G.A.S. Foundation entered the month of November rounding up the Lagos Art Tour itinerary, and welcoming 2023’s final residents, TK Smith, Elsa James, and Alberta Whittle.
Curator and cultural historian, TK Smith, was the first to arrive in Lagos for a six-week stay supported by Barnes Foundation. Alongside pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Delaware, TK boasts an impressive portfolio, having undertaken significant projects at the Woodmere Museum of Art. His noteworthy contributions extend to acclaimed publications such as Art in America and the Brooklyn Rail, along with a prestigious role as a contributing editor at ART PAPERS. His residency served as a cultural expedition and allowed him to foster incredible new connections with local practitioners and Yoruba culture. These interactions provided insightful contributions to his curatorial practice, which contemplates the impact of movement and cultural exchange, and its influence on artist communities.
TK Smith hosting his Curator's Lunch event at G.A.S. Lagos.
After several days basking in Lagos' annual Art Week, TK was joined by Essex-based artist, filmmaker, researcher, and activist Elsa James and acclaimed Barbadian-Scottish artist Alberta Whittle. All three residents began a collaborative, travel-filled stay at G.A.S. with a group trip to Benin City diligently facilitated by G.A.S. Residency Manager, Adekunle Adeboye. The trip to the historic city involved visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Igun Street which has been home to the world-famous Guild of Benin Bronze and Brass Casters since 1914. Stops were also made at the Benin City National Museum, and various artist studios throughout the city.
Alberta Whittle during a research visit to the Badagry Slave Port and Museum.
The next destination for G.A.S.’s November residents was the coastal town of Badagry. There, they learnt about the challenging histories of the Badagry Heritage Museum, Brazilian Barracoon, and Point of No Return – sites that played significant roles in the transatlantic slave trade. This day trip allowed artist, filmmaker, and activist, Elsa James, a much-desired opportunity to confront new facets of her ancestral heritage and observe first-hand the remains of the transatlantic slave trade in West Africa. Elsa’s time in Nigeria provided her with a new lens through which to interrogate her practice, which confronts the traumas left behind by the British Empire’s complex legacies, and sheds light on social injustice and patterns of global interconnectedness. Both passionate about fostering new connections, Elsa and TK made sure to visit the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation in Lagos Island and spent an afternoon on an educational walking tour of Lagos Island’s historic Marina.
Elsa James and TK Smith at the Osun Osogbo Sacred Groves (L) and Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation in Lagos Island (R).
Moved by her travels across Nigeria, multidisciplinary artist Alberta Whittle, felt inspired to produce new works in the G.A.S. studio space. Alberta’s reflections on the legacies of colonialism and slavery inspire her use of self-compassion and collective care as tools for tackling contemporary expressions of anti-blackness. Her ideologies are manifested in her award-winning curatorial, digital, and physical works. Alberta’s residency was the second G.A.S. residency to be funded by the crowdfunded campaign, the Big Give Christmas Challenge.
A screening of Othered in a Region That Has Been Historically Othered, a three-part film and original sound work by Elsa James during her event Reflections.
An exciting trip to Osun’s cultural epicentre, Osogbo, allowed all three residents to dive into traditional Yoruba culture and even observe traditional rites such as an appeasement ceremony to Osun, the river òrìṣà. The resident’s final trip within Nigeria took them to the G.A.S. Farm House and Ecology Green Farm, a serene residency space and the Foundation's secondary location situated just outside Lagos in the Ogun countryside. There they had the chance to engage in deeper, more meditative introspection, and produced sketches and recordings that complemented their various practices. Alberta and TK concluded their residencies by hosting events at the G.A.S. Lagos building for the local community. The first was TK's Curator's Lunch, a space for curators, exhibition makers, and cultural producers from across the city of Lagos to converse over a shared meal as an opportunity to engage in open conversation about the intricacies and nuances of curatorial labour. Elsa James followed several days later with Reflections, an evening screening and conversation.