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NATAAL’S HIGHLIGHTS FROM ART X LAGOS 2020


Words by Helen Jennings
October 2020


As media partner for ART X Lagos, here’re Nataal’s highlights from the 2020 fair.


With this year’s fifth annual ART X Lagos happening entirely in the digital space due to the pandemic and  #EndSARS unrest, the art fair took as its theme ‘Present States, Shared Futures’ as a way to reflect upon a year like no other and find strength as a global community going forward. While we dearly missed its in real life celebration of African art in Nigeria’s cultural capital, ART X Lagos certainly maintained its flair for innovation and creative excellence with its newly relaunched digital platform and extensive programming. Here are Nataal’s picks of some of the standout moments and artists at the fair.


IMAGE: TOMI OWÓ PHOTOGRPAHED BY MANNY JEFFERSON 

ART X Live! presents
‘Like Someone’s Watching’


ART X Lagos would not be ART X Lagos without music from Nigeria’s rising stars. Instead of the usual outdoor concert-meets-art installation, ART X Live! presented the film Like Someone’s Watching directed by Omowunmi Ogundipe and featuring Oxlade, Tomi Owó, King Jesse Uranta and DJ Camron. Fusing intimate performances with personal commentary, the film was a response to the tumultuous and emotional events of 2020. Tomi Owó’s forlorn love songs complimented the flirtatious, saxophone-laden tunes of Oxlade. While the retro-futurist digital art of King Jesse Uranta demanding ‘Stop Killing Us’ and ‘#EndSARS’ provided an immersive backdrop to DJ Camron’s mix of African sounds from the past and present, reminding us that the continent has always provided the soundtrack of revolution. “We have a duty to seek change,” Owó said. “We must take the human spirit and show the world what we’re feeling and hope it does the work it needs to do.”

Read Nataal’s feature with Tomi Owó here


IMAGE: PHOTOGRAPHED BY ETINOSA YVONNE, END SARS PROTESTERS IN ABUJA, NIGERIA, 2020

New Nigeria Studios


ART X Lagos showed solidarity for October’s protests calling for better governance in Nigeria by supporting 100 photographers documenting from the front line. Some of their work now forms the fair’s special project featuring images taken across 17 states. New Nigeria Studios is a “living archive”, curated across several themed rooms, which muses not only on how the world experienced the protests on social media but also the power these images possess to demand social justice. Adding to the richness of this transformative display was a roundtable discussion between established photographers Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Yagazie Emezi on their own storytelling around the protests.

Read Nataal’s feature on New Nigeria Studios here


IMAGE: “MOTHER AND CHILD”, 2016, BY nJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY

ART X Review - The Wrap Up with
Njideka Akunyili Crosby


Finishing up five days of talks, and reminding us of their in-person conversation from ART X Lagos 2018, Tayo Ogunbiyi posed questions from budding artists to Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Full of practical tips on topics such as how to present a solo show, protect intellectual property and find the right representation, the session proved an illuminating guide to navigating the art world while maintaining one’s artistic credibility from one of the most celebrated artists of our time. A lot of Akunyili Crosby’s wise words came down to building a trusted network and truly understanding why you make art – whether that’s fame, recognition or happiness.

When discussing if and how your work should address social issues, Akunyili Crosby brought it back to what lends her own compositions social resonance. “A word that is important in my practice is ‘specificity’ – how something is rooted in time and place,” the artist said. “When things have specificity, people worry that those outside the space won’t understand it but specificity actually grounds a piece for everyone. It’s that narrowness that makes it feel real and authentic. If your work feels personal, people will get it.”


IMAGE: “LOVE GLASSES”, 2020, BY RUFAI ZAKARI. COURTESY NUBUKE FOUNDATION

Rufai Zakari at
Nubuke Foundation


Emerging Ghanaian artist Rufai Zakari turns the rubbish he finds on the streets of Accra and Bawku into portraits of bright and confident women. By cutting and stitching plastic bags, food packaging and water bottles in figurative collages, he is not only commenting on the power of art to regenerate the environment but is also examining the effect of consumerism and trade on his country. Zakari’s artworks speak to the lineage of Ghanaian artists who recycle existing and seemingly worthless materials in their practice, such as El Anatsui and Serge Attukwei Clottey, but his fresh approach exudes a youthful exuberance all of its own.


IMAGE: “MIDNIGHT WALK”, BY tI