- Art is a beautiful way of creating awareness
The maiden edition of African Maritime Art Exhibition (AMAE) has been commended for providing maritime industry stakeholders and other national and continental participants tangible artistic reminders of Africa’s shipping domain, its major challenges and numerous opportunities.
AMAE, which held on Saturday at the Alliance Française, Mike Adenuga Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, is curated by Hazi’s Art, an arm of Maritime TV Africa to tell Africa’s marine/ maritime story using images and artistic impressions, painting, drawing, digitised photography, textile print, sculpture and many more.
Despite having the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy) which is a coherent long-term multilayered plans to enhance maritime viability for a prosperous Africa, the artworks exhibited at AMAE depicted the realities on the menace of marine litters, disorderly seaport terminals, value for aquatic life, coastal and riverine communities, and other maritime issues.
Sharing her experience at the event, a former Continental President of African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA), Mrs. Jean-Chiazor Anishere (SAN) observed that “there is a clear distinction between the media or an operator telling you about the maritime industry and an art exhibition through pictures, designs on fabrics, among others.”
While she commended the organizers for the novel initiative, she added that “it also brings to our immediate notice the beautiful and the ugly side of the maritime industry. I say this because I saw an artwork on canvass showing either Tin Can Island or Apapa Port container depot with cars littered all around. Such terminal shouldn’t have too many cars because it isn’t a roro terminal and cars shouldn’t be littered that way, even if it was a roro terminal”
“So, the artist is showing us what our container terminal looks like and invariably telling us that it isn’t the ideal scenario. The organizers haven’t just got art about the maritime sector but they sought to correct the anomalies by telling compelling stories via art.”
Also speaking, the CEO, Genero Engineering, Capt. Suleiman Baiyee described AMAE as a beautiful and innovative way of raising awareness about core maritime issues, even as he encouraged organizers of major national and regional shipping conferences to create a platform for AMAE.
“In life there are different ways of raising awareness of things we seek to change or improve. Art is a very beautiful way and it is a permanent medium for raising awareness. Art is unique because everyone would have a different way of interpreting one picture, whereas one speech can only give one message.”
“Since art is a powerful tool, I see this exhibition as a unique way of promoting the maritime industry. It is also special because art isn’t a popular medium for promoting things in Nigeria. Therefore, I commend the people who organized this, but I would recommend that AMAE doesn’t stand on its own. Every major maritime event in the nation should have a section like this attached to it. This way, everyone who attends a major event would be exposed to the exhibition. So, from the position of raising awareness, we may need to consider partnering other national and regional summits,” Baiyee posited.
In his remarks, the Chairman of AMAE 2022, Pioneer of Maritime History in Nigeria, Distinguished Professor Ayodeji Olokuju averred that the Maritime Art Exhibition isn’t only about beauty but also tells stories about continent’s history and environment.
“Lagos had ports long before the Colonial masters arrived. Badagry was a trade port several years before colonialism. The seas should be treated be with more seriousness and there should be more awareness. Over the years, our governments, universities and institutions have marginalized the seas. Until 2006, when I started a course in the University of Lagos (UNILAG), nobody ever taught a course in Maritime History. Until this year, no one ever taught the history of the seas in relation to West Africa, but that has changed,” he said.
Prof. Ayodeji expressed his delight to find children among the participants at the event, emphasizing the need to catch them young as they appreciate art, even as they learn the historical developments in the maritime sector.
“This particular event is unprecedented and I want to specially thank all the participants who decided to honour this occasion and give it the priority it deserves. Out of a population of over 20million people living in Lagos, the number of participants in here tells the story of the nation. It’s a situation maritime scholars describe as sea blindness.”
“Most Nigerians aren’t aware of the importance of the seas and most residents in a coastal state like Lagos don’t have any concern about the seas. Sea blindness isn’t limited to Lagos, it’s a national issue because most of the government policies focus on other modes of transportation like land, while the seas are treated as an adjunct of land based matters. Today’s outing corrects that impression,” he explained.
Earlier, the lead curator, Ezinne Azunna stressed that the intent of the AMAE is to make Africans more conscious of the maritime sector, asserting that it is also a subtle way of educating people about global issues, policies, regulations and how best to manage the industry.
Her words: “Africans are said to be alarmingly and unforgivably sea blind. Our waters are notoriously described as one of the biggest unexploited industries, as much as lands are our heritage, the waters are too, we should truly embrace our waterscapes. At Hazi’s, our portraiture is focused on human interface with the waters, aquatic life and vice versa. We launched in 2021 with over 30 digitised oil paintings, many of which are displayed today.”
“Africans have been accused of not paying enough attention to the seas, but I think that opinion is fast changing with the African Union’s AIMS strategy and Blue Economy. However, some of these initiatives don’t connect to the common-man and that’s where art comes in because art reaches everyone. Whether it is a bracelet one is wearing or a t-shirt with maritime prints, it resonates differently. We want people to have a vivid memory of what we are talking about when we talk about marine pollution, aquatic life, coastal communities, among other maritime issues”
She opined that every art at the exhibition connects with the sector and shows how crucial the maritime industry has become to our every day living and in linking Africa to the rest of the world.
While the enjoyable informal ambience provided an opportunity for stakeholders to share insights on the maritime industry, the compelling stories in the artworks were clear reminders about the current state of the region’s marine domain; from ports and jetties to ships and the sea, rivers and estuaries, coastal communities, beach scenes, seafaring, marine life and science, seascapes telling the story of various eras in Africa.
Some of the maritime industry stakeholders at the exhibition were; the Chairperson, Nigerian Ship-owners Forum, Barr. (Mrs.) Margaret Orakwusi; President, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung; President, African Marine Environment Sustainability Initiative (AFMESI), Dr. (Mrs.) Felicia Mogo; Convener, Lagos International Maritime Week, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore.
Others were; former Assistant Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), ACG Charles Edike; Founder, Committee of Friends for Humanity (COFFHA), Mrs. Carol Ufere; Secretary, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Chizoba Anyika; Public Relations Officer, WISTA Nigeria, Arit Nwokedi; Director, Operations and Administration, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS), Mrs. Vivian Chimezie-Azubuike; Founder, Ocean Ambassadors Forum (OAF), Mrs. Violet Olaitan Williams; among others.