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South Africa, Nigeria promote African unity through art, tourism, culture

Saturday September 11, 2021 was both a memorable and great weekend for art lovers, tourism buffs, the general public and the diplomatic community in Lagos.

That day, Anne Adams and Lulama Wolf Mlambo, two African daughters and visual artists per excellence showcased their creative ingenuity in an art exhibition entitled, ‘A Vernacular Homage to Architecture and Design’, an inter-cultural show that blended the Nigerian and South-African cultural perspectives to celebrate the energy of African arts.

Both born in 1993, Nigeria’s Anne Adams and South Africa’s Lulama Wolf Mlambo used their art as a veritable tool to promote African unity, art, tourism and culture.

As expected, the exhibition, which was held at Affinity Art Gallery, Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, offered the visual artists opportunity to engage the public through their works on display, which cut across many art media.

While Adams Anne displays her sculptural and installation works, Lulama ‘Wolf’ Mlambo’s enthralling paintings were delight to see.

The two artists affirmed that both Nigeria and South Africa have a big role to play to bond the African continent, using the creative industry.

The exhibition further highlights the importance of tradition, heritage, design and sustainability. It focuses on the social functions and information passed down through generations by African matriarchs, outside of a globalized modern commercial practice.

Moreover, the artists take viewers back in time when art existed out of the necessity of who people were, their lifestyles, culture, spiritualism, and when humanity was intertwined in a rhythmic dance with nature.

Adams Anne was born in 1993 in Nigeria and is a contemporary ceramic artist currently working and living in Lagos. Anne focuses on using her medium and style to change the narrative surrounding the quality and potential of ceramic as an art form in Nigeria. Anne has participated in local and international group exhibitions and has featured in online publications and televised shows including; BBC News Pidgin, Daily Trust Newspaper, Channels TV.

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Using vernacular techniques and textures Anne’s works incorporate structure, design, and authentic Nigerian symbols adapted from Nsibidi and Mbari art. The use of symmetry in her works is a harmonious display of interactions with balance and indigenous design. Her works are intimate, familiar, and a representation of abundance and harmony which tell stories about the origins and belonging of Africans.

On the other hand, Lulama ‘Wolf’ Mlambo is a visual artist who lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. In her first year at the University of Johannesburg, studying fine art and fashion, Mlambo expressionist and abstract interest became more evident in her work. Being a millennial creative, Mlambo has been known for different forms of expression. She is inspired by two avant-garde South African artists, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi and Ernest Mancoba.

Vernacular architecture is a principal theme in Lulama’s work, exploring the human disposition in imaginative and stylized ways. Lulama interrogates the pre-colonial African experience through the contemporary mind by studying the patterns used in decorating homes, similar to the practice by the women of the Ndebele tribe of Southern Africa. These patterns serve as a means of communication.

Her approach to her new body of works “Remaining Vernacular” is reminiscent of the textures and character of these South African modes of communication.

Mlambo works have been subject of group exhibitions worldwide including, THK Gallery, Group Exhibition, Cape Town, (2020); Undiscovered Canvas, Group Exhibition, Antibes, (2020); 1-54, Online Group Show, Paris, (2021); Nature of Women, Artshesays, New York, (2021).

Proudly sponsored by Bombay Sapphire, a distillery London Dry Gin company, and supported by the South African High Commission in Nigeria, and South African Tourism West Africa, the event brought the presence of Ambassador Darkey Africa, Consular General to South Africa High Commission to Nigeria.

Speaking at the exhibition, Darkey Africa, Consular General to South Africa High Commission to Nigeria, tried to explain the inter-cultural relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.

“What we need to understand in our struggle for freedom is the context in which we present the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria”, he said.

He stressed that the both countries can use culture to unite Africa through the free trade policy for mutually beneficial relationships.

He pushed for the unity of Africa through a collective fight against corruption, poverty and prevention of wars on the continent. According to him, the promotion of art, tourism and culture to enhance cohesion between Nigeria and South Africa is a way forward for business development for the two countries.

He also identified the huge economic benefits Nigeria and South Africa stand to explore from each other in arts, tourism and culture.

The ambassador likened Anne Adams and Lulama Mlambo to the duo of Africa’s literary giants, Professors China Achebe and Woke Soyinka, who used intellectual arts to promote unity for the development of Africa, saying that the two artists are good ambassadors of unity in Africa through their chosen profession.

For Ambassador Darkey Africa, Achebe’s book ”Things Fall Apart”, which predicted the problems of Africa should be read to unite Africa, so that the continent will not fall apart again.

“We need to come together. The future generation needs to come together to build the African we want”, he urged.

However, he lamented that the continent had failed to use its diversity in languages, ethnicities and races to unite and called for stronger ties between nations of the continent.

Also speaking at the exhibition, Naomi Edobor, curator, Affinity Art Gallery, explained the reason for the exhibition saying it showcased the title, texture, design, and international outlook, thereby bringing the connection between the two artists.

Edobor sees the connection between the works of the two artists as they are able to communicate with each other. Mlambo used colors in her work and employed sand to create texture, while Adam used sand to create the same kind of colours.

In his remarks on the exhibition, Thekiso Rakolojane, the hub head, South African Tourism West Africa, explained that the exhibition was organised to highlight the importance of arts and culture and how it brings Nigeria and South Africa together.

He noted that the both countries mutually benefit economically in the area of entertainment as South Africans love, buy and watch a lot of Nigerian movies, while a lot of Nigerian movies and music were shot in South Africa.

Rakolojane identified South Africa as a country in arts, music and movies and the exhibition provided a platform to bring the two countries together.

He encouraged Nigerians to travel to South Africa to experience cross-culture and holiday to create a bond between the two countries.

“Art is big in South Africa. The country’s artists are showcasing their works to Nigerians. Nigerians love South Africa arts. Both countries buy each other’s art works”, he said.

Organised by South African Tourism West Africa in collaboration with the South African High Commission, the exhibition also commemorated South Africa’s annual Women’s Day celebration, on August 9th of every year.

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