Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Jailed 9 yrs For Destroying UNESCO-Protected Malian Heritage Site

Having pleaded guilty and apologised for leading destruction of 10 Malian cultural and religious sites, Ahmad al-Mahdi has been handed 9 years jail by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Haque. The judges found al-Ahmadi had shown "remorse and empathy" for his crime.
Ahmad al-Mahdi during his trial at The Hague.
“I seek their forgiveness and I ask them to look at me as a son who has lost his way,” al-Mahdi pleaded with the court during trial in August. “Those who forgive me will be rewarded by the almighty. I would like to make them a solemn promise that this was the first and the last wrongful act I will ever commit.” 

Regarded as an Islamist with link to dreaded-Al-Qaeda, al-Mahdi also quoted Quranic advice in his plea. “We need to speak justice even to ourselves. We have to be truthful, even if it burns our own hands,” he said. “All the charges brought against me are accurate and correct. I am really sorry, and I regret all the damage that my actions have caused.” 

The ICC had then pronounced him guilty and assured that the sentence will be confirmed on September 27, 2016 (today). 

  From June 30 to July 10, 2012 in Timbuktu, al-Mahdi allegedly led a group of militants and destroyed Mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Omar Mohamed Aquit, Mausoleum of Sheikh Mohamed Mahmoud al-Arawani, Mausoleum of Sheikh Sidi Mokhtar Ben Sidi Muhammad Ben Sheikh Alkabir, Mausoleum of Alpha Moya, Mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar, Mausoleum of Sheikh Muhammad El Micky, mausoleum of Cheick Abdoul Kassim Attouaty, Mausoleum of Ahamed Fulane, Mausoleum of Bahaber Babadié and Sidi Yahya Mosque, all in Timbuktu. One of the monuments is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

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On January 16, 2013, the ICC opened a formal investigation in Mali over alleged crimes that occurred since January 2012 within the context of armed conflict in the north of the country.
On September 18, 2015, the court issued an arrest warrant, alleging that al-Mahdi committed the war crime against heritage monuments. 
  “We’re in charge of fighting superstitions, and that’s why we have decided to pull down this door,” Mahdi said in a 2012 video shown to the court. “We must eliminate from the landscape everything that doesn’t belong,” he said in another.
  Contrary to justifying his action in the video evidence out against him, al-Mahdi however regretted the destruction as he told the court he was under the pushed by “evil wave.” He added: “I hope the years I will spend in prison will enable me to purge the evil spirits that overtook me.”

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Sammy Olagbaju...When He Was Here

It was Grillo Pavilion Art Fiesta, 2013 edition, in Ikorodu, Lagos, which had Kolade Oshinowo as the celebrant. Again, Sammy Olagbaju was among the art patrons that extended their love for art to those who create the works. He joined others in celebrating Oshinowo.
 Late art patron. Mr Sammy Olagbaju (seated in the middle); playwright, J.P. Clark (left); the celebrant, Kolade Oshinowo; (standing) Chief Mrs Funmilayo Shyllon, Mrs Gbadamosi, Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya and Prince Yemisi Shyllon shortly after the 2013 Grillo Pavilion Lecture Series.

Olagbaju was said to have died on September 23, 2016, aged 75. He was a passionate art collector across nationalities, and supporter of young artists.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Destroyers of Ilojo Bar will face ‘criminal’ charges, FG aasures

During his visit to the demolition site of a 190-year-old national monument, the Director-General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman, assured that the developer who allegedly destroyed the edifice will be prosecuted.

D-G, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman (middle) during a visit  to the site of demolished Iljo Bar at Tinubu Square, Lagos Island.

Texts of Usman’s speech:

 It has come to the notice of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments that the highly valued Ilojo Bar national monument has been willfully demolished by an unpatriotic developer on the eve of Eld-el-kabir holiday, September 11, 2016.
Ilojo Bar (formerly known as Casa De Fernendez or Angel House) was built approximately 190 years ago and in all these years stood as the best example of Brizillian style of architecture introduced by Africans who regained their freedom from their “Portuguese masters” in Brazil. Its historical, social and architectural values have been well acclaimed, thus prompting the Federal government of Nigeria to provide special protection status as a National Monument through Gazette 25 Vol. 43 of 5th April, 1956. Since then the NCMM has been maintaining, promoting and preserving the monument in collaboration with members of Olaiya family, Lagos state government and other interested stake holders both local and international.

The threats to this historic building has been unfolding for quiet sometime due to rising commercial interest in view of its strategic location. In October 2015, a member of the family wrote to the Commission informing that one of them is trying to engage a private developer to demolish the monument and clear the place for commercial development. In response to this, a meeting was called with the family members led by Daniel Adewale Olaiya on the 19th January 2016. The meeting discussed all the issues around the monument, including its legal status, how the structure is put to use and the grievances of the family members. It was finally agreed that the statuesquo of the monument should remain while they submit their complains through appropriate official channel but nothing was heard from them since then.

The recent threat to demolish the monument came on 2nd July 2016 when a developer in collusion with some members of the family mobilized a bulldozer and some armed men with the intent to demolish the structure. The National Commission for Museums and Monuments got information about the move and quickly mobilized the Lagos museum staff and in collaboration with Lagos state government officials accosted the group and frustrated the attempt. In the meantime the attention of law enforcement agencies was drawn.

 On Saturday July 2016 the developer again mobilized to demolish the building an action which was again rebuffed this time through the intervention of  Honourable Agboola Dabiri special adviser to the Lagos state governor on the Lagos Central Business District. Following his intervention a stakeholders meeting was summoned at Lagos State secretariat Alausa Ikeja where Honourable Dabiri undertook to do everything possible to avert the demolition of the monument.

Subsequently Tuesday August 16th 2016 a stakeholders meeting was convened by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments at National Museum Lagos involving major stake holders including members of the Olaiya family, management staff of National museum Lagos, representative of Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and the representatives the Brazillian Consulate, Benedita Gouveia Simonetti and Adeniran Arimoro. During the meeting, the stake holders agreed that all necessary steps must be taken to safeguard the monument from any threat including involving law enforcement agencies and placement of notice on the site notifying the public about the status of the building. The meeting also agreed to revive an earlier plan to organize a gala night to raise funds for the restoration of the monument.    

 To our greatest surprise however, on Saturday 27 August 2016 the same developer again mobilized his bulldozer and actually damaged the portion of the building. A petition was written and submitted to the Area Commander of the Nigerian Police (Lion building) requesting for the arrest and prosecution of the culprits but apparently the police did not find the matter serious enough to detain or prosecute them. Seeing the levity with which the Area Command handled the matter, another petition was written on 29th August, 2016 to the AIG zone 2 Onikan. Meanwhile on Thursday 1st September 2016, Honourable Dabiri was again approached and he gave an official letter to the Special adviser to the governor on Urban Development requesting the ministry to withdraw a letter of permit for demolition said to be given to the developer. Another letter was written to the Governor intimating His Excellency about the status of the monument and seeking his assistance to safeguard it.

However, despite all the efforts of highly responsible and patriotic individuals and government agencies, the developer on the eve of Eid-el kabir September 11th 2016 sneaked in his instrument of destruction and in one fell swoop and in the full glare of some bewildered members of the public willfully demolished the Ilojo Bar an outstanding historic and architectural monument that has adored the cultural landscape of Lagos Island for nearly two centuries.

Ilojo Bar, Tinubu Square, Lagos Island,  before its demolition

 This sad event is a critical turning point in the history of heritage management in Nigeria. The open and shocking way the action was carried out without any shame and embarrassment is a source of serious concern for the National Commission for Museums and Monuments as heritage managers and for all responsible Nigerians who love history and culture. The action is not only criminal but it has robbed us of an important heritage resource that helps defines us as a people and assist our understanding of our past and our projection of the future.

The demolition has destroyed a masterpiece of the only surviving Brazilian houses in Lagos with its attractive arches and fine iron works as statue described as being “Gothic in style and balustrade reminiscent of a Venetian palace”.  It has done great injustice to the credit of African craftsmanship in architecture which has exerted great influence on Yoruba architecture that is today visible in all parts of Yoruba land.

 Indeed the demolition has eliminated the tangible evidence of social and cultural impact of the transatlantic slave trade and it abolition. It has wiped away an outstanding source of memory and history of freed slaves and their roles and impact in the evolution and development of cosmopolitan urban Lagos. At the same time it has destroyed one of the outstanding symbolic evidence of cultural ties between Nigeria and Black diaspora in general and Brazil in particular.

This dastardly act has distorted the eminent position of Lagos in colonial history as centre where returnee slaves from Brazil built houses in similar manner of the new architectural fashion when Lagos was created as a colony thus impoverishing Lagos of its rich architectural urban history and undermining its acclaimed status as centre of excellence.

 However, the NCMM will not rest on its oars until the perpetrators of this dastardly act are brought to book. In line with the powers and responsibilities conferred on it by NCMM Act, Cap N19, Laws of the federal republic of Nigeria 2004, the NCMM ensure that criminal action is brought on the culprits as well as demand full compensation for the demolished monument. It will be reconstructed and fully restored according to professional restoration standards. We wish to assure all Nigerians that the Ilojo Bar will be restored as it is a fully documented National Monument with an up-to-date and comprehensive documentation of its architectural history and design details.   Consequently, NCMM is poised to restore Ilojo Bar back to its original authentic form.  

In the meantime, the site of the monument being an integral heritage space is being explored for a postmortem archaeological reconnaissance survey while heritage impact assessment of the demolition will be conducted.
 We call on all well-meaning Nigerians to join the National Commission for Museums and Monument in saving, protecting and maintaining our national heritage resources.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Lagos@50 drives protest against Ilojo Bar demolition

Lagosians, especially the Afro-Brazilans, Lagos@50 invites all to a sensitization encounter at Speaker Corner, Freedom Park, Broad Street Lagos..
 "The message on the celebration logo exhorts us to enhance enhance  (not denounce) the Heritage..
In spite of on-going Initiatives, to preserve and enhance the -in this case, Afro Brazilian
 "Heritage that narrates History, not merely of Lagos but of the African Diaspora in monuments - the Olaiya Building in Tinubu Square was clandestinely bulldozed in some commercial development interest during the recent extended Muslim holiday.
 "This has been an on-going struggle, especially since National Independence. In order to preempt a repeat under the ever-hovering bulldozers, please let us gather at the Speakers corner on October 22, 2016 at Freedom Park, to discuss strategies against a repeat of this midnight assault on a common Patrimony.
 "What we find especially galling and embarrassing is that this accelerated demolition took place at the very time when at least two foreign governments had committed in assisting with the preservation of the Brazilian structures in Lagos and had begun its work closely with Nigerian preservationists.
  "The format will be an Open House exchange with the hopeful consensus of an appeal, not  only to the government of Lagos but to the Federal government to adopt and effect a uniform policy for the Preservation of all national heritage sites and buildings even in the frenzy of development."

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A 'Legacy' For 2016 African Film Festival in Lagos

In its fourth edition, Lights, Camera, Africa!!! Film Festival, which runs from September 26 to October 1 at Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria shows shorts films from different parts of the world.

Legends of Madagascar by Haminiaina Ratovoarivony

 Madagascar/2012/93 min/Malagasy
Themed 'Legacy', the 2016 edition of LCA Film Fest shows among other films ‘Beleh’ (2013) where a man gets to step into his wife's shoes by experiencing pregnancy himself; ‘Boneshaker’ (2012), starring 11-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis; ‘Ududeagu’ (2014), starring artiste, Ade Bantu; and Joy, It's Nina (2012) weaves together stories of African women living in the UK based on real-life archives, including voicemails from legendary singer Nina Simone. 

  The organisers state: “Our selection will also take you traveling in space and time with Legends of Madagascar (2012), which explores the taboos and beliefs of the insulated country, Kwaku Ananse (2013) built on a fable of the Ashanti people and Onunaekwuluora: The Legacy Of Professor Thurstan Shaw (2014), which documents Shaw's revelation of the rich ancient heritage of the Igbos,  his stubborn insistence on retention of the artefacts dating as far back as 9 AD in Nigeria, as a sacred trust for the Igbo-Ukwu and Nri people.

   “The Supreme Price (2014), a highly acclaimed documentary film that traces the Pro-Democracy Movement in Nigeria and efforts to increase the participation of women in leadership roles will encourage our audience to reconsider our past with new eyes.

  “Many of our films offer social commentary. They include Chika Anadu's B for Boy (2013) that chronicles a woman's desire for a son in a culture that values boys over girls and Sexy Money (2014) about former sex workers who return to Nigeria to build new lives for themselves, with original music by the celebrated singer and activist, Nneka. 
  “We also have films pushing the envelope like Oya, the Rise of the Orisha (2014), Africa's first superhero movie named for the Yoruba warrior goddess and Aya of Yop City (2013), based on the hit comic book series set in the popular Abidjan neighborhood. Coz Ov Moni 2, a musical in pidgin English filmed in Ghana and Romania, is another film to look out for.

Our festival, which features dozens of other great films, will close with October 1 (2014), Kunle Afolayan's latest opus set at a time when the country was optimistic about the possibilities of Nigeria once Nigerians got to chart their own path forward.”

Sunday, 18 September 2016

93 Days Of Proudly Nigerian Courage… A Director’s Compactness Test

By Tajudeen Sowole

Telling a story of how the dreaded Ebola was stopped in Nigeria comes with the challenge of not leaving key factors out as well as making a compact film. But despite the challenges of selecting what key parts of the real story makes contents of 93 Days...the Ebola film, a proudly Nigerian story of courage is not missing.

Patrick Sawyer (Keppy Ekpeyoung) in 93 Day

In coordinating the creative contents of 93 Days, the director, Steve Gukas, seems confronted with the challenge of compactness as the film brings same sides of a coin: so much details enacted as well as certain key events left out.

  And after nearly two hours, leading to the end credits scrolling in from the bottom of the screen, inside House on the Rock, Lekki, Lagos - venue of the premiere - 93 Days leaves one wondering if the efforts of Dr Ameyo Adadevoh in the Ebola battle was exaggerated in real life.   
  Currently showing in cinemas across Nigeria, 93 Days as a straight jacket, historical film is almost spotless, even when viewed through the prism of strictest critique. But within the context of art as essence of filmmaking, irrespective of whether it's a biopic or feature doc, something seems to be missing in 93 Days.

  The challenges of merging compactness and art contents in 93 Days not withstanding, the effort of Bolanle Austen Peters, Dotun Olakurin. Pemon Rami and Gukas-led production crew intercepts Nollywood mediocre, that could have rushed to film locations and  basterdised subjects of national interest under erroneous claims of making 'epic' film. For now, whoever is making another film on Ebola knows there is a standard to beat.

  As regards late Dr Adadevoh, played by Bimbo Akintola, there is no doubt that the film, in at least two or three scenes establishes her efforts in stopping Patrick Sawyer (Keppy Ekpeyoung) from leaving the First Consultant Hospital, Lagos. Also, her coordination and inspirational efforts of the entire health workers at the hospital is also well enacted. But in creating artistic contents out of these scenes, specifically, heroic strides of Adadevoh, the scenes appear too ordinary. If Gukas was avoiding melodramatising the scenes, I think he also under highlights the fulcrum role of the late doctor in the widely reported battle against Ebola. 
  Perhaps, compensating for that weakness are the motivational and courageous lines as delivered by Akintola. "We must do it together. Lagos is watching. Nigeria is watching. The whole world is watching," she tells frightened colleagues inside the feverish environment of the hospital.

  Indeed, using the medium of film to refresh people's memory of a story that happened, almost animatedly, before everyone's eyes - constantly reported by the media just two years ago - could be a complex one for any filmmaker. Confirming that complexity in 93 Days, is when the film leaves out the key factors of how Lagos State Government constantly released information. As much as compactness is key in telling such story within two hours of digital motion pictures, just one scene where Yemi Shodimu appears as Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris underplays those crucial parts of government.
 In fact, a film about the battle against Ebola in Nigeria, as happened in 2014, is incomplete without depicting the constant and preventive speeches of Mr Babatunde Fashola, the then Governor of Lagos State. Fashola's image in the Ebola battle was like that of Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani during the 9/11 terror attack that brought the World Trade twin towers to grand zero. 

David Brett-Majors (Alastair Mackenzie) and Dr Ada Igonoh (Somkele Idhalama) in 93 Days.

 Also, the contribution of the Federal Ministry of Health, is also missing. Specifically, the much acknowledged non-partisan and collective energy from both Lagos state and Federal Government, which was a key factor is left out of the film. Even, if 93 Days goes into the real politics of who does what, perhaps, the film would have expanded the argument. Complete silence of these crucial aspects of government deducts from the essence of such a timely film project, particularly within artistic context.

  From the point where six health workers of First Consultant Hospital are quarantined, the texture of suspense is chilling. Particularly when expatriate doctor, David Brett-Majors (Alastair Mackenzie) leads Dr Ada Igonoh (Somkele Idhalama) to the ward and tells her: "Take a bed and start fighting."  Quarantined Dr Igonoh actually fights and wins, becoming the first of the quarantined persons to be freed of Ebola.

  The power of a film medium is stressed in 93 Days as the battle for population figure of Lagos appears to have been won by those who promote 21 million as against the Federal Government's questionable and unpopular official figure of over 10 million. Constantly, Lagos as a city of 21 million people was mentioned across local and international spaces, in the film.

 However, courage as a central and key essence of 93 Days is not lost. Even the making of the film itself, could be described as courageous effort on the part of the entire crew, given the controversy surrounding the concept from the beginning.

Dr Amevo Adadevoh (Bimbo Akintola) and other acts in 93 Days. 

 Shortly before the screen came alive inside House on the Rock, Austen Peters told the audience how she nearly rejected the idea of making the film when  she was approached with the idea. But having been "inspired by Fela on Broadway (the musical)," much earlier, she chose to extend her love for any Nigerian brand to the Ebola film idea.

  For Olakurin, 93 Days film teaches two lessons: having people do the right thing as exemplified by Dr Adadevoh who did not allow Sawyer to leave the hospital. He also argued that the film has boosted the image of Nigeria as a nation of filmmaking in the international space, after the film "enjoyed good reviews” abroad.

  Also, the Nigeria brand as a factor has been the attraction for the director, Gukas. "I am attracted to things that show the best of Nigeria; 93 Days shows Nigeria in its finest hours."

 As much as 93 Days adds to the Nigerian brand as a resilient entity and promotes the depth of creative incendiary abound, there are still spaces for future films on the Ebola, perhaps to expand the strength of the creative landscape. .

Fresh breath of clay from 'Yaba' ceramists

Ceramic art is not exactly common on Lagos art space for the simple reason that its appreciation is more functional and utilitarian than aesthetics, compared to other non-applied art sub-genres.
Ewa (Beauty) by Ikeya Joseph
 But at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, over 11 artists just refreshed the art landscape with Untapped Treasures by reminding followers of art that the soil, from which most creatures evolved remains a crucial part of creativity. In fact, the artists merged intellectual contents with functionality of the ceramic objects.

Widely rendered in aesthetics - even few that combine functionality - the works, despite being presented in poorly lit gallery environment, showed the resilience of pottery as one of the oldest form of art.

The lesson of the exhibition was to stress the importance of ceramic as a viable venture, even within the academic environment, Dr. (Mrs.) Grace Kokoeka Soyinka told guests during a visit to the show.

  In one of the works on display, Transmutation, by Temitope Falayi, the value place on art in proper connection between man and its environment was stressed. In fact, the artist argued that "human life is incomplete without art." Also Unity was of interest among his works, particularly in a country that is facing one of its most challenging ethno-religious period against the backdrop of politics.

Still on the connection between man and the environment, Benjamin Amano took the subject into the spiritual realm in the work he titled From the Rubbles. In its natural clay texture without glazing, the piece, according to Amano explains the spiritual ties between the much dreaded disaster such as earthquake, which is a thoughtful link to man's origin from clay. On his non-glazing approach, he insisted that it makes the work retain its natural texture.

Another pottery of the artist titled Royalty, which was embellished with images of traditional chiefs stresses his skill in ceramic art.

 Also on display were Ewa (Beauty), by Ikeya Joseph; One Of A Kind and Bond by Pat Anthony Euba; From Void To Form by Adeleke Ogunleye; Drinking Water Set from Olowolabayaki Bolarinwa, Bonga Fish by Carol Igbinadolor and Out from the same mould by Soyinka.

Also on display were works of select students, an idea, which Soyinka explained as collective responsibility of "promoting our values, not a competition." She noted how ceramic art is currently moving beyond what it used to be many years back. And providing the students opportunity to exhibit in the same space with art teachers, she argued, "is part of the process of preparing them for the challenges ahead."

With Untapped Treasures, it appears like the SADP at Yabatech has strengthened its culture of showing works of students when art teachers exhibit. Quite a number of students, in the past have shown with teachers at the Yusuf Grillo Gallery.