This is such a good (and almost-balanced) appraisal of the Nigerian creative scene. I say almost-balanced because, while extolling the elements that a foreign and high-culture audience can relate with, it ignores two critical components of the Nigerian creative space - the unbridled creativity stemming from the “streets” and the dynamics of business. So far, the street culture - with the exception of traditionally upper-class-upper-upper-middle-class creative domains (Galleries/exhibitions, high-class fashion etc.,) feeds the high culture. It makes for a beautiful Nigerian phenomenon. The high culture, only with capital, network and distribution resources, have always “win” in controlling the overall narrative, to the foreign audience especially.
Beautiful article that didn’t do much to explore how the business value-chain is being managed and sustained, and who enjoys the returns the most.
The writer didn’t mention my current favourite Nigerian creatives - Terry Apala, Qdot, Lil’ Kesh, those genius Instagram painters, those Instagram storytellers - Maraji, Lasisi, SLKcomedy, Alutaemir, Lekan_kingkong, not even those advertising guys doing cool stuff. I’m suing somebody! 😝
“...the assertive Nigerian global influence today cannot be denied, whether it’s in literature, music, fashion, or art, with new talents appearing at a relentless pace..... But all of them feed off the scene in Nigeria itself—and in its megacity, Lagos, a frenetic engine of creativity.”
I got to the arrival session. I joined a horde of people of different nationalities and different hair textures on a queue to enter Dubai. I entertained myself with the observation that Africans are relatively taller than other people, or maybe it's the nature of the batch that I was on the queue with.
The network carrier on my phone changed from my Nigerian one to Etisalat (Dubai). There was free data and so I chatted with whoever was up in Nigeria that night. One of my siblings who had caught me googling “Owning a Dog in Dubai” asked if I had seen any dog. I told him it was still night.
Right there, a poem started to form in my head. I resisted the urge to pay it attention. Rather, I began to have telepathic discussions with the pre-pre-premature poem. I damned it first, “See, stupid poem, I'm not in Dubai to form literary. You'd better find another outlet, preferably through another human being, of more welcoming interest in the mischief of words.”
The silly poem lumped in my neck, pressed harder and harder, and nagged like a girl destined to be an ex-girlfriend. But it wasn't the poem's fault. I had stirred up the urge to write by a fascination of the hues of people around me. Wait, Hues! The poem wanted to be titled, Hue-mans! The metaphors of colours started to arrive. I'm stumped between a choice of conceptual vehicle to use or to just damn the whole mental struggle and enjoy the sights of Dubai.
An Emirati attended to me. In fact, all the arrival attendants were Emirati males, men with well-trimmed beards and sideburns that look sharply different from the common stereotypes of Middle Eastern men with bushy and scruffy beards, and with deadpan looks of psychopaths. My attendant smiled while he adjusted the camera to my height. I smiled too and lowered my head to help his effort. My first encounter with an Emirati was with a smile, probably a promise of what was yet to come. Only a few weeks in the country, I started to look forward to seeing Emiratis stroll the streets in their easy mien and impeccable white robes (I later figured the name of the robes as dishdasha).
I noticed a gentleman holding a small cardboard with my name written on it. I acknowledged myself and made him and his cardboard pose with me for a picture – my first Dubai picture. He works in my host company.
We exited the arrival section and moved towards his car. And then, geez, the heat of Dubai, a sliver of what may be the biblical hellfire of my Christian childhood, hit me. The heat made Lagos heat, which I complain about every time, seemed like child’s play. I couldn’t mention it to my host so he wouldn’t take offense on behalf of the country and send me back into the plane to be returned from wherever I was vomited from. I knew about preparing for cold. I didn’t know about preparing for this type of heat!
After exchanging pleasantries and asking a few questions about each other’s countries – he’s a Filipino, we drove to my hotel. I had noticed some sights that I would have loved to photograph but I primed myself for a decent first-time-impression than appear as an overly enthusiastic guy from Africa reaching orgasm at mere fanciful spectacles of another country.
From a distance, amidst glints of night lights, I recognized some sections of Dubai that feature in cityscape photographs and camera pans on television.
I got to my hotel room and all I was occupied with was the thought of meeting my creative team!
The gentleman that drove me from the airport gave me my first Dirhams to use as contingency backup. I tried not to look embarrassed. In my mind, I was like, “Oh yeah, is this unsolicited kindness a Dubai behaviour?” I thanked him and let him know that he gave me my first stash of the UAE currency. I told him I would see him when I visit the agency.
The silly poem decided to show up again. I launched my laptop and pretended as though I was going to bring it to life. Instead, I relieved myself from the poem’s agitation by reading a few travel poems and essays, ogled at Instagram dogs, set my wristwatch and continued obsessing about meeting the creative team, until I slept off.
(Next post will be about visiting the agency)