Navagating Lagos, Island
For the first two weeks, Terrence and Raphael with the help of local musician Tshine and friends at hFactor were able to navigate the densely populated streets of Lagos Island as they garthered materials and met with different people within the community getting to speak with them and understand bit by bit the inner workings of their world.
Lagos Island is just a small section of an ever-growing city whose population to date surpasses 21 million, but it embodies all the complexities of life here. This is Yoruba land and Tshine is a true local and the perfect guide. With his expertise, Terrence and Raphael seamlessly moved through the island’s tightly packed markets negotiating the price of multicolored fishing nets before hopping on another Keke (more commonly know as rickshaws) to zip easily between the intense traffic toward the scap yards and junked cars which sit underneath a raised high way that snakes through the island.
Terrence’s studio sat atop the roof of the hFACTOR space overlooking a variety of environments, from the boisterous streets, to concrete skeletons of unfinished buildings, to the juxtaposition of large flashing LED advertisements on weathered colonial architecture; remnants of the British Empire. This vibrant backdrop acted as the creative feeder for all their projects.
Exhibition at 16/16
CTG Collective and hFACTOR opened their first collaborative exhibition in the 16/16 Residency space, a solo presentation of the stone and found material works made by Terrence over the fist weeks in Nigeria. The evening was to introduce Terrence’s practice and work to the Lagos art scene and was filled with lengthy discussions around his stone carving process and how he curates his materials.
Found Materials Workshop
Aligning our missions, CTG and hFACTOR planned several events which directly engaged the local community in social and environmentally focused art projects.
The first workshop drew focus on the use of recycled materials as an artistic medium and its historical roots in African art. Working with local youths from Lagos Island, they spent an afternoon turning ceiling panels into canvases to paint upon. With guidence and support from Raphael and Terrence these enthusiastic creators made over 20 works which were then installed for hFACTOR’s up-cycle event.
Kano State, Nigeria
This week the CTG Collective and hFACTOR headed up to Kano state in northern Nigeria to visit the indigo dyers. Kano being one of only two places in the world that still grow and dye with indigo.
The first stop was the Kofar Mata dye pits in the center of Kano City. These pits have been operational since 1498 and are run by Haruna Baffa whose family has been practicing this method of dying for centuries. Haruna is known globally for his dyes and indigo patterns and will have an exhibition at the Davis Museum in Boston this coming fall.
The dying process has not changed in centuries: water and ash, to give the dye a glaze, is mixed with potassium, to fix the color. Finally, dried indigo twigs are added and the whole mixture is fermented in a six-meter deep pit for four weeks. This pit will dye multiple fabrics daily for a full year before the mix is finished and the remaining turned into traditional medicine which is believed to cure a multitude of illnesses.
After learning about the ancient dyeing practice, we left the City and headed further north towards the Niger border to the village of Maitsidau where all of the homes were made from the red earth they stood on.
This is where the local artists make cotton thread, dye it with indigo, and weave it into beautiful cloth. The weaving is done on man-powered simple wooden looms. Each strand of cotton is organized meticulously, pulled through silk, and then stretched out 20 feet in front of the weaver where it is piled on a stone in different hues of blue.
We spent time with each of the craftsmen learning about how these textiles are made and that this craft has also been past down generation to generation for over 500 years.
At the end of their trip Terrence selected two spools of raw cotton which he had dyed, one deep indigo and the other a sky blue. These materials were incorporated into the sculpture he produced for his solo at hFACTOR, acting as the ties to the methodical age-old practices which still permeate Nigerian culture.
Makoko is the worlds largest floating city that’s sits beneath Lagos’s Third Mainland Bridge. Homes resting on stilts stretch out into the brackish water of the lagoon where beautiful carved canoes busily weave back and forth. The residents here among many things are known for their woodwork which is what brought Terrence Musekiwa, Raphael Guilbert and T-Shine here to have a structure made for Terrence’s installation.
Makoko is a 150 year old community that is yet another underprivileged district in Lagos threatened with forced evictions.
After weeks spent absorbing and understanding Lagos, the significance of a tarpaulin became ever so clear. The deeper we dove into the social and spatial fabric of the city, the more we realized the city’s dependence on these plastic sheets.
These plastic bandaids became are an emblem of visible violence not yet remedied. Lagos has grave land rights issues with many of its unrecognized citizens living in structures for generations without ever owning the property or spaces they occupy. This deep instability, combined with aging colonial architecture and thirst for foreign investment, has left too many in vulnerable ever-shifting positions.
Since the beginning of 2019, over 100 buildings had been demolished throughout Lagos Island, each time leaving the residents to fend for themselves. This mass clearing of housing started after a school collapsed in early March. The government has since used this endemic infrastructure issue to clear out vast areas and quickly sell off the cleared land to luxury developers. This form of economic violence Terrence has seen in his own home Zimbabwe where only a few years ago, the government-driven by greed cleared out the “slums” overnight, leaving many stranded. But this is not only a Zimbabwean or Nigerian issue; aggressive forms of gentrification plague unprotected communities worldwide.
The tarpaulins for Terrence during this residency became a symbol of the permanent-temporary state all too many live in. The sculpture he created uses these tarps to pay tribute to the inescapable reality of economic and environmental turmoil sustained by deep governmental corruption and corporate greed.
A HOUSE IN A HOUSE
Terrence Musekiwa and Raphael Guilbert concluded their month-long residency in Nigeria by opening a solo presentation of Musekiwa’s work at hFACTOR. The work addresses the many layers that make up Lagos Island and interwoven histories that tie this hectic city together. Suspended from the ceiling the center sculpture creates a dissected home, representing the ongoing housing crisis in Lagos.