WRITTEN BY: IKENNA KINGSLEY NWACHUKWU
Dear reader, you are cordially welcome to the maiden edition of this column titled VISUAL ART AND CORRUPTION. In this column, we will be ‘cooking many dishes’ with art and I mean both ‘local and foreign.’ We wish you ‘bon apetite’ as you taste the many buffets of artistic treatment to be served here including interrogating different ends of the socio-political spectrum with just enough salt; very important in a world where people seem to have become more and more convinced that all politicians are basically tasteless human beings. Well as the English say, the pudding is in the eating and generalizations are always dangerous. Our visual interrogations and investigations will extend to the capacity of visual art to actually cure Nigeria of the culture of corruption. How can visual art impact on governance in Nigeria in a manner that progressively shuts down corrupt management of public resources? Does art even have the power to do so?
Nigeria became a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in June 2016 shortly after president Buhari attended the London Anti Corruption Summit. OGP is a coalition of about 70 countries dedicated to fighting corruption to a standstill. As a method for effective implementation of its National Action Plan, OGP Nigeria has mobilized a coalition of government agencies, NGOs & private sector organizations to fight corruption. So far, none of the organizations within the coalition has a mission that focuses on visual art development. Does art have the power to redirect mindsets and attitudes? Can organizations focusing on visual art development also play a role in helping to meet OGP objectives and generally help to fight the war against corruption? Looking at the experiments which other countries have performed in trying to bring visual art closer to governance, Nigeria may do well to also enter into the lab and carry out some tests with the visual or still arts. What for instance could be the qualitative cultural results if we mix selected visual programs on the ground today with the volatile acid of corruption? A nasty sulfur reaction or a pleasant aroma of true development? Perhaps a combination of the two?
Many strongly believe that visual art can in fact be an agent for systematically digesting information and knowledge as well as facilitating the emergence of a less corrupt and more knowledge driven society and economy. Through this column and similar platforms, perhaps more and more Nigerians will join us in looking into these questions. How do we mobilize an art direction that pushes hard against corruption within the larger body of Nigerian contemporary art? And how about the need to take yet another hard look at the long talked about African Rennaisance in an era of far right socio-political revolution spreading across the world? Shouldn’t visual art serve as a peculiar antennae for guiding Nigeria’s cultural response to THE FAR RIGHT SPRING since, according to some schools of thought, THE ARAB SPRING did not seem to deliver any tangible benefits? It was believed at the beginning of the Arab Spring that the baton of revolution would eventually be passed to Africans so that they could have an African Spring. But when the Arab Spring began to be perceived as a harsh winter, all such thoughts died immediately. Now here comes the spirit of Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, and other far right leaders and movements who seem to be carrying a special message of freedom and justice across the world as apparently directed by the Zeitgeist or the spirit of the age. Should other countries perhaps seek to tap into this movement using the appropriate tools? Can art be one of those tools for strategic distillation of the global socio-political situation for local development? The Nigerian entertainment industry has seen non stop revolution for the past decade especially in film and music. Is it not now the turn of the still arts to take up the baton for facilitating a push into greater development? Clearly a saturation point seems to have been reached where all Nigerians must look to the salvation of their politics as well as to the salvation of their souls.
As this column moves from edition to the next, we hope that you, dear reader, will appreciate our ARTitude here on VISUAL ART AND CORRUPTION. This column defines ARTitude simply as the degree to which you apply art to reality (including for instance the reality of corruption in Nigeria). There seems to be a crucial need to increase this application of art to reality including for example art directions that may deal with curatorial connectivity to 2019 general elections in Nigeria. There are indeed different levels of artistic perception. In subsequent posts, we shall be looking into a special scale against which to measure your ARTitude. In other words, this scale helps you discover your ARTitude problems on the basis of which adjustments can then be made towards enhancing how visual art is being deployed in your life and work especially as an implement for weeding out the culture of corruption. Please stay with us as we post a fresh piece on Mondays and Fridays; on Mondays to kick off the week together and on Fridays to also join our readers in getting into the weekend mood in manner that departs from the character seen in the sculptural piece pictured bove who is apparently gorging himself with materials goods.