Inside the New Look AAF with Azu Nwagbogu

Established in 2007, African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) aims to encourage the highest standard of art in Africa. African Artists’ Foundation serves a significant role in art and academic communities through organizing art exhibitions, festivals, competitions, residencies, and workshops with the aim of unearthing and developing talent, creating societal awareness, and providing a platform to express creativity. In addition, AAF organizes two flagship projects annually, the LagosPhoto Festival and the National Art Competition. In this interview with Omenka, director Azu Nwagbogu talks about the factors that led to relocating to the new space.

Congratulations on the success of this year’s LagosPhoto Festival. How has the experience been for you?

Thank you, it’s very kind of you. You know, it is an often repeated cliché, but it’s really a journey and like all journeys in life, there are ups and downs. However, the experience and the impact the festival is creating are the things we take with us.

You recently relocated the AAF to a new space. What informed this decision?

I’d like to tell you what a great visionary I am and how I foresaw this need, but the truth is the change was forced upon us and like many great things that happen for us, it really was the hand of destiny guiding us to greater things.

How difficult was it for you finding the right space and what factors did you focus on?

Emotionally it’s been terribly difficult but I had confidence, divine providence and Olayinka Stephen, our long-time gallery manager. Without any of these three, it would have never happened. I’m grateful for the way it was all divinely orchestrated.

When in difficulty, you try to find character and confidence. You find these by being humble and looking at how you got to where you are while drawing from that experience but resigned in the knowledge that after you’ve done your best, you leave the rest. I approached a friend, Tokini to discuss another proposition but then she informed me that her previous space was available. We acted fast and made a feast of it.

What were your challenges with the old space?

It was clear that we had outgrown the previous AAF but I could never tear myself away from it because we had so many memories and so many quirky little bits in there. It had character though it was too small and we could not host outdoor events.

How do you compare your former space with the present one?

The way the new space works now does not feel like it’s soulless. It just feels like a bigger, more inviting and comfortable AAF.

What possible challenges might you be facing in your current space?

It’s Lagos. Parking might be an issue but all obstacles offer us a challenge, and as creative people we always have to find a way.

Will the current space be a permanent one and does it fulfill your needs?

We are always growing. Providence will guide our next move if and when we move.

Please tell us about your programmes for the rest of the year and for 2017.

Besides our usual flagship programmes including the National Art Competition, which will be in its 10th edition and LagosPhoto in its 8th edition, AAF will officially celebrate 10 years.

Next year will be all about collaborations and a focus on developing curatorship through residencies and travel. Most of our all programmes will offer a curatorial slant.


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