentality of rich versus poor, an extension of the larger Nigerian society. “A gallery situated in the choice area of Ikoyi or Victoria Island sees an artist from Mushin, as inferior”. He urges art galleries to take a cue from the music industry. The art, he insists, should come first and not the creator. …

… With the increase in the visibility for Nigerian artists via art exhibitions and auctions, identity, for some sections of artists’ community, is becoming stronger. However, the trajectory of such identity appears to have been less focused by art historians.

P.S. Tajudeen Sowole blogs at Arts with Tajudeen Sowole. Worth visiting.