Towards an Increased Appreciation of Video Art

Oyinda Fakeye is a founding member and director of the Video Art Network (VAN) Lagos. She began her career as a curatorial assistant at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos where she coordinated exhibitions by local and international artists including Pinar Yolaçan, Maria Series (April 2010) and J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Sartorial Moments and the Nearness of Yesterday (November 2010). Fakeye has also coordinated projects such as Picha: African Comics (December 2008 ) and several video art-related initiatives such as The One Minutes Foundation workshops in Lagos (November 2008) and Linha Imaginária video art workshop (January 2009). In addition, she co-curated Identity: An Imagined State, the first video art exhibition in Nigeria, featuring the work of 12 local and international lens-based media artists at the CCA (2009).

Along with Emeka Ogboh and Jude Anogwih, you are a founding member of the Video Art Network Lagos. What inspired your interest in video art?

I had just moved to Nigeria to participate in a year-long curatorial training at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos); the artistic focus for the year was video and I was tasked with facilitating the season. My first experience with video was during the One-minute video workshop facilitated by the One-minute Foundation team, followed by the Lina Imaginary workshop, facilitated by the late Goddy Leye, Estaquio Neves and Miguel Petchkovsky. During these workshops, I was introduced to both Jude Anogwih and Emeka Ogboh. By the end of the video art season, Bisi Silva (creative director and lead curator at CCA, Lagos) asked us to continue exploring and championing the art form, and the Video Art Network Lagos (VAN, Lagos) was the result of our discussions.

Since its establishment, what has been VAN’s contributions to video art in Nigeria and by extension Africa?

Our mission as an organisation is to create a platform for Nigerian artists both locally and internationally, which we do through screenings, exhibitions, workshops and partnerships. Locally, we have produced two international video art festivals in partnership with A Whitespace, Where Dreams Cross (Sweden), Unbound Studio (India) and Yo Video (Indonesia).

VAN Lagos has also developed a course programme on experimental media art at the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, facilitated and successfully run video-based workshops at the; University of Nsukka, Nigeria; Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana; and University of Science and Technology, Khartoum, Sudan.

We currently partner with The Nlele Institute – African Centre for Photography (TNI.ACP) to screen video art as part of FotoParty, an event which is hosted quarterly in Lagos and as a travelling programme, was recently held in Barcelona.

What have been the difficulties in setting up this organisation, sustaining it and funding its programmes?

Video art is relatively new and as such, there is little local support in terms of funding. We recognise a need for sustainability and as such, are constantly looking for methods of income generation. So far, we have managed to rely on partnerships and international funding to facilitate our work.

You have described yourself as a curator of art, fashion and music. How do these genres overlap in your work and what new projects are you working on?

Most of my work cuts across the live and performative aspects of art while my formal training is in health promotion. From a holistic view, it is important to me that the audience feels something; a memory, an emotion, a passion or pursuit, as I believe that this can impact their lives at a physiological level. I find that when working across media, I am in a better position to ensure this.

Regarding new projects, 2017 is an exciting time for VAN Lagos as we are undergoing a pivot, which will allow us to open our artistic focus through the introduction of new curators and artists with projects due to commence in the second quarter of the year. I am also a co-founder at MeiDei Retail Group, which has two department stores in Lagos that retail “Made in Nigeria” and goods from Africa; primarily fashion, art and holistic beauty and health products. Our learning and participation programme focused on the creative industries, as well as business management, is due to launch its programming this year.

You co-curated the exhibition, Identity: An imagined State in October 2009, with Jude Anogwih at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. It was the first international exhibition of video art in Nigeria, and which brought together works by twelve artists from different countries in Africa. How would you evaluate the production, interpretation and dissemination of video art in Nigeria since then, and what trends have you observed in its stylistic development across the continent?

While I feel video remains on the fringe locally, it is still very much a part of the artistic landscape. In 2016, Lagos was the host city for Videonale, themed Changing City – Shifting Spaces, an initiative of KfW Stiftung and partnership with Videonale Bonn, the Goethe-Institut, CCA Lagos and VAN Lagos. An important element of the programme was the workshop, facilitated by artists Theo Eshetu and Jude Anogwih (VAN Lagos), and attended by local multidisciplinary artists and filmmakers. The works produced during the workshop were exhibited alongside the visiting exhibition, and the accompanying catalogue further developed the dialogue around Nigeria and video art.

As part of the special programming, video art was exhibited at the inaugural Art X Lagos art fair, featuring video works by six artists under the title Owambe. The selection included animated videos, which were glaringly absent from the Identity: An Imagined State exhibition and (at the time) had Anogwih and I questioning if we would struggle to exhibit animated works by African artists. We have however seen an increase in animated submissions by both Nigerian and African artists such as Adebukola Bodurin and Nastio Mosquito.

In November 2016, VAN Lagos co-curated the Boda Boda Lounge screening with VANSA(SA) and WAZA(DRC), a selection of audio-visual works by 30 artists representing 11 nations in Africa. The second bi-annual Boda Boda Lounge was hosted by 15 different arts organisations. The theme of this edition, Superposition, Archaeology of the Present, invited participating artists to dare a different reading of space and to imagine alternative channels of fluxes, crossings and entangling of energies and meaning. Auropa by Mulegeta Gebrekidan (Ethiopia) touched on the sensitive and dangerous journey faced by Africans migrating to Europe, while Kampire Bahana of Uganda took a satirical jab at YouTube hair tutorials in her piece Salooni/Hair. The issues that were reflected in the submissions where both locally and globally relevant though ideologies and methodologies varied across the board.

How collectable is video art, particularly in this part of the world?

Though video is still considered esoteric and collectors prefer to focus on less technical works, that could be ‘easily’ displayed (hung on walls) and so on; however, that does not mean it is impossible to collect. Some works are sold as DVDs and in editions similar to digital prints, while others are sold with the displaying technology included. I think it’s important to mention that as changes occur in technology, video artists and collectors are seeing the sales process more as a relationship in which innovations to preservation and screening techniques can be made collaboratively.

What would you say is responsible for the seeming disinterest by Nigerian collectors in video art?

As visual artists increasingly begin to expand their practices to include new media, it is now important for collectors to respond through their collecting practices to foster an environment for experimentation and the growth of local artists and locally produced works.

Video art has the ability to capture the Zeitgeist of this moment in Nigerian history; collections that refuse to take note of this art form will be somewhat incomplete in their ability to piece together the cultural narrative the works were created to reflect. The ephemeral element of modern culture requires that collectors adapt so as not to miss seminal moments.

What sustainable platforms have you put in place including curatorial and educational, to facilitate an increased reception of video art in Nigeria?

As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on our partnerships for sustainability. We have however produced two publications (Identity: An Imagined State and Videonale in Lagos: Changing City – Shifting Spaces), which contextualised video in Nigeria and the global south, featuring essays from Solange Farkas, Antwan Byrd, Bisi Silva and Theo Eshetu amongst others.

What challenges are you likely to face in increasing the visibility and appreciation of this art form in Nigeria and across Africa?

Funding is the number one challenge to the visibility and appreciation of video art as presenting works requires screening equipment and technical support. Producing high-quality images also requires larger budgets than traditional media and as the works rarely sell locally, there is the element of choosing between producing a work which may not provide remuneration through sales and that which can more easily be sold to collectors.

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