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Prominent Nigerian female curator, dies aged 56

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Bisi Silva, an adventurous curator who, with her own money, founded a nonprofit art gallery and education center in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, that has nurtured the growth and recognition of contemporary African artists, died on Feb. 12 in a hospital there. She was 56.

Her sister Joke Silva, an actress, said the cause was breast cancer.

Ms. Silva started the Center for Contemporary Art, Lagos in 2007 and made it a hub for bold and experimental sculpture, painting, photography and video and performance art that could ignite local and global interest.

She also curated exhibitions of African art around the world. One, in Helsinki, Finland, in 2011, featured the Nigerian photographer J. D. Okhai Ojeikere’s images of African women’s exotic hairstyles. (She turned that show into a book.) Others showed the work of the Ghanaian-born sculptor El Anatsui in Amsterdam and Johannesburg.

“I wouldn’t call her an African curator, but an international curator,” Hannah O’Leary, the head of modern and contemporary African art at Sotheby’s in London, said in a telephone interview. “She promoted African artists to the world and brought the international art world to Africa, and did it tirelessly. She never did the obvious: Her knowledge and vision were unrivaled.”

Ms. Silva felt that her mission was to change the way contemporary African art was being viewed from a Western perspective and to develop African artists in ways that their schools were not.

“The gaps in the art education system are jarring,” she told Frieze, an art and culture magazine, in 2017. While some West African nations like Nigeria had arts education programs, she called them “a colonial relic out of tune with present-day contextual, stylistic and intellectual realities.”

To fill the gaps, she created the Asiko Art School — actually a series of pop-up schools holding annual, monthlong educational gatherings in various African countries including Senegal, Ghana and Ethiopia, where artists, writers, historians, curators and teachers immersed themselves in seminars, workshops and exhibitions. The events gave Ms. Silva opportunities to evaluate artists’ work.

“Everyone had 15 minutes to present,” Antawan Byrd, who learned art curating under Ms. Silva at C.C.A. and is now assistant curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, said by phone. “She’d be very critical. You had to defend your work and your research.”

Ms. Silva believed that her exhibitions, lectures, workshops, mentoring and educational programs made a positive impact in a short time.

“Twenty, 25 years ago, curators of contemporary art might have been completely and totally scared of going to ‘the Dark Continent,’ ” she told The New York Times in 2016. “Now it’s like, ‘Oh, Bisi, I want to go to Lagos, I want to go to Ghana.’ ”

Olabisi Obafunke Silva was born in Lagos on May 29, 1962. Her father, Chief Emmanuel Afolabi Silva, was a lawyer, and her mother, Charlotte Olamide Williams, was a civil servant with the Nigerian Railway.

After graduating from the University of Dijon in France, where she studied languages, she earned a master’s in curating contemporary art from the Royal College of Art in London. Her thesis examined the marginalization of black artists at exhibitions in England.

Ms. Silva returned to Lagos in 2002, inspired by her research but disappointed that she could not find an outlet for her vision of curating contemporary African art.

“Most of the galleries were commercial, and as far as I knew, there were no nonprofits,” she told Frieze. “Government institutions were moribund, and there was no place for young artists interested in experimenting with media other than painting and sculpture.”

She decided to start C.C.A, becoming its artistic director.

“There is no government funding for such initiatives,” she said in a lecture at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in 2017. “If you want to do something, you have to do it yourself.”

Her cutting-edge shows at C.C.A. included “The Progress of Love,” which explored love through performance work by Jelili Atiku of Nigeria and Wura-Natasha Ogunji of the United States, and installations by Temitayo Ogunbiyi of Nigeria and the United States and Valerie Oka of Ivory Coast; “Identity: An Imagined State,” which looked at African identity in videos by artists from Africa and South America; and “Like a Virgin … ,” an exploration of women’s bodies, sexuality and identities by Lucy Azubuike, a Nigerian sculptor, and Zanele Muholi, a South African photographer.

“Virgin” was “a divisive show,” Ms. Silva said in an interview in 2017 with Pulse.com, a Ghanaian news website. “There were a lot of objections to Muholi’s photographs of her menstrual blood.”

In addition to Joke Silva, she is survived by two other sisters, Olajumoke Dawodu and Ojuolape Silva; and two brothers, Olabiyi Silva and Bolaji Oladunjoye. She considered her 13 nieces and nephews her children.

Ms. Silva had a particular expertise in organizing photography exhibitions and in creating a library of visual arts at C.C.A.

Oluremi C. Onabanjo, a scholar of African arts, wrote in Aperture magazine after Ms. Silva’s death that her influence on photography “will be writ large, emphasized in bold.”

Citing the vast range of work that radiated from C.C.A., Ms. Onabanjo wrote that “her remarkable vision and indefatigable spirit instigated tectonic shifts in editorial, curatorial and institutional frameworks in Nigeria and across the African continent.”

NYT

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#DidYouKnow Nigerians are the smartest people to walk the earth?

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Nigerians are smart, adaptation to hardship coupled with the intense ‘survival of the fittest’ situation we face due to a peculiarly high population density made us smart. We are undoubtedly the smartest people in the world.

Well, smartness is a mental state, a response to environmental conditions. Basically, smartness is an adaptation for tolerance, the capacity to endure continued subjection to the uniquely challenging Nigerian state made us who we are, smart! Adaptation definitely still occurs in humans, and at a different rate proportional to environmental factors.

In biology, adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits organisms to their environment, enhancing their evolutionary fitness. Secondly, it is a state reached by the population during that process. Thirdly, it is a phenotypic or adaptive trait, with a functional role in each individual organism, that is maintained and has evolved through natural selection.

Generally, organisms face a succession of environmental challenges as they grow, and show adaptive plasticity as traits develop in response to the imposed conditions. Therefore, if this index does not exist already, I would state that the Gross Adaptive Plasticity (GAP) of a Nation is a measure of the smartness of a Nation: that’s what we are talking about here.

Consequently, this index is a direct reflection of the degree of enhanced evolutionary fitness, and it seems imperative that this factor correlates to population growth. The evidence of this can be attributed to the ever-increasing population of people in Nations with smart people.

It is projected that Nigeria will surpass the US population sometime around 2050 to hit 500m despite the prevailing circumstances. Yes, of course, the next generation of Nigerians would need to find ways to support this growth, by finding value in population growth. Certainly the smart once would thrive in the midst of this and even become smarter at surviving.

Thus all the peculiarities and unique challenges as Nigerians have allowed us to develop tolerance and resilience to varying environments across the world. The agility and swiftness towards this success facilitating adaptation is what we basically regard as smartness. Undoubtedly far more Nigerians tend to be on top of this than any other Nationality today.

Ultimately, smartness is a strength, and “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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PDP expresses confidence in Saraki

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State yesterday passed a vote of confidence in the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. In a statement issued after its state executive meeting and made available to newsmen in Ilorin, the party assured Saraki of its continued support and all that he stood for.

Bukola Saraki

The statement, signed by the state Chairman of the party, Kola Shittu, assured Saraki that the party’s executive and members stood firmly behind him in all his struggles to liberate, emancipate and free the country from draconian and autocratic rule and also share in the pains of the present with him in all ramifications.

The statement also thanked Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed for his administration’s giant stride in the various development programmes embarked upon since his assumption of office in 2011. It, however, urged him to continue his good work till the end of his tenure in May.
“The party hereby assures the general public that the Garin-Alimi Underpass, the UITH dual carriage way and the new state secretariat, among other projects already embarked upon by his Excellency, would be completed by the end of his tenure.

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Rivers: Army faults assassination allegation levelled against top military officer

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The Nigerian Army has debunked an allegation leveled against the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham by Governor Nyelsome Wike of Rivers State that the GOC planned to assassinate him.

Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rives State

In a statement issued in Abuja by the spokesman of the Army, Colonel Sagir Musa, the Army maintained that governor Wike deployed a smear campaign against the GOC.

Colonel Musa said: “The Nigerian Army (NA) wishes to respond to the bogus and unsubstantiated allegations being peddled by the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike. Some of his rancorous claims were that the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Maj Gen Jamil Sarham purportedly sent troops to cordon off his residence prior to the rescheduled General Elections on the 15th of February 2019.

“The Governor further went on to allege an assassination attempt on his life which he claimed was orchestrated by the GOC 6 Division.

“The NA is appalled that a Governor who should epitomize leadership and good example in all senses could descend so low to employ smear campaign against the person of a GOC whose only responsibility amongst other things, – is about the safety and security of lives and properties in his Area of Responsibility.

“The NA does not train assassins as such the institution or her personnel cannot be involved in sending assassins to murder a state Governor as alleged by Gov Nyesom Wike.

“It is indeed no secret to the military authorities that Governor Wike has on various occasions made attempts to compromise the integrity of the GOC 6 Division.

‘Having failed, despites series of overtures and monetary pledges of millions of dollars, both in person and from cronies, it is no surprise that the frustrated Governor has resorted to this appalling campaign of calumny. One would have thought that the resolute and uncompromising stance of Maj Gen Jamil Sarham in the face of several kinds of mouth-watering inducements would have earned him a commendation from any conscientious leader.

“Alas, this was not the case from the embittered governor of Rivers State but rather, these slanderous allegations.

“Despite these unsubstantiated ramblings however, the NA has deemed it fit to clear the air by letting Governor Wike and the general public at large, know that it would not be dragged into any form of political gerrymandering concocted for the furtherance of any person’s interest or notoriety.

“As a noble institution, the NA is apolitical, neutral and would not compromise its constitutional roles under any guise. Additionally, the NA would like to give Governor Wike the benefit of doubt, to within 7 days, bring forth evidence that can substantiate the bogus claims, or he could as well, save face and keep his peace.”

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Eurasia Group: Buhari to win by 60%

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Going by the February 7 report of New York-based global research and political risk solutions firm Eurasia Group, President Muhammadu Buhari will win Saturday’s election by 60 percent.

The group, which undertakes investment partnerships, consultancy, and risk advisory responsibilities in about 100 countries, said the odds against Buhari’s main challenger, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have positioned the incumbent to retain his seat.

It identified the odds as the divided support being enjoyed by the former vice president from key elements in the rival party.

Such elements, according to the Eurasia Group, would rather exert their energies and resources on the battle to retain their seats in their various constituencies.

The group listed such actors as the governors in the PDP-controlled states and the Director-General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation, Senator Bukola Saraki, who is battling to retain his seat in the upper chamber as the representative of the Kwara Central Senatorial Zone.

The report said: “As we have previously noted, key actors in Atiku’s camp – including his campaign’s Director -General Bukola Saraki, key powerbroker Governor Nyesom Wike of the oil-rich Rivers State, and Southeast governors from his PDP – had been disengaged from his election campaign.

“Wike was annoyed by Atiku’s failure to consult him on key decisions, Saraki remains distracted by a tough Senate reelection battle in Kwara State, and the Southeast governors are hampered by many conflicting motivations, including their own lack of political clout (which makes them reluctant to overtly challenge the federal government) and their wariness of Atiku’s running mate Peter Obi, a former governor of the southeastern Anambra State who they view as a political outsider.

“The lack of enthusiasm on the part of some PDP governors is a problem for Atiku because these officials control significant discretionary funds at the state level (known as “security votes”) that are easier to access without triggering graft concerns.

“They can also leverage strong relationships with security, judicial, and election officers in their respective states. Governors are thus critical to mobilizing voter turnout on Election Day.

“With 23 in office compared to the PDP’s 12, the APC already has an edge; unmotivated PDP governors will only reinforce that advantage by making it harder for the opposition to mobilize and sustain voter support on Election Day.”

Two APC governors, Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Benue State counterpart Samuel Ortom, defected to the PDP last year. But the governors are battling to win their states for their new parties.

On the edge the incumbent has over Atiku, the Eurasia Group said President Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) has a widespread political structure to boost voter mobilization and solidify Buhari’s advantage.

The group noted that the heightened anxiety triggered by the suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Buhari was not enough to turn the table against the incumbent.
CJN Onnoghen was suspended by the President on January 25 following allegations on false declaration of assets against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). The CCB has since charged the CJN before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Justice Onnoghen is expected to submit his response to the charges against him to the National Judicial Council (NJC) today.

The group ruled out the possibility of protests against Buhari’s victory.

It said: “These trends support our view that widespread violence is unlikely following the 16 February vote. We have repeatedly argued that Atiku’s voters do not match Buhari’s in passion and are unlikely to risk their lives on the streets for him.

“Though Buhari’s decision to suspend the Chief Justice triggered widespread criticism and stoked passions (along with fears about a more Buhari second term), many voters blame the judiciary for not moving quickly to force CJN Onnoghen’s resignation after he admitted he had violated rules regarding declaration of assets.

Thus should Atiku lose, as we expect, there will be few motivated stakeholders to encourage or instigate serious violence. Instead, we expect PDP governors to quickly turn their attention to fighting to retain their own jobs in the state elections on March 2.”

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