The Bold, the Fearless & the Beautiful: ART X LAGOS 2023 – ADJOAA
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The Bold, the Fearless & the Beautiful: ART X LAGOS 2023


African contemporary art started in the 70s as a response to the increase in hope and optimism among African nations. It was a way of exploring the African identity, which had changed in drastic ways in the face of colonialism and during the fight for independence, which many African nations had gained after the mid-twentieth century. After being under the oppression of colonial powers for so long, African contemporary art became an expression of freedom and allowed African and diaspora communities to take back the narrative of their culture and let them continue their own stories, in their own way. 

That is where events like ART X LAGOS come in…   

What is ART X LAGOS?

In 2016, Nigerian entrepreneur, Tokini Peterside-Schwebig, founded ART X LAGOS, which brings together the best of contemporary African art. But it’s not just an exhibition, it’s an interactive event where people from all walks of life can come together and not only view art but experience it as well. In just over seven years, over 40 countries have come to participate in ART X LAGOS and present their work in all its glory. This interaction between artists and art appreciators happens not only because of the gallery events but also through interactions like ART X Talks, a discussion panel that’s vibrant, exciting and discusses the analysis of African art. There’s also ART X Live! — a unique showcase of the creative collaborations between Africa’s rising stars in art between November 2nd and the 5th. 

These diverse interactions with art over the years have culminated in an annual conversation about African art. So it’s no wonder why this year’s theme was chosen. 

This Year’s Theme: Dialogue

You can’t define a culture or a cultural concept with a single word. Past editions of ART X LAGOS included themes like ‘Who will gather under the Baobab tree?’, which uses the Baobab tree as a symbol of community, positivity and rejuvenation. In 2021, the theme was ‘the restful ones are not yet born’, which aimed to challenge stereotypes and cliches about the continent through art. Choosing these phrases to communicate the theme allows for diverse discussions of culture through art. But for 2023, the chosen theme is Dialogue. A lot is going on in Africa and the world, so it’s hard to focus on one topic itself. The act of talking with others can be an act of defiance, innovation and breaking boundaries. 

So this year, the conversation turns inward to the African art collective itself. The theme of ‘Dialogue’ aims to encourage artists to reflect, collaborate, inspire one another and create a shared experience that will forge stronger relationships within the African and diaspora communities.

The Exhibits of ART X LAGOS 

Joining the artistic conversation are ten invited exhibitors: Galerie MAM (Cameroon), Gallery 1957 (Ghana), Alexis Galleries (Nigeria), kó art space (Nigeria), Nike Art Gallery (Nigeria), O'DA Art Gallery (Nigeria), SMO Contemporary Art (Nigeria), Tiwani Contemporary (UK/Nigeria), Wunika Mukan Gallery (Nigeria) and Afriart Gallery (Uganda). These artists will contribute to the growing conversation between Africa, its diverse cultures, the meaning of art and how identities are negotiated across time and across different heritages.

But the art world is a forever-evolving landscape and as the popularity of ART X LAGOS grows, so do their events and explorations of art. This year is the first launch of ART X CINEMA, which will showcase films and documentaries that will join the dialogue on how the African and diaspora art industry is continuing to disrupt the status quo. Of course, this event will also pay tribute and draw inspiration from pioneers in the industry, like Senegalese filmmaker, Ousmane Sembène. 

But it wouldn’t be ART X LAGOS without exhibits that enrich the artistic conversation. This includes staple events like ART X Talks, ART X Live! and new experimental ones like a special exhibit by the Museum of West African Art. However, this is only a sample of what this four-day event has to offer. Yet whatever the event, they all highlight the uniqueness of African contemporary art. 

Brave, fearless and beautiful: What makes African contemporary art unique? 

Contemporary African art was created as a way to reclaim stories and culture. But the existence of the movement itself is an act of innovation and rebellion. Western scholars have attempted to categorise this art movement and define it. But that has created problems in itself of restricting the culture through a colonial lens. The existence of African contemporary art brings about a unique question: does everything have to be defined? Isn’t art about feeling and exploring emotions? This exploration doesn’t have to be tied to traditional art forms either and can happen through textiles and fashion, as seen with Trinidad and Tobago label  The Cloth and Nigerian fashion brand, Sisè. African art, whether through use of adire, tie-dye or aso-ke or other art forms, helps break down stereotypes, such as seeing Africa and its artwork as the same and merely part of ‘tribal art’. 

But dialogue leads to education and replaces cultural ignorance with cultural awareness. With every piece of African art made, we come a little closer to bridging the gap between stereotypes and reality.

How can you support contemporary African art? 

Going to events like ART X LAGOS and 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair is one way to support contemporary African art. But if being able to take time out to visit African art events or galleries is a challenge, then investing in artwork is one of the best ways to support Black-owned businesses and African brands in the industry. You can find high-end African art year-round on online platforms specialising in art and luxury African brands like ARTSPLIT and Dope Black Art. For example, Unique, upcycled collectible items like Woven Gourd Art and the Woven Water Hyacinth Mirror are ways to incorporate the culture into your own home, so you don’t miss out on enriching your space and contributing to the cultural discussion. 

No matter where you are, you can always support African art in the digital space, as well as in physical galleries. Often, these two spaces: the digital and physical, work to bring together people from all over the African continent and the world. At ADJOAA, we are proud to be a part of the conversation about African culture, creativity, innovation  and ways to support growth in these spaces. 

Our platform includes many creative high fashion Nigerian brands and Made in African labels like Aga Culture  Vista Pieces and conceptual fashion brands like Tribe of Elzar. An event like ART X LAGOS has ripple effects that affect communities across the world and inspires the internet to talk about art and support African art platforms. At ADJOAA, when you purchase from one of our emerging and established African fashion brands or the 100+ more accessible and slow fashion Black-owned luxury labels, you are enabling us to amplify and champion the work we do here at ADJOAA.



Image credit Art X Lagos - a painting by artist Bruce Onobrakpeya

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