Looking at the colourful traditional robes of some singing men from Northern Nigeria, in Africa, no two are the same. The robes are adorned with different patterns and colours. Possibly the indigenous designers are conveying different messages. How did they arrive at these varied patterns and color combinations one may ask? Or were these made based on the immediacy of emotion? Many inspirations and novel ideas come this way, you know.
It was said that the late Ray Charles’ remarkable music career was based on the immediacy of emotion, which is, inspiration coming in torrents.
Inspiration comes from everywhere and it is not a preserve of any race.
Inspiration influences every area of human endeavor, be it in science, arts and what have you.
I will yet digress a bit.
How does a third party understand a work of inspiration? Can one easily understand an idea or a work of another individual without copious explanation? Can an idea stand alone and still be understood?
How do people appreciate an artwork in the absence of the producer of the work, the artist?
Can one understand the meaning and the intricacies of a new scientific discovery without the creator’s explanation?
Without basic knowledge in these respective fields, very few of us can discern and engage with novel ideas we see for the first time.
This brings me to the point of the lack of patronage of works of art in Nigeria and possibly some other countries and I proffer some reasons and solutions.
My observation is that many who visit these exhibitions do not have basic art knowledge and therefore cannot appreciate what they have been subjected to visually and otherwise.
Why would any person connect with a work, without the knowledge of art theory and the demand of the production process involved in a new work?
Some buy – leaving these items to gather dust eventually after the initial excitement of wanting to be seen as a collector. Can you blame them? Art collection can be a Jones’ affair.
On the contrary, I have a lawyer friend based in Lagos – whose sitting room is a mini gallery of sorts – preferring brushing his mouth within this space, in the morning, as he prepares for work, just to put him in the right mood.
But he does not dole out his money for every exhibition piece including photography works. He knows what to look out for. He will not disclose the price either. This scenario is about knowledge, which invariably he has and continues to acquire.
Therefore it can be inferred that not in all cases, poverty is the only reason for low art patronage in Nigeria and some African nations. People are not simply informed right from young age. People only appreciate aesthetics and quite a lot of artists frown at this. Most members of the public believe aesthetics is part of the parameters for analyzing a work.
Why would you buy a GSM handset in the city? Because you know what it does- to a certain extent, you know the technological challenges of various people involved in its production and therefore, you appreciate and buy eventually. But that can’t be said for a group of natives – yet to see civilization – living in a dense rain forest in some parts of the world. The handset will be meaningless to them even if offered as a gift.
What am I driving at, for art patronage to start in Nigeria as in other parts of the worlds, free lectures, journals and other means through available technology should now be employed by the Ministry of Culture, the museum (private and government) and galleries. The practitioners should not be left out too. The mode of presentation to make it easy for the public to subconsciously learn some of these things should be instituted. After all nobody will buy what they don’t understand and nobody will preserve such inspirational items even if hung on the walls of his space.
Lastly those who would love to collect, who visit some of these shows, I believe want to know more but they are shy to ask.
Therefore, I come back the robes of different patterns. What are these people saying with the varied patterns and colours on their robes? I should have asked them.