Bringing the rich legacy of Nigeria’s famed Mbari Club to Art Dubai

The gallery displays artwork of prominent African artists. (Tafeta Gallery)
Updated 20 March 2019

Bringing the rich legacy of Nigeria’s famed Mbari Club to Art Dubai

  • Mbari Club was founded by a group of artists in Nigeria
  • It aimed to support new artists in the country after its independence

LONDON: Eight leading modernist artists working across Africa and Europe from the 1960s to the present day are being showcased by London’s Tafeta Gallery at Art Dubai — the Middle East’s largest art fair, which kicked off on Wednesday and will wrap up on Saturday.   
They include Ibrahim El-Salahi, the first African artist to have a retrospective at the Tate Modern in London, and Bruce Onobrakpeya, whose works are in the collections of the Vatican Museum in Rome, the National Gallery in Nairobi, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, among other prestigious places.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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All eight artists were affiliated with the Mbari Club for artists and writers in Ibadan, Nigeria and its regional chapters.
Established in 1961, the club was founded by a diverse group of artists, writers, musicians, actors and intellectuals.
Arab News met up with Ayo Adeyinka, founder and owner of Tafeta, to learn more about how the club nurtured talent. 
“The aim was to create an artistic space for artists to flourish post-Independence. The artists I’m bringing to Dubai showed at Mbari in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. They are very well established now, but back then they were fresh-faced starters trying to find their feet and create their own artistic language.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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“The legacy of the club, which was pan-Aftican, is that it gave artists a platform to engage internationally,” he said. 
Adeyinka has a background in finance and was a keen collector of art before deciding to make his passion his career. “I found the arts a lot more engaging and fulfilling and knowing a bit about business always helps in the creative space,” he explained. 
He has showed successfully at Art Dubai over three seasons and is especially pleased that he has attracted Emirati buyers. 




(Tafeta Gallery)


Speaking of the event, he said: “It’s super well organized and the only fair I go to where a free lunch is served to the exhibitors! You feel looked after which is a bonus.”   

Asked about the art scene on the African continent, he pointed to Nigeria as brimming with talent and singled out its booming youth population as an important factor — media reports indicate that more than half of its population is under the age of 35.

“That’s a lot of young, creative energy which is drawing on the deep-rooted traditions of the country’s artists, writers and musicians,” he said. 


‘It Must Be Heaven’: Elia Suleiman’s sardonic take on the world

Suleiman, who plays the lead role as himself, explores identity, nationality and belonging. (Supplied)
Updated 23 October 2019

‘It Must Be Heaven’: Elia Suleiman’s sardonic take on the world

MUMBAI: Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven,” which was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival, is pure cinema. Like his earlier works, here too the Palestinian director uses wit, sarcasm and minimalism, this time to present a series of vignettes that are funny but also a powerful lambast of the world we live in. Suleiman, who plays the lead role as himself, explores identity, nationality and belonging.

He says people worldwide now live in fear amid global geopolitical tensions. Today, checkpoints are just about everywhere: In airports, shopping malls, cinemas, highways — the list is endless.

“It Must Be Heaven” was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival. (Supplied) 

Suleiman’s earlier features, such as “Chronicle of a Disappearance” and “Divine Intervention,” showed us everyday life in the occupied Palestinian territories. This time, it is Paris and New York. 

The first scene is hilarious, with a bishop trying to enter a church with his followers. The gatekeeper on the other side of the heavy wooden door is probably too intoxicated and refuses to let the priest in, leading to a comical situation. Suleiman’s life in Nazareth is filled with such incidents — snippets that have been strung together to tell us of tension in society. Neighbors turn out to be selfish, and only generous when they know they are being watched. 

The Palestinian director uses wit, sarcasm and minimalism, to present a series of vignettes that are funny but also a powerful lambast of the world we live in. (Supplied)

In Paris, the cafes along the grand boulevards, and the young women who pass by, are typical of France’s capital. But a cut to Bastille Day, with tanks rolling by in a show of strength, jolts us back to harsh reality. In New York, Suleiman’s cab driver is excited at driving a Palestinian. 

The film has an interesting way of storytelling. The scenes begin as observational shots, but the camera quickly changes positions to show Suleiman watching from the other side of the room or a street. The camera then returns to where it first stood, and this back-and-forth movement is delightfully engaging.

The framing is so perfect, and the colors so bright and beautiful, that each scene looks magical. And as the director looks on at all this with his usual deadpan expression, a sardonic twitch at the corner of his mouth, we know all this is but illusion. There is bitter truth ahead!