Art Is Everywhere 2008 and the Challenge of Continuity

Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi

Nzewi is an artist, art historian, and curator. He is currently Curator of African Art at Dartmouth College's Hood Museum of Art.

“Tick says the Clock tick tick…what you have to do do quick.”
A popular nursery rhyme

In January 2004, the Pan-African Circle of Artists organized the third in the series of its Overcoming Maps, a study tour and travelling exhibition of six West African countries. While on the trip Ayo Adewunmi was inspired by the “waste to art” initiatives that he witnessed in the various artists’ villages in Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana. The “waste to art” initiative was mainly carried out by a cooperative of artists working in dedicated artists’ villages set up by the government. The most striking aspect of the “waste to art” initiatives in these countries was the ways in which it straddled creativity and enterprise. The initiatives not only provide artists with means of sustainable livelihood but were also outlets through which they reasserted their creative geniuses. The artists employed mostly found and recyclable materials in their natural or processed states that were cheap and easy to source from the natural or industrial environments.

For Ayo Adewunmi, the idea for the first “waste to art” initiative in Nigeria was conceived after the PACA trip in 2004 but only came to fruition in April 2005 when the first installment of Art is Everywhere was organized at Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu. The first workshop Art is Everywhere 1, was organized with very lean resources provided mainly by Ayo Adewunmi. Logistics support came from IMT in form of its provision of the workshop venues and from Alliance Francaise, Enugu who provided refreshment and exhibition venue for the finished products that emerged from the workshop. Tony Odeh (a lecturer of textile art at IMT) and my humble self were involved as resource persons.

I have gone this length in describing this very modest beginning of Art is Everywhere mainly to focus attention on Ayo’s doggedness and more importantly, on his ability to circumvent the limitations that can be imposed on visionary ideas by two main culprits: time and lack of resources. At the danger of sounding celebratory, it required more than a burning desire on the part of Ayo to translate his idea to reality. He understood the maxim “a stitch in time saves nine” which is the idea that embodies the nursery rhyme I quoted leading to the opening paragraph.

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