Azu Nwagbogu
Azu Nwagbogu (Courtesy of LagosPhoto)

LagosPhoto, the first and only international arts festival of photography in Nigeria, is well underway with its eighth edition.

Lasting an entire month, creator Azu Nwagbogu, currently stationed in Bamako, Mali, sheds light on his creative festival and relays the power and importance of beautiful African art:

Washington Informer: Hello, Mr. Azu, I’m so excited to be interviewing you. Tell me, where does your inspiration for photos and art come from?

Azu Nwagbogu: ​Hi Lauren, thank you. I am not the artist or photographer, but the curator, and my job is to shape a narrative that I feel is prescient, timely and responsive, by working with artists and photographers. The theme for the eighth edition of LagosPhoto is “Regimes of Truth,” and I wanted to explore the notions of post-truth in contemporary society and photography’s role in this very urgent global issue. ​

WI: How does art transcend race, gender, culture and geographics?

Azu: That’s a great question and one worth contemplation. Art should never be censored because it is one of the safest spaces that allows us to negotiate, advocate, discuss and interrogate the most controversial issues in society without judgment. There is no culture, social class or social situation where art is something of a luxury. Collecting can be expensive and luxurious, but participating should be as free as possible. ​

WI: As a curator, what would you say makes a good artist/photographer?

Azu: ​Talent, curiosity and emotional involvement in the subject.​

WI: What do you hope to accomplish with this annual festival?

Azu: ​My aim is to host the world in Lagos and present stories about the continent in a way that does justice to the people of the continent. A common humanity. ​

WI: Great answer. Why is experiencing art on the mother continent so important and what role does African art play in our daily lives?

Azu: ​There is so much misinformation about Africa and photography has been used to reinforce negative stereotypes. Ultimately however, we as Africans need to utilize these same tools to present another image of Africa — first for ourselves and then for the rest of the world, who are sometimes willfully ignorant. Our best artists are proud to exhibit their work in the U.S. and Europe and are conditioned to think of this as progress, so it is important that we control that narrative. In the past, Africans have been denied the ability to host cultural and artistic events for various reasons, so the rest of the world should be eager to show work, especially work made in relation to Africa or in Africa.

WI: Fascinating! Any future plans?

Azu: Right now I am one of the curators of the 11th edition of the Bamako Encounters Festival, where I was invited by the chief curator, Marie-Ann Yemsi, as an exhibition presenter.

WI: Great news. Thank you again.

Azu: Thank you.

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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