Azu Nwagbogu on LagosPhoto Festival 2017
Established in 2007 by the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), the 2017 edition of the LagosPhoto Festival themed Regimes of Truth will explore the pursuit for and presentation of truth in contemporary society, gleaning inspiration from the writings of some of the 19th and 20th centuries’ most influential literary realists and intellectuals.
Omenka is proud to be media partners with LagosPhoto Festival. This interview with founder/director, Azu Nwagbogu outlines briefly the festival’s contribution to the increasing global interest in African photography.
Congratulations, the 8th edition of LagosPhoto Festival is set to hold this November. What new direction can we expect from festival?
Thank you! This is a very special edition because we are able to reflect on certain important cultural and historic events; 40 years since FESTAC 77 and 50 years since the declaration of the separatist state of Biafra. Both events have shaped the continent and the way Africa has been predominantly represented, and we can also explore how these historic events relate to contemporary society today. As is usual with LagosPhoto, a number of the works on display will have their worldwide premier at LagosPhoto. Osborne Macharia’s No Touch Am, which was produced in collaboration with LagosPhoto, and Samuel Fosso’s Black Pope which is the maestro’s most recent creative output are a few of examples.
The theme for this year’s edition is Regimes of Truth. Why is it so important to search for and present the truth in our contemporary society?
Photography has always flattered itself as an arbiter of truth in society and we are, by much evidence, living a post-truth society. What interests us is not solving problems but offering room for reflection. We are keen to explore these tensions through lens-based media.
Considering the works of leading photographers like George Osodi and Kelechi Amadi-Obi, would you say that photography from Africa has finally come of age?
These titans you mention are some of the best on the planet and have done so much to support the generation after them in ways that very few can appreciate. Amadi-Obi and Osodi are rare and remarkable talent with an appetite for stories that is peerless. But I am less interested in the coming of age, or the Africa has arrived narrative. The truth is that there is a need for more and we all need to do more to nurture the talent that we have on the continent.
What can you attribute to the increasing global interest in African photography, as well as the rising phenomenon of art and photography fairs all over the world?
I just need to stay alive and healthy and keep doing what I am doing. It is fair to say that I am doing my fair bit.
How successful has the LagosPhoto Festival been in responding and adapting to changes in the market over recent years and how does it plan to continue to remain relevant?
LagosPhoto is interested in nurturing artists, photographers and changing the narrative that relates to Africa. It is welcome if the market takes an interest in this but we are not an art fair and that won’t change soon.
“Regimes of Truth thus ruminates on the tension and confluence between veracity and artifice in society today.” How would you articulate this position?
The way the shows are curated will speak to these tensions but what is evident is that the facts are not necessarily the truth but serve as the props on which we develop what is verifiable as truth. We are interested in the emotional truths as well. Beyond the poverty narratives and all the usual stereotypes, we want to delve into the realities and fictions that keep us happily evolving as residents of this continent. We are interested in decolonisation aesthetics and the demystification of the specious narrative that dominates contemporary society in Africa about what I refer to as post-colonial cannibalism and such harmful and pervasive ideas that make people feel that we metaphorically have to consume each other to grow or survive.
How would you react to criticism that LagosPhoto Festival does little to feature local talent?
It is post truth. To put it more simply, a lie. We never not feature local artists but this is an international festival of photography with Lagos Sate hosting the world and not a Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) games for photography.
Do you have any advice for emerging photographers who would like to show their work not just locally, but also on a global platform?
LagosPhoto and National Geographic will reward one local photographer with a $10,000 prize. The photographer with the most interesting portfolio will receive this award. Our panel of photographers who will select the winning entry include past LagosPhoto exhibiting talent like TY Bello, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Bayo Omoboriowo (who was a winner at an amateur photographer contest at LagosPhoto from 5 years ago) and a few international photographers. I guess this also answers the previous question.
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