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Memoires de I'after shave Aftershave International Artists Workshop, Jos, Nigeria October 24 to November 7,1999 Tonie Okpe, 1999, Mixed Media Installation, Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture From October 24 to November 7, 1999, in the serene environment of Jos Plateau, seventeen artists from three continents took part in the first edition of "Aftershave International Artists Workshop", the first of its kind in Nigeria. Ten men and seven women from eight different countries met on the grounds of the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA), a property of the Nigerian government-owned culture organ—National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). This artist-led initiative was coordinated by an energetic team of four artists: Jacob Jari, Jerry Buhari, Adele Garkida and Tonie Okpe, all lecturers at the famous art school of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. While funding came mostly from the British Council and the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development in concert with a few companies and individuals in Nigeria, artists drawn from diverse backgrounds and art forms had to contribute to their travel expenses in order to work together in a novel environment. "Aftershave " derives its name from the participation of two of the coordinators in "Shave International Artists Workshop" in England, inspired by Sir Robert Loder of Triangle Arts Trust, London in the continuation of his desire to help midwife international artists' workshops around the world. The Nigerian edition was a success because it was artist-led, sort of like "mad people taking over their asylum." This is the joy of providing an arena for art by artists for artists. This was conceived by he organizers with a modest accommodation facility; feeding arrangements; some material supplies and equipment ; a set "stage"; the favorable weather conditions in Jos; the idea of two weeks away from home; and a studio and the daily routine of individual patterns of work. The workshop was set to bring artists together in a creative pursuit which would encourage the sharing of a wide range of experiences, networking and stimulation of friendships. The overwhelming abundance of grass and mud scattered over a wide area combined with huge replicas of traditional indigenous architecture were meant to motivate artists to draw from that energy and to create , unhindered by preconceptions . The freedom to experiment freely, yet with end products in mind, prompted artists to look deeper into the environment for inspiration. After the novelty of getting to know one another, slides of the artists' works were presented to introduce everyone's background and practice. Work thereafter began in earnest with the Open Day as the target. Working hours ran from morning to late afternoon, with individual artists spreading their work over large spaces and trying too to come to terms with their imaginations: like an inward journey into one's self. The evenings provided the opportunity for intellectual artistic discourse to make comparisons, explore differences and similarities in work types and styles—a wide diversity of presentations. On one of these evenings there was a slide presentation accompanied with a review of trends by painter and art historian, Chike Aniakor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which further provided the impetus for debate and critical reviews of issues of global art practice. At "Aftershave", there was neither creed nor code of conduct and so the usual pressure for "quality product" or a seeming sense of competition or sales at exhibition day was invisible. Artists were simply left to discover and experience aspects of the grounds that best suited them as possible sources of inspiration. The freedom to discover, reinvent or redirect thoughts was in abundance coupled with the site tours around the plateau—a refreshing therapy. The experimental installation works of Okay Ikenegbu and Kioko Mwitiki, featuring the use of wet standing grass as the main medium resulted in Kioko's Village and Load Bearers. In both sculptures, the artists freeLy used grass while drawing themes from the everyday life of load bearers and market women. This is in complete contrast to Olu Amoda, who used candles , sticks, mud, dry grass, wood, and concrete slaps for an installation dedicated to all those who had lost their lives in collapsed substandard buildings spread across...


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