Q&A with Azu Nwagbogu

Get to know the Director of the African Artists Foundation and LagosPhoto Festival, and learn how he is championing African art and its artists globally.

African Artists' Foundation

Azu NwagboguOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

Africa's time is now!

Born in Lagos, Azu Nwagbogu is the founder and Director of the African Artists' Foundation and LagosPhoto Festival. He has devoted his career to championing African art by developing talent, creating societal awareness, and providing platforms to express creativity. Previously Director of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in South Africa, Azu’s international career has seen him curating exhibitions and teaching at universities. Here he answers six questions about his passion for creativity and the power of African stories. 

Lagos Soundscapes Poster by Emeka OgbohOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

How did you get into curating?

I suppose some of the key things were curiosity, passion, and a studied analytic approach that really opened my mind to the possibilities inherent in art, and working with artists is something I thoroughly enjoy.

No Touch Am (2017) by Osborne MachariaOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

My passion has a lot to do with a specific, and then you could say, a general interest in the way stories are told with emotion, energy, visual metaphors, clues, ideas.

White Frame (2012) by Akintunde AkinleyeOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

What excites you about photography?

Photography is the definitive medium of our time. It illuminates every single genre of art. Photography has an urgency, and immediacy about it that few other mediums have, and through it, we can reach out to the nature of our people and culture. 

Nigerian Identity (2015) by Ima MfonOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

What can the world learn from Nigeria?

The Nigerian creative community is relentless, and perhaps one of the most critical lessons one can learn from it is resilience. Nigeria maintains a degree of international respectability through the visual arts, music, literature, sports. 

Sartist Sport (2015) by Andile BukaOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

The same community has decided to channel its energies toward change, something that is truly admirable.

No Touch Am (series) by Osborne MachariaOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

Why is storytelling important?

Story telling is the nucleus of culture. Culture is how we make sense of our space and belonging in the world. In Africa we have been subjected to propagandist monocultural assimilation for hundreds of years. We need to reclaim and narrative. 

I am Wale, Respect Me (2014) by Patrick WillocqOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

If everything we know about our culture, heritage, and day-to-day living is imparted to us from the outside, then it is difficult for us to tell our own stories or to be inspired by the lives we want for ourselves. So we need to refuse labels and stereotypes.

Adeolu Oluwajoba by Adeolu OluwajobaOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

What is next for AAF and the LagosPhoto Festival

Before COVID we were already rethinking AAF. In a post-covid world, we have arrived at a moment where our activities should catalyze change. So we created Generator. Devised by Clémentine Deliss and myself, it is a new infrastructure for an arts educational institution of the future. 

This is what hatred did (2013) by Cristina De MiddelOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

Each dimension of Generator aims to provide a new frame for global creative thinking on how to best access, research, restitute and remediate Africa’s cultural heritage for the continent and beyond.

Water No Get Enemy (2011) by Nana Kofi AcquachOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

Who are three contemporary artists that you find inspiring?

Zanele Muholi and Ibrahim Mahama because they understand the importance of education and a new Pan Africanist movement. All the artists in the exhibition Liminality in Infinite Space, because they are doing their best to paint Blackness into art history.

Streets of Insignificance (2019) by Philip FagbeyiroOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

What advice would you give artists starting out today?

Research, study and learn more about your interests and interrogate those interests. Never hide your past, let your previous experience regardless of background inform your practice as a photographer or artist. It is a perspective that is unique.

Chapungu - The Day Rhodes Fell (2015) by Sethembile MsezaneOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

If Lagos had a soundtrack, what would it be?

Monday morning in Lagos by Fela Kuti and Ojuelegba by Wizkid

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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