Kimberly Gant is her name. She was in Nigeria at the instance of OYASAF. OYASAF – acronym for the Omo0ba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation – has a tradition for hosting international graduate scholars from reputable universities and art institutions worldwide, under its Graduate Fellowship Programme.
A non-profit organisation, it was established in 2007 and annually welcomes applications for this programme in Nigerian visual art and culture, which it intended for non-Nigerian scholars.
Widely acknowledged as Nigeria’s largest and most balanced private art collection, OYASAF flaunts over 6000 works of art. Works by such renowned artists as Aina Onabolu, Ben Enwonwu, Akinola Lashekan, Nike Davis-Okundaye, Charles Shainumi, Okpu Eze, Clary Nelson Cole, Kolade Osinowo, David Dale, Simon Okeke, Isiaka Osunde, Abayomi Barber, Moses Ajiboye, Olu Amoda, El Anatsui, Ben Osawe, Bruce Onabrakpeya, Lara Ige-Jacks, Susanne Wenger, Uzo Egonu, Jimoh Akolo, Lamidi Fakeye, Uche Okeke, Erhabor Emopkae, Kunle Filani, Tola Wewe and Adeola Balogun, among others.
Among the previous beneficiaries of the foundation’s graduate fellowship programme are: Ian Bourland of the University of Chicago (USA), Ms. Janine Systma of the University of Wisconsin (USA), Ms. Rachel Engmann of Stanford University (USA), Andrea Bauer of the University of Vienna (Austria), Nomusa Makhubu of Rhodes University (South Africa), Kathleen Coates of the Iziko Museum of Cape Town (South Africa) and Erica Agyeman of the Columbia University, New York (USA).
Gant, at a recent meeting with art journalists held at the OYASAF premises in Maryland, Lagos, explained why she came to Nigeria. “I came to Lagos for the purposes of conducting research on Nigerian photographers who have been documenting Lagos since independence,” she said.
This would make her the first of the graduate fellows since the inception of the OYASAF programme to focus on photography. “I wanted to see how Nigerian photographers documented the city and [see] if their images were different than those produced by Westerners.”
Clinching the OYASAF scholarship afforded her the long yearned-for opportunity to come to Lagos for the first time ever and interview the crème de la crème of the city’s photographers.
Since she arrived this city of over 15 million people – that was a little over two months ago – her path had crossed with six different photographers, with whom (during interviews held from two to four times) discussed their various approaches to photography. This, of course, implied talking about the types of images they created as well as what the content of these images were.
“My research has also expanded into learning more about photography within Lagos and Nigeria,” the mixed-race scholar continued. This would include, among others, how photography was situated within the concept of art and how the photographers fitted into this role. It also entailed learning about the history of the medium of artistic expression in Nigeria, about the different generations of photographers and different types of photography in Nigeria as well as about photography as a career in Nigeria.
Gant had, while in Nigeria, interviewed celebrated Nigerian photographers like Tam Fiofori, J.D. Okhai-Ojeikere, Akinbode Akinbiyi, Adolphus Opara, Eremina Jumbo, Kunle Ogunfuyi, Uche James-Iroha and Don Barber.
“From them, I have learned about numerous intricacies facing photographers in Nigeria and, specifically, Lagos. I am also learning the myriads of ways they understand the city as they live and navigate it on a daily basis.”