RAINS of applause and complimentary remarks from admirers who filled the Convention Centre at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos during the 10th anniversary of Terra Kulture last Friday confirmed the organisation’s success story.
More interesting, the Terra Kulture as a facility for promotion of arts and culture almost lost its shine of the celebration to the flood of accolades showered on the founder, Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters. One moment, it was all about the founder and Terra Kulture’s success story as a cultural facility as Femi Lijadu opened the event with his prepared speech, which was followed by a documentary.
The next minutes, an Austen-Peters’ image as an individual whose concept of Nigeria’s leading cultural centre has blossomed beyond imagination took over the entire hall. Clearly, the wavelength of the 10th anniversary of Terra Kulture indicated the iconic image, which Austen-Peters has made from being a great manager of an unusual business, at least, in a ‘hostile’ milieu, like Nigeria.
Really, Terra Kulture has become a phenomenon in arts and culture facility management and the occasion of its one-decade anniversary provided platform for guests to acknowledge that profile.
The quality and size of dignitaries including personalities such as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga; art patron, Prince Yemisi Shyllon as well as activist and former Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili among others attested to the feat Terra Kulture has attained in just one decade.
Conceived in 2002 but formally opened for business in 2004, the Austen-Peters-led facility has grown to become one-stop arts and culture outlet in the heart of Nigeria’s leading business district of Victoria Island. From art and craft gallery to indigenous foods, languages and performing Arts via drama and musical contents as well as general promotion of cultural values, Terra Kulture has linked corporate world with cultural and artistic enterprise.
Singer Olumide Dada’s rendition of the National Anthem embellished with classical instrumentation set the tone of the event as Lijadu, shortly thereafter appeared on stage to give the opening remarks. “We are here to celebrate the remarkable achievement of Bolanle,” Lijadu began and rapt attention enveloped the hall. Continuing, he said, “culture is the climate of our civilisation.” The Terra Kulture model, he argued, has shown how to celebrate culture.
After Lijadu’s intro and background into the making of the Terra Kulture phenomenon, another singers, Yinka Davies and Ranti rendered R&B tunes as interlude before the backdrop screen opened for a documentary on Terra Kulture. The short documentary by Austen-Peters and Kunle Afolayan-led Golden Effect, voiced over by Bimbo Manuel, featured Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; culture administrator and former National Theatre boss, Prof. Ahmed Yerima; one time Chairman of Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Lagos State Chapter Olu Ajayi; art collector and founder of OYASAF, Prince Yemisi Shyllon; foremost fashion designer, Deola Sagoe; Nollywood star, Joke Silva; master printmaker, Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya; and metal artist, Fidelis Odogwu among others giving testimonies about the contribution of the centre to the growth and appreciation of cultural and artistic exploits in the country.
Soyinka whose several celebrated drama works have been staged at the monthly Theatre at Terra productions noted that “Terra Kulture is a symbol of Nigeria’s cultural evolution,” in the post-independence era. For Silva, the credit for the revival of theatre going culture in Lagos goes to Terra Kulture with its support for artists, even “at token fees” for the space. Also interviewed in the documentary, Austen-Peters recalled how Theatre @ Terra started six years ago with “just two directors, and now the figure has grown to 20 directors.”
Onobrakpeya, Shyllon and Ajayi, stressed the energy in art appreciation, which Terra Kulture art gallery space has brought into the business of managing art.
At 10, the Terra Kulture model was worth celebrating and emulating for the basic reason of stressing that culture is as good an enterprise as any other ventures, particularly in a country like Nigeria that is gradually heading towards budgetry crisis as a result of mismanagement of oil revenues by the Federal Government. Alternative sources of revenue through tourism contents such as arts and culture cannot be more appropriate at a time when Nigeria’s largest importer of crude oil, the U.S has warned that “America will stop importing energy from any where in the world by 2025.”
Being a culture facility in the heart of Nigeria’s business district, Victoria Island, Terra Kulture is, in the country’s art, culture and tourism environment, a phenomenon.
With Terra Kulture art gallery, a new phase of art management and marketing surfaced on Nigeria’s creative landscape. It would be recalled that Terra Kulture, in partnership with the then Tayo Aderinokun-led GTB, in 2007 created a forum known as Arts and Business Foundation (ABF).
The council, an initiative, which had the support of Ford Foundation, according to the promoters, was to create ventilation for an increasingly populated house of Nigerian arts and culture. At the launch, Austen-Peters had noted that talents were abound in the country, but lack of enabling environment was a clog in the wheels of progress for the creative sector.
Seven years after the formation of ABF and three years after her partner, Aderinokun, died, the spirit of pushing for the entreprenurship of arts and culture was echoed when she told the audience at Terra Kulture’s 10th anniversary her brief story along the cultural path. Austen-Peters is a lawyer, and had her early career working at the United Nations. “My last posting was to Ethiopia,” she said after a thunderous applause that ushered welcomed her into the stage. “I saw the devastation of what uneployment can do to people.” When she quit the UN job, it was still disatisfaction all along taking up other jobs. “I kept changing jobs because I hated sitting behind the desks always.” And having developed a passsion for history, arts and culture, she thought of “creating an institution around them.” That was the starting point. She disclosed how a proposal “I wrote with the help of Deji Ali,” lit up her dream and the search for supports followed.
Ten years after, Austen-Peters did a brief analysis and told the audience: “about 200 art exhibitions have been held at the gallery, we create 60 jobs on a monthly basis, and we don’t have to borrow money to pay salaries.” She reeled out her personal lessons gained from presiding over a centre of arts and culture. “Terra Kulture taught me body politics and grew me as an individual, and that creative professionals are no less important than others in science or medicine.” In fact, she argued that if a nation must move forward, the creative sector need to be properly funded. She stressed, For instance, she said, “for each production of Theatre at Terra, we create so many jobs.” The celebrated work, Saro the Musical production, Austen-Peters stated was being used as an experiment to meet Broadway standard. The second edition of Saro the Musical is slated for next month at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
As Access Bank, a partner in the 10th Anniversary celebration of Terra Kulture shared the glory and success of one decade in phenomenal promotion of the creativity sector, one personality in the banking sector, Aderinokun (1955-2011) would remain evergreen in her memory. At the entrance of the hall, Aderinokun, the late Managing Director of GTBank, was honoured with a tribute in poetry lines inscribed onto the side of his photograph. The tribute says: Your life was a blessing, Your memory, a Treasure…you are loved beyond words and missed beyond measures…’
The honour did not stop there, Joseph Umoibom, Manager at Terra Kulture, on behalf of the culture centre gave “Post-Humour Award to Aderinokun as a founding Chairman of Terra Kulture.” The late banker’s widow, Mrs Aderinokun was around to receive the award.
The event was also a moment of honour for select dedicated workers at Terra Kulture who got Long Service Awards. They are Ibrahim Kuta, Hall Manager; Mohanmed Goni, security officer; and Rasheed Adelaye, Kitchen Manager. They have been with the centre since inception. Also, Accountant at Terra Kulture, Mrs Temitope Sanya was given award “for keeping the books of the company.”
And shortly before the 10th anniversary, Austen-Peters disclosed that Access Bank “is the new partner of Terra Kulture.” For those who have been tracking the reationship between Terra Kulture and GTBank, in the past few months, the change of bank partner would not come as a surprise.
In celebrating 10 years of innovation and value added, Access Bank, according to Terra Kulture “is in the partnership to promote its programmes through sponsorship of the anniversary celebrations.” This partnership, it is said, “is consistent with Access Bank’s commitment to the promotion of Arts and Culture and women-owned businesses.”
And at the 10th anniversary event last Friday, the Managing Director, Acces Bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe said “we knew her (Austen-Peters) before she started Terra Kulture.” Wigwe described Austen-Peters as “modern day Ambassador of Arts and Culture.” According to him, the contribution of arts and culture to Nigeria’s GDP was not a fluke as Wigwe assured that his bank “will continue to support the creative sector.”
Indeed, advanced economies of the world have shown that every aspect of professions across the board contributes to the rise or fall of GDP. In fact, visual arts, for example, has contributed to the sudden rise of Chinese economy.
Potentially, Nigerian visual art has the biggest prospects as vital contents in promoting tourism. But sadly, the Federal Government has contributed almost nothing in promoting art, and by extension, reducing the input of tourism value of Nigerian economy.
Several years before the rebase of Nigeria’s GDP that eventually recognized arts and culture, Austen-Peters had challenged government on the importance of harnessing the potentials of creative industry to grow the economy. Then, Government used to make a yearly claim about the country’s economy rising by certain percentage, leaving the arts and culture, and by extension, the tourism industry out of the so- called growth. Local and international observers have noted improvement in the economy, recording a GDP growth of 8.7 percent in 2010. Although dropped to 6.9 per cent in the previous year, the growth rate, according to economists, showed bigger prospects. If there was anywhere to feel the pulse of the arts and culture sector within the context of a growing economy, Terra Kulture came in as the window.
At a gathering in Lagos to appraise the arts and culture activities of Terra Kulture in the 2011, Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters noted that culture and tourism were yet to be built into the Nigerian economy. The event was also meant to prepare artists for 2012 events.
Responding to a question on the impact of the country’s economic ‘growth’, on the arts/culture and tourism sector, she stated, “tourism is not something you stumble on. There must be concerted efforts from everybody; from government to the common people on the streets who may have contact with visitors.”
Government, she stressed, should allow art to grow by “creating more art venues and renovate the museums.”
Although, she admitted that Terra Kulture enjoys patronage of domestic and foreign visitors, “but there should be more art and culture venues; we can’t do it alone.”
Before the current merger of Terra Kulture-Mydrim into what is now known as TKMG auction house, a remarkable sale was recorded for one master, which would later resonate across subsequent results of auctions, generally in Lagos.
It was at the second outing of Terra Kulture in partnership with Nimbus 2000 and tagged Golden Jubilee Art Auction 2010, which had the ‘Nigerian master born in Ghana’, El Anatsui’s work sold for N4 million. His wood panel, lot 72, Time Window (147 x 61 cm, 2006) sold at N3.8m while lot 61, from a series, 1004 Flat (40 x 40 cm) went for N3.6m.
Anatsui’s work sold for N4 million in 2010, shouldn’t make any news, isn’t it? Yes, but strangely, it did: prior to the sale of Time Window, all Anatsui’s works sold at auctions in Lagos from April 2008 till then were, strangely, under valued. Reason: the emerging art collectors in Nigeria, exhumed by the secondary art market were unfamiliar with Anatsui’s work. Ironically, Anatsui was already selling in several hundred of thousands in dollars overseas before the emergence of Nigerian secondary art market. It took the Terra Kulture auction that sold his Time Window for the subsequent sales of Anatsui’s works at other auctions in Lagos to place the University of Nigeria, Nsukka art teacher where he truly belonged. In fact, Nigeria’s premier auctioneer, Arthouse was the next beneficiary of the Terra Kulture revelation when a panel by the artist Mirror Image sold for N5.5 million a the November 2010 auction.
In 2008, Terra Kulture made its debut art auction in partnership with Nimbus. The auction had on sales some of the works that were used for the historic Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGOM) held at Abuja in 2003.
But for Austen-Peters, art auction goes beyond the mega buck. She has repeatedly said the future of Nigerian art remains paramount. “Auction is not always about money, but exposing good works, particularly from the young artists.”
And part of developing a strong art auction with local content, perhaps informed the choice of an anchor-person or auctioneer such as art patron, Prince Yemisi Shyllon.
Still expanding the secondary art market, an attempt was made by the joint venture of Terra Kulture and Mydrim at Abuja in 2011.
Between art auction and the primary market, the former appears to present a better challenge! Neither auction nor exhibition can replace one another, Austen-Peters stressed. “Each complement the other,” she insisted while arguing that, “the easiest option is to do a few art exhibitions and two auctions in a year.”