Alternative art spaces in Lagos

And at one point she is sitting on the floor,

Legs crossed over each other on the side as she spreads glitter across her open chest

Wound of womanhood, she wants to say, – man’s boon.

The next moment she is screaming into white cloth, dragging it around

The grey mosaic surface on the 7th floor of the YMCA building, now the site of Wura Ogunji’s studio, home, and creative space: The Treehouse.

Sheila Chukwulozie– the performer in question- a strong Scorpio who is at once vulnerable and grand, later spoke to me about the idea of these spaces that are tucked away in secret places. She told me “we have to make sure people understand that they are complex spaces. Energy sites.”

The Treehouse and its numerous counterparts, spaces of communing, of exchange, of gathering around the arts, are slowly germinating around the city of Lagos. Some currently bear rich fruit. They represent vital nodes in a slowly growing cultural infrastructure that has not yet had enough access to opportunity.

I could write at length about how infrastructural failure and a lack of support driven by public institutions (barring the historic FESTAC 77) left a gaping hole in Lagos’ art landscape. But I have already just made that claim and it is post-fact.

I could talk about how the onus then turned to private individuals and patrons to support this fledgeling economy. Each moulded this young topography into a nebulous creature that we today call the “Lagos art scene”. Like any other, it’s replete with the tropes you’d find anywhere.

Art dealers and agents, the gallerists, the curators. In the middle of it all- and they’re named last for effect- the artists, struggling to find meaning in a society that doesn’t always ask the question “and what of the artist, the artist nko?” Enter the “space and its energy.”

I want to tell the story of Stranger, 16/16, Baroque Age, WAFFLESNCRM, the artists whose homes double as studios. And all the others that just flew away from my ailing memory. All these little nodes that are slowly growing. They are homes first. Safe spaces. First. And then they are everything that their eager followers put into it.

I want to write about how these spaces are unique bodies in this social landscape and how they are important because they give voice and platform to many. The energy space does exactly what the people inside it need, nothing more and nothing less. They are true representations of where we are as a society- seeking space for expression and space where contemporary roots can be planted, away from the sometimes-maddening roar of Lagos’ fiercely capitalistic tendencies. Sure, the money’s good, but it comes with territory. And this territory is just now being carved, or perhaps un-carved.

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