MoCA of the Month
The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos) is an independent non-profit making visual art organization set up in December 2007 to provide a platform for the development, presentation, and discussion of contemporary visual art and culture. It seeks to create new audiences and to prioritize media such as photography, film and video, performance and installation art, which have been under-represented in Nigeria. It supports, and presents the intellectual and critical work of different art and culture practitioners through exhibitions, public programs especially talks, seminars and screenings as well as through workshops. In addition it encourages and promotes the professionalization of production and curatorship in Nigeria and West Africa collaborating with artists, curators, writers, theorists and national and international organizations.
CCA, Lagos Library
The most important starting point for setting up CCA, Lagos has been the need to provide access to critical material on art and culture. This resulted in setting up one of the fastest growing independent libraries in Africa, specializing in the visual arts and the creative sector in general. Since opening, the CCA Library has amassed a significant collection of materials on contemporary art, critical theory and curatorial practice with more than 3000 books, magazines, journals, videos and other ephemera. The videotheque has a growing collection of local and international artists videos, videos on art as well as video art compilation by organizations and artist collectives from around the world. Today the library has developed into an important archive and educational resource for artists and students as well as local and international curators, researchers and other professionals in the cultural sector.
B. Silva & El Anatsui. Visit by CCA Trustee El Anatsui to the Library. Photo Jude Anogwih
Our particular emphasis on materials published in Nigeria and across Africa has resulted in a unique and important collection of publications, many of which are only available locally due to the lack of wider distribution networks. Some of the standout and invaluable “jewels” in our collection includes the backlog of Nigeria Magazine (ca. 1959—), Glendora Review, Positions, as well as more obscure titles such The Eye: Journal of Contemporary Art (ca. 1992-93), a short-lived but important journal published by the Eye Society of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Given the recent surge of art activities in Nigeria and the plethora of self-published documentation and recent “art magazines”, CCA, Lagos is currently working to further develop our library resources with an eye toward amending the informational vacuum that has hampered bring the diversity and the vibrancy of the Nigerian art sector to a wider audience. As such, we are interested in further establishing the library as a repository for historical and contemporary materials related to art and culture. By collecting and archiving such materials, we aim to actively encourage research projects concerning modern and contemporary art, culture and history vis-à-vis Nigeria. To date we’ve received a great deal of important contributions. For example, Ms. Bunmi Davies in 2008 generously donated a collection of Nigerian art brochures, leaflets, press releases, invitation cards and other ephemera collected over a decade or more. CCA, Lagos is continues to soliciting donations of material on Nigerian art and history— including books, magazines, journals, catalogues, posters, invitation cards.
In the attempts to fulfill the objectives of the library we collaborate with many museums and art organizations around the world especially the Library of the Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute. Another recent collaboration especially for international contemporary art books is with the Swiss based non-profit organization Donateartbooks, which supports free and uncensored access to art, books through its partnerships with companies, cultural institutions and museums, as well art books publisher and private people.
The exhibition programmeSince opening in 2008 CCA, Lagos has initiated a dynamic exhibition programme with a local, intra-continental and international remit. We like to say that we bring the global to the local and take the local to the global. Each year we focus on a theme or medium all an in-depth engagement in our areas of interest and concern. A case in point is CCA, Lagos’ inaugural exhibition Democrazy: Three Solo exhibitions (2007/8) featuring consecutively the work of 3 Nigerian artists Ghariokwu Lemi, Ndidi Dike and George Osodi exploring the idea of Democracy within an Nigerian and African context. Other exhibitions are On Independence and the Ambivalence of Promise and Art, Fashion and Identity (2009/2010). We focused on the media video art throughout 2009 organising two workshops, the first professional video art exhibition Identity: An Imagined State by emerging curators Jude Anogwih and Oyinda Fakeye as well as the first video art publication co-coordinated by CCA, Lagos 2009/10 Fulbright Fellow Antawan Byrd. In 2010 we focused on art photography.
Opening of Solo Exhibition of Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor May 2011
Highlights of some our exhibitions in Lagos include Like A Virgin…Lucy Azubuike and Zanele Muholi, (2009) presenting the first exhibition dealing with sexuality and the body to a Lagos audience. J.D. Okhai Ojeikere: Sartorial Moments and the Nearness of Yesterday (2010). Our exhibitions abroad include Chance Encounters at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2009) and J.D. Okhai: Moments of Beauty, co-curated with Aura Seikkula, it was the first survey exhibition of Nigerian octogenarian photographer at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasmi, Helsinki (2011).
TWIF (The world is Flat, 2008)
In 2011, we were keen to engage with Nigeria and the Nigerian Diaspora through our programs. This resulted in fruitful projects such as the first major solo exhibition of Photographer Mudi Yahaya and Jide Alakija as well as the group exhibition All We Ever Wanted featuring the work of Nigerian women artists living in Nigeria and abroad Otobong Nkanga, Amuche Nnabueze Agwu, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Adejoke Tugbiyele and Odun Orimolade
Sartorial Moments and The Nearness of Yesterday; J.D. Okhai Ojeikere 2010
The Public Program
In 2008, the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos began the Art-iculate lecture series, which aims to increase dialogue, encourage debate and stimulate exchange in visual art and culture in Nigeria. By prioritizing the provision of an independent discursive platform through our public programs, we hope to actively encourage the development of critical perspectives as well as engage with topical issues that affect our society specifically as well as the world at large.
Since 2008 Art-iculate invited to much acclaim over 30 guest speakers including Didier Schaub (Doual’Art, Douala), Solange Farkas (Videobrasil, Sao Paulo) Yacouba Konate (University of Abidjan, Abidjan) Monna Mokoena (MOMO Gallery, Johannesburg), Nkiru Nzwegu (Art Historian, Binghampton University, ) Sylvester Ogbechie (Art Historian, University of California, Santa Barbara), Lisa Binder, (Curator, Museum of African Art, New York), Shahidul Alam (Drik Agency, Dhaka), Chika Okeke-Agulu (Art Historian, Princeton University), Kerryn Greenberg (Tate Modern, London) and Yinka Shonibare, MBE (Artist, London), Gabriela Salgado (Curator, London) amongst others.
Art-iculate Talk by Yinka Shonibare in Lagos 2011
Critical Education Program
CCA, Lagos exists and function in that liminal space where curatorial practice intersects with educational development. In an environment in which statutory education remains inadequate to meet the competitive demands of a globalised 21st century art sector, alternative possibilities are crucial complements. Through its innovative international art program it aims to fill a gap in the art education curricula in Nigeria and other African countries, which tend to ignore the critical methodologies and histories that underpin artistic practice. Using the format of part art workshop, part residency and part art academy, over the course of a month, the art program focused partially on technique and primarily on methodology, critical thinking, the implementation of conceptual ideas as well as the development and role of curatorial practice.
In 2010 CCA, Lagos began with On Independence and the Ambivalence of Promise. The intellectual and conceptual underpinning of the project questions not only the limits of postcolonial critical thinking and ideas, but also considers dreams, realities and possibilities for full independence that have engaged people and communities across languages, cultures and regions.
Continuing within the parameters of engaging the past in the present, the 2nd program History/Matter encouraged the consideration of the discursive nature of “history” not simply in terms of past events, narratives and occurrences but also, and primarily, as it relates to the present. What does “History” mean to us? Why does “History” matter? What place does “History” have in contemporary visual arts/curatorial practice? Participating artists will pursue projects that engage the complexities of the present through a historical lens.
In 2011 a pilot programme of The Global Crit was initiated by Kianga Ford with Shane Aslan Selzer. This consists of a two week intensive programme comprised of studio critiques, professional development workshops, screenings, lectures and panel discussion. The Global Crit Clinique is supported by Parsons, School of New Design, New York. The second Global Crit took place in Lagos as an integral component of the international art program. It also took place in Accra for the first time.
These programs has benefitted from an international faculty of artists and curators from Nigeria, across Africa, from Europe, as well as North and South America. The participating artists and curator have come from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya providing a transcontinental dialogue and interaction.
What next?As we move forward we want to focus less on curatorial practice as being determined by object based presentations but to focus more on new formats and models that prioritize the library as the starting point for projects. In addition we see publications/the printed page as an important platform for the presentation and dissemination of artistic practice and critical discourse.
Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9 McEwen Street, Sabo, Yaba, Lagos