By JAPHET ALAKAM
AS part of its contributions to boost the morale of Nigerian artists by connecting them to the world, Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) established the OYASAF Fellowship Programme which brings foreign art scholars to Nigeria. Since inception, the project has brought many art scholars to the country.
In line with that, the foundation received Kimberlin Gant, a doctoral student of University of Texas at Austin, United States of America (USA) who was described by OYASAF founder, Prince Yemisi Shyllon “as the most interacted scholar we have ever”, as the first beneficiary of the 2013 Research Fellowship programme.
Kimberlin Gant who is conducting a scholarly investigation on the topic, Lagos: A City of Places, People and Events: An analysis of photographic images of Lagos from 1963 to present, engaged members of Lagos arts community in an educating discussion that bordered on photography, at OYASAF office, in Lagos.
During the interactive forum, Gant who had heard much and seen many images of Lagos from the western photographers explained why she came to Lagos and her findings so far.
According to her, she came to conduct research on Nigerian photographers who have been documenting Lagos since Independence and the visit afforded her the opportunity to be introduced to a wide range of photographers, both established, mid-career and emerging ones. They include Tam Fiofori, J.D.Okhai Ojeikhere, Akinbode Akinbiyi, Adolphus Opara,Kunle Ogunfuyi, Eremina Jumbo, Uche James Iroha and Don Barber.
She pointed out many reasons for her choice of Lagos which includes the fact that she has been interested in the relationship between landscape images (urban & rural) and that Lagos has been a popular subject matter for scholars and curators in Europe & the United States since the early 2000s.
“Research has been very limited and I wanted to focus on a city within the continent of Africa to reflect my scholarly interests in Africa.”
She explained that in the course of her research she was able to learn about the history of photography in Nigeria, about the various intricacies facing photographers in Nigeria, and Lagos specifically; how they see the city and how their viewpoints compare with those of westerns, both in content, style and approach; how photographers fit within the hierarchy of art practitioners in Nigeria and the different types of photography within Nigeria.
She observed that for long, the focus in the media and academia tends to be on the following:how the structure of the city works via urban planners and architects; the extreme population growth over the past two decades; repeated images in the areas such as Makoko, Oshodi market, and specificities such as danfos and the “go-slow”, the impoverished areas and dilapidated houses and building structures. And that images, such as Rem Koolhaas’ films, are often aerial images of the city, though some get more intimate ground level shots and that most exhibitions and articles on Lagos focus within the 21st century, with a few examples of the past done by Western photographers.
But Gant who has visited many parts of Lagos and met with many photographers observed that the artists she is working with present Lagos in a much more nuanced way vis- a- vis the varying forms of architecture, both past and present, that dot various parts of the city, how the city used architecture as a way to present its post-Independence modernity, how the city has evolved over the past forty years and that images and viewpoints from the way you move throughout the city, via the various roads and bridges.
She was also able to observe the various photographers’ styles. Tam Fiofori’s influence of filmmaking in his use of sequence , Ojeikere’s strong interest in shapes and emphasis on repetition within buildings, Ogunfuyi’s ability to bring an intimacy to the events he captures, Opara’s strong use of levels and clear lines and Akinbiyi’s use of strong parallel lines, complementing his idea of the road.