VISUAL ART AND CORRUPTION: Paying ARTtention to Details


We begin this week by calling ARTtention to a saying that you must have heard many times namely that a picture speaks a thousand words. What words and meanings can therefore be excavated from a work titled RECUPERATION by Nigerian artist Kehinde Dada? This work was among 40 paintings displayed during his 2016 solo exhibition organized as his contribution to the fight against corruption. In responding to journalists questions concerning this show, he had this to say;

The intention is just to support the president’s campaign on anti-corruption considering the impact that it has on every aspect of the society and I think there is so much arts can contribute to the fight.”

In bringing this work into existence, Kehinde Dada was influenced by the usual combination of forces that act on the artist and move him to execute works of art. These forces include the practice & ideology of his teachers, the contributions of his contemporaries, the interests and perceptions of his audience, and the cultural and historical context in which the artist lives, moves and has his/her being. Having been acted upon by these forces to create the work, the work in turn is expected to begin exerting a force of its own upon the surrounding culture.  As mentioned in our maiden piece here on VISUAL ART AND CORRUPTION, we will be serving many dishes with art both local and foreign (MAIDEN PIECE: RECUPERATION is obviously local and we can begin to get a taste of this piece by immediately perceiving how the artist conveys his message on anti-corruption by channeling the biblical Samson’s killing of a lion by ripping off the beast’s jaws. The lion in the work is corruption and the money in its mouth is the public resources swallowed by corruption. By using president Buhari as the agent who will tame the beast and rescue public money from ending up in private pockets, the artist in effect endorses the war on corruption being waged by the current administration. Notice also how the lion is desperately clawing at the scales of justice in an attempt to tear the ropes, destroy the balance of justice and therefore be free to engage sharp practices to his heart’s content.

The monster called corruption is intractable and hydra headed. It does appear however that while other anti-corruption weapons are struggling to grab corruption by the legs and by the tail in order to topple it down, Visual Art has the unique duty of grabbing corruption by the neck and administering the final coup de grace. This makes it crucial for the Open Government Partnership initiative in Nigeria to work with Government agencies, CSOs and private sector organizations whose missions focus on Visual Art development.

Research indicates that Visual Artistic productions and programs are able to reduce stress, increase self-reflection and awareness, adjust thinking patterns towards more positive directions, normalize heart rate, blood pressure and, believe it or not, even cortisol levels. Yes! Consistent exposure to art does all these things and even goes ahead to impact on the neuroanatomy of the the brain.

Standing at ARTtention against corruption is therefore worth the effort through either appreciating works of art within and beyond formal exhibitions or pushing art dealership operations that further spread the word (all one thousand of them in each work).

JOURNALIST:    Your Excellency, what is your ARTitude towards corruption?

GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL:   Well firstly, corruption ruins economies and disrupts democracy. My ARTittude towards corruption can therefore be seen in many works including Kehinde Dada’s Recuperation.


GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL: Well the depth of contemplation achieved through these visual contacts has inspired not only the generation of many policies that should serve for achievement of our short and long term objectives but more importantly, the passion to thoroughly implement those policies.

The above conjectured interview is our way of signaling that this column fully intends to post 15minute video clips showing interviews of Public officials along the above lines. This will include officers in law enforcement, the financial sector and those in position to ensure that proposed Open Contract measures are fully implemented. Nigeria has reached critical mass and is now dealing with systemic under consumption of Development Information. Its time to get more into Museums, art exhibitions, etc as aids to sipping the positive out of the negative. The Political history of Nigeria indicates that corruption began during the First Republic when top government officials were toppled in a coup d’etat by young revolutionary military officers who accused the political chieftains of corruption and bringing Nigeria to destruction. Please stay tuned and see you this Friday for a continuation of this discussion. Have a wonderful week and no matter the provocation, we wish to encourage our readers to keep their ARTtitudes under control.

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