Intersections: The Art X Lagos finale that changed the game

Imagine a night spent with your favourite artists while they worked at their craft – the writing, the recording, the banter with their producers, the stopping, the recording and re-recording of lines.

Imagine if that experience was turned up several notches of cool by the presence of four contemporary artists -painting, drawing, sharing one big canvas, creating magic.

Imagine.

Using Simi‘s lyrics, it was like watching a bird smile. Or like dancing out in the rain. Or quite simply, like magic.

The show should have started at 5pm but there was that sad turn of events that any social Lagosian (or indeed, any Lagosian) must now expect at any gathering, even weddings. An almost 2-hour long delay passed unexplained as guests spent time socialising at  the Aquamarine Boat Club. It was enjoyable really especially if you had the few extra bucks to enjoy a cuppa from Cfe Neo, or decadent scoops from Hans and Rene and for truly, hungry guests, Ginger Tapas had grilled goodness to go with Nigerian jollof. Not forgetting team #fitfam, Simply Green Juices had also set up shop by the seaside.

It was first Ikon‘s beautifully grounded baritone that drew the now-impatient crowd to the arena set up with red velvet seats. The show was about to start. The artists had already begun painting and drawing the first stages of what would turn out to be – in Poe‘s words – a giant wall of “organised chaos”.

img_1480Simi went first.

As Ikon pounded out a melodic arrangement, the first words formed. She equated what was happening to magic. Nasal and soulful, she sang:

“It’s like a bird with a smile on her face. Unbelievable.

Unbelievable. Like dancing out in the rain …”

Like magic, a red robin had appeared on the canvas when we looked up. To avoid any doubts about was still to happen, Simi got up and painted her next lines -“it will blow your mind.” “If you let it,” she added, singing again. And because the “art [was] true and [the] music too” we let it.

img_1485

We let Poe and then Vector test out sick bars and flows as Ikon continued to hold everything together on the piano. We weren’t let down. But perhaps, nothing last night was more pleasantly reassuring than knowing that all these raw talent was coming from people just as weird as us.

Stacey Okparavero turned to us to nod in approval to Poe’s brilliance and then someone sneaked up from behind us.

Falana was seated in the crowd the whole time and so her voice sneaked its sonorous way out to the stage where she took the artists’ permission before inspecting her inspiration. Likely to have been most inspired by the colours bursting out of Yadichinma‘s brush strokes, she sang a hook about hearing colours and seeing words.

In a bid to come up with more, she paced before us, turning from time to time to ask if we were alright as she hummed. She begged  for words: “expression”, “colour”, “freedom”, “consciousness”. But she needed a noun. “Rainbow”, someone supplied. That’s when it all came together:

“A.R.T.” A for all of us. R running to the sun. T to taste the rainbow”

As we sat there being serenaded in the cool evening breeze, it felt right to consider all of that had happened – the galleries of repute from Accra to Ghana to Mali and of course, Nigeria that didn’t mind that this was only a maiden fair like none before it, but came with millions worth of culturally relevant pieces to be exhibited. The beautifully curated EHN? by Lakin Ogunbanwo, Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu and Amaka Osakwe; the wonderful and enlightening Art X Talks and of course the novel idea of having live art go on simultaneously courtesy the genius of Papa Omotayo’s A Whitespace Creative Agency.

Without the collaboration with Fatherland music that birthed this live show – this different kind of immersion in the art – Art X Lagos had already switched up the rules of artistic engagement.

But they did. And Simi was back on stage singing about the magical experience. Like the whole experience, her lines had somehow merged without stress with Falana’s and of course, the twist and turns in Poe’s hip hop alongside Vector “O.Gun.Me.Fun”.

There’s no way this wasn’t what it had promised. And a sprinkling of more. Art X Lagos was reflective of everything admirable about the Lagos arts and culture scene. It was as immersive of the status quo as it was phenomenally daring.

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