By Udemma Chukwuma
One topic which keeps sprouting time and again is whether full time studio artists should diversify. This question hangs over any discussion, especially now that the economic situation in the country has become unpredictable. Many have put serious question marks on the future of artists who are not selling and practically living from hand to mouth, through the proceeds of their artworks.
“Artists who are into full time studio practice have to be patient or they diversify. They should be up and doing, they should use their artistic knowledge and skills for a broader range of issues,” said Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, an art curator.
Obiago is of the opinion that artists who can teach should do so and those who can write, or do other works should, rather than wait for a collector to buy their work, before they eat, which might not even be immediate. “Obviously, the whole economic downturn is affecting the art industry, we are not immune to the situation, but we continue to hope that things will pick up,” she said.
Despite the challenges the sector is facing, Obiago who has curated numerous art exhibitions said, “We must continue as social and artistic advocates to ensure that despite the difficult times that we are all going through, art is still being promoted. Art is able to give a higher calling, give us hope, help us to aspire to the good society; reflect our mood and serve as a source of inspiration.”
When asked the criteria she uses when considering curating for an artist, she said; “Over the years, we have artistic calendar and the artistic programme allows us to say we are going to focus on two or three masters to show, one or two senior artists and we also give an opportunity to emerging artists, who have not done any exhibition before. We could make range career artists. During the year, we try to pick high and low artists, and also pick different artists for different theme for different exhibition. I am always looking to creativity, I am looking for an artist that can present something from a fresh angle and also looking for new media.
What is arts to her?
“Art to me is beautiful and the inspirational aspect of life. Without art we will not have colours. You look at God’s creation. What inspired us to be artistic in our own way. We are artistic beings. Humanity is artistic, whether we show it through our fashion, through the way we make our hair, through our Jewellery, we may sing the way dance. Art is part of our DNA, art makes life rich and colourful. It is part of our moral fabric, whether times are good or bad we sing. Whether times are good or bad, we draw… Art is a reflection of our mood, it is reflection of our national psychic and how we see life.”
About Sandra Mbanefo Obiago
Sandra Mbanefo Obiago is a multi-faceted art curator, writer, photographer, poet, art collector and award winning filmmaker. She has curated art shows and worked with the local creative industry to promote the best of Nigerian art.
Obiago ran the communications program in Sub-Saharan Africa for environmental group, WWF International for eight years before founding and running Communication for Change, a media for development social enterprise in Nigeria for fourteen years. She is a social activist and her campaigns, films, radio programs and publications have touched on themes such as human rights, women’s empowerment, health including HIV and AIDS, environment, democracy and good governance. She organized conferences, workshops, and symposia for Nigeria’s growing film industry and helped develop a course on Media Enterprise at the Pan African University.
Obiago produced and directed many films over the years, including a five-part documentary film series, Red Hot: Nigeria’s Creative Industries, featuring artist from the film, music, performance and visual arts sectors. She was Associate Producer of the feature film, Half of a Yellow Sun, adapted from the award winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
She has been involved in many community initiatives and served as a trustee of the Convention On Business Integrity (CBI), she was a member of the Advisory Council of the Nigerian National Film Institute and has served as a member of the jury of the Nigeria Media Merit Awards and African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) awards. Obiago is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s African Leadership Initiative for West Africa (ALIWA) and has served as Sunday School teacher since her teens. She received an M.A in Telecommunications from Michigan State University, and a Bachelor of Education degree in English and German from the University of Manitoba, in Canada. She is happily married with three children.