Launched in 2010, LagosPhoto is the first international arts festival of photography in Nigeria. In a month long festival, events include exhibitions, workshops, artist presentations, discussions and large scale outdoor prints displayed throughout the city with the aim of reclaiming public spaces and engaging the general public with multifaceted stories of Africa. LagosPhoto aims to establish a community for contemporary photography which will unite local and international artists through images that encapsulate individual experiences and identities from across all of Africa. LagosPhoto presents and educates about photography as it is embodied in the exploration of historical and contemporary issues, the sharing of cultural practices, and the promotion of social programmes.
LagosPhoto Festival is delighted to present the eleventh edition of the annual LagosPhoto Festival. This year it follows the theme of “Rapid Response Restitution”, a concept developed by Azu Nwagbogu and Dr. Clémentine Deliss, with Guest Curator and Nigerian cultural historian Dr. Oluwatoyin Sogbesan.
With “Rapid Response Restitution” LagosPhoto20 takes an unusual and participatory approach to current discussions on the return of Africa’s cultural heritage back to the continent. Central to this year’s edition is the “Home Museum”, an inclusive digital exhibition co-created by citizens in Nigeria and internationally who are invited to produce a fast shutter retrieval of their personal and family’s cultural heritage. Through high-speed photography, fleeting moments from the past are captured, helping to restore lost memories and demonstrate that the African continent is not trapped within an endless process of waiting for its heirlooms to be returned. On the contrary, the awareness created by Home Museum and the educational platforms set up by LagosPhoto20 will help to stimulate leverage and awareness of the issues around the restitution of cultural heritage in Africa.
What is Restitution?
Demands for the returns of iconic cultural artefacts back to African states have been made repeatedly, in particular in the 1970s, not only through UNESCO but in Nigeria through the cultural initiatives of FESTAC, the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. Today, we are witnessing an acceleration and democratisation of these debates. Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and historian Bénédicte Savoy speak of the urgent need to enable Africa’s youth to access the knowledge embodied in these cultural artefacts which are still held in European museums. They insist that there should be no “monopoly of control”, but a “radical practice of sharing”. This ecology of restitution can benefit greatly from photographic digitization and Sarr/Savoy speak of the value of a shared portal with free access as well as the unconditional rights to image reproductions. Rather than claim individual state ownership, they emphasise a dialogue between cultures, stressingthat today artefacts no longer originate from one place but – like the younger generations – are inherently diasporic. Awareness of the restitution of cultural heritage can help to initiate a new “relational ethics” between past experience and future lives. Here, digital technology and new media play a central role in evoking cultural memories and remediating the pain of history embodied in the collections of African art still held in European museums
LagosPhoto20: Rapid Response Restitution
LagosPhoto believes it is important to begin constructively sensitizing the Nigerian public to the debates on restitution and to do this online through visual thinking and the medium of photography. Here photographic sequences of diverse and sometimes unrelated objects from different collections past and future are brought into a visual conversation with one another. This process helps to remediate the absence of the original object. Remediation reflects the current COVID-19 conditions within which we live and that require both healing, restoration and transformation.
Cultural heritage begins in the home. Each household harbours its ancestors and cosmogonies. LagosPhoto20 kicks off with an Open Call to citizens of all ages and backgrounds inviting them to engage in the discussion on restitution, and contribute images of artefacts and belongings that represent their personal idea of heritage. These may include traditional objects, personal collections, and cherished possessions, which evoke significant individual and communal histories. Home Museum will be predominantly online in order to ensure a wide and safe circulation of content. Central to its method is inclusive participation. It sees this edition as a potential model for a broader diasporic and pan-African engagement with questions of restitution and repatriation. Collections of historical African art held in museums are hard to access and often difficult to decipher for the outsider. Meanwhile, each artist and each citizen have their own imaginary visual collection built from personal belongings and experiences, including subjective responses to the differing flows of history. All are invited to participate and LagoPhoto20 has drafted the Open Call in Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Pidgin, Swahili, English, French and Russian.
In addition, LagosPhoto20 will stage extensive exhibitions both on site and online in collaboration with its long-standing institutional partners for example, the Alliance Française (Mike Adenuga Centre). This exhibition, which will feature both historical and contemporary works, seeks to address object photography both past present. Photographs of artefacts can include creative still-lifes, scientific and documentary forms of museum imaging with its changing styles of photography, artists’ interpretations of historical artefacts, and new juxtapositions of past objects within the context of Afrofuturism, post-ethnography, and decolonial practices.
LagosPhoto20 Public Programs
LagosPhoto20 aims to situate itself as a host for discussions that relate to the debates on restitution. Too often these talks are held in situations that are unfamiliar to communities and individuals for whom the topics are particularly relevant. The concept of restitution may have very different connotations depending on where one is located. LagosPhoto2020 will develop a series of online public discussions on different understandings of restitution, unpacking the connotations of the terms, and its reference to reparation as well as to the different types of artefacts it can denote, ranging from material objects to human remains. Digitization, open-source visual libraries, and various methodologies for the active restitution of memories and knowledge from the past will be explored by leading practitioners. Discussions on Rapid Response Restitution will be disseminated through local and international radio and digital television. Media partners are to include Beat FM, Nigeria Info, Wazobia, Arise TV and other stations.
LagosPhoto20 Educational Programme
The educational programme will include activating temporary regional Home Museums in collaboration with local venues, programmes with schools in Lagos and the regions, workshops with photographers (both professional and amateur), drama performances illustrating restitution, and educational collaborations with Nigeria’s museums.
CURATORIAL TEAM – RAPID RESPONSE RESTITUTION
Azu Nwagbogu–Curatorial Concept and Direction,Rapid Response Restitution
Azu Nwagbogu is the Founder and Director of LagosPhoto Festival, and the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), a non- profit organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria. Nwagbogu was the interim Director/Chief Curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in South Africa from April 2018 to August 2019. He created Art Base Africa, a virtual space to discover and learn about contemporary Art from Africa and diaspora. Nwagbogu is on the jury of major arts awards and committees such as the Dutch Doc, POPCAP Photography Awards, the World press Photo, Prisma Photography Award (2015), Greenpeace Photo Award (2016), New York Times Portfolio Review (2017-18), W. Eugene Smith Award (2018), Photo Espana (2018), Lensculture and Magnum. Nwagbogu also works as an independent curator and culture critic.
Dr. Clémentine Deliss – Curatorial Concept and Direction, Rapid Response Restitution
Dr. Clémentine Deliss is a curator, publisher and cultural historian based in Berlin. She is Associate Curator of KW Institute of Contemporary Art Berlin, and Guest Professor in History and Theory at University of Fine Art, Hamburg.She works across the borders of contemporary art, curatorial practice, and critical anthropology. Between 2010– 2015, she directed the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt instituting a new research lab to remediate former ethnographic collections. Exhibitions she curated include “Object Atlas – Fieldwork in the Museum” (2011); “Trading Style” (2013), “Foreign Exchange (or the stories you wouldn’t tell a stranger)” (2014), and “El Hadji Sy – Painting, Performance, Politics” (2015). She is a Mentor of the Berlin Program for Artists and Faculty at Large of SVA Curatorial Practice, New York. Her forthcoming book “The Metabolic Museum” is published by Hatje Cantz.
Dr. Oluwatoyin Sogbesan – Guest Curator LagosPhoto20
Oluwatoyin Z.Sogbesan has an MA in Architecture from ObafemiAwolowo University, an MA in Arts and Heritage Management from London Metropolitan University, and a PhD in Culture, Policy and Management from City University London. She specializes in cultural interpretation, representation and dissemination though various media such as the built environment, artefacts and art. Her current research is on the documentation and preservation of the tangible and intangible heritage of Oyo in Nigeria. She has worked on documenting Nigerian museums and assisting them in rewriting, representing and repositioning their collections online through inclusive participation. She teaches History of Architecture with specific focus on traditional technology, systems and materials at Ajayi Crowther University Oyo, Nigeria.
Asya Yaghmurian – Guest Curator, LagosPhoto20
Asya Yaghmurian holds a Masters in Journalism. Asya cofounded and curated Armenia’s first Design Pavillion. She has worked for international media and assisted on various art projects including the Dilijan Arts Observatory 2016 (Armenia), and “Portable Homelands” for the exhibition “Hello World. Revising a Collection” at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 2018. More recently she was the curatorial assistant for the 33rd edition of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts. She currently lives and works in Berlin where she is the cocurator of the forthcoming Slavs & Tatars’ “Pickle Bar” at KW Institute of Contemporary Art. Asya is also an editor for art publications and speaks fluent Russian, Armenian, German and English.
Maria Pia Bernardoni – International Curator, LagosPhoto
Maria Pia Bernardoni is a photography curator with a special connection to Africa and a particular interest in managing intercultural art projects that offer a diverse perspective on gender and migration issues, helping to create positive change. Since 2015 she has been the curator of international exhibitions for the African Artists’ Foundation and LagosPhoto festival. In this capacity, she has co-curatedthe exhibition “Dey your Lane” at Bozar Museum in Bruxelles and “Tear my Bra” at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2016. She curated the exhibition“AfricAfrica” at Palazzo Litta in Milan in 2018. In parallel, Maria Pia has been developing projects around migration in Europe. She recently collaborated on Patrick Willocq’s project “My Story is a Story of Hope”, and directed the short film “If I Left My Country”, both shown at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2018. She is a certified lawyer.
Philip Fagbeyiro – Curatorial Assistant, LagosPhoto
Philip Fagbeyiro is a visual artist and science fiction writerwhoworks and lives in Lagos Nigeria. His practice encompasses various new media formats including digital, tradigital, animation and Machinima (game cinema) art. He holds a Bachelors in Architecture from the University of Lagos. He has participated in several group exhibitions. He currently works as a curatorial assistant at African Artists’ Foundation. Prior to this he worked as a curatorial assistant for Art Summit Nigeria and a number of pop-up exhibitions.
Feranmi Olukosi – Curatorial Assistant, LagosPhoto
Feranmi Olukosi is part of the development personnel at African Artists’ Foundation, where she processes grant application and proposals. She has worked with the reputable entertainment agency Iroko TV amongst others. She has a Master of Arts in English from University of Lagos.