CORA Art & Cultural Foundation

...we are 'cultural landscapists.'

Who we are and what we do

The Committee for Relevant Art is a group of artistes, art enthusiasts, art promoters and art writers committed to the development of the Arts of Nigeria and their enabling environment.

Its projects include the quarterly ART STAMPEDE, the annual LAGOS BOOK & ART FESTIVAL (LABAF), the quarterly LAGOS THE CITY ARTS GUIDE, and the annual Lagos Open Air CINEMA CARNIVAL. It also collaborates with other artistes, activists and enthusiasts to organise the annual LAGOS COMICS CARNIVAL and the GREAT HIGHLIFE (Revival) PARTY (ELDERS' FORUM).

It continues to seek out, tend, groom and harvest the best of the old and emerging arts of Nigeria.

MISSION: To Create An Enabling Environment for the Flourishing of the Contemporary Arts of Nigeria and the Continent.

VISION: To Make Art & Culture the Prime Destination for Investment in Nigeria and Africa by 2018.

DEFINITION: We Are 'Cultural Landscapists. The CORA is the Winner of the Prince Claus Award, 2006.

CORA: The History

 The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) came to life on June 2, 1991. It's a culture activist organisation with the agenda to facilitate creation of an enabling environment for the flourishing of the contemporary arts of Nigeria, in the forms of Literature, Theatre, Fine Art, Movie, TV Programme Design and Production as well as Music. 
In these past 17 years, CORA has been at the forefront of championing the major issues that have shaped – directly or otherwise – the cultural landscape of Nigeria. The members operate as a body of facilitators of the sharing of ideas through the creation of the sort of interactions that lead to the birth of ideas or sharpening of existing ideas. Some of the most forward looking initiatives in the Nigerian culture environment came out of CORA-organized fora. 
CORA has carried on this intermediation role through the vehicle of its various programmes, projects and activities including the following: 



 

1.    The Art Stampede: This is a quarterly parliamentary event in which artists, art critics, art journalists and art connoisseurs gather to discuss hot burner issues in the arts. 
 The very first stampede, held in Festac Town on June 2, 1991, had as its theme: What Literature? It problematised the issue of the quality of prose and poetry coming out of Nigeria. Writers had opportunity to critically engage the work of one another in an atmosphere of comradeship. Since then, the idea that Nigerian literature started and ended with the pre-Independence (1960) writers such as Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe started looking passé.  Attention was then shifted to new writings coming out of the forge of the younger generation. This has helped in facilitating the flowering of new voices in the literary firmament of Nigeria, with many of them stepping out boldly to win prestigious literary prizes around the world.
 One of the most recent stampedes was on the evolution of the Nigerian movie. CORA took the position that our home videos evolved from our TV soap operas (including the formats) and that the soap operas were coming from a tradition that started with The Village Headmaster, our first televised drama series. But we ended up discussing more about the distribution and piracy. We do take off on tangents at these discourses, but they help enrich whatever is in the air.




 

2. The Annual Lagos Book & Art Festival: Dubbed “The biggest Culture Picnic on the Continent”, LABAF is an art festival with a heavy book content and is a testament to the commitment of CORA that the only way to translate the ‘teeming’ population of Nigeria into a true human resource is to develop their mind. It is an international event with participants drawn from scholars, writers, artists and journalists from all over the world. 
 The Lagos Book and Art Festival is an advocacy idea; we are promoting the idea of people reading books; gaining knowledge, freeing themselves from ignorance. There are reading workshops for teenagers; panel discussions on contents of selected books; cross cultural exchange between Nigerian writers and writers from elsewhere in the world; book exhibitions and sales by publishers, book sellers, embassies etc; art and craft sales and art exhibition. 

Our audience keeps increasing year after year. 2008 will be our tenth edition.

 

3. Lagos – The City Arts Guide (LCAG): This is a quarterly publication on the cultural life of the city of Lagos, arguably Nigeria’s culture capital and the entry port into the nation’s business and commercial industries. In its short time of existence, LCAG was already beginning to force itself on the consciousness of the practitioners in the culture setting of the city, the culture of disciplined schedule and calendar which is the hallmark of all advanced tourist countries of the world. 

 

4.    The Great Highlife Party: Held in conjunction with the management of O’Jez Nightclub, Surulere, Lagos, this monthly programme set out as a Highlife music revival forum and has additionally emerged as a forum for the celebration of landmark achievements of the best in the Nigerian cultural scene. Highlife is West Africa’s most important contribution to world music which inspired the works of Ambrose Campbell (who has been referred to as the father of black British pop) and the Afrobeat of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. The 58th edition held in July. Through this the career of many old highlife musicians – many of them had stopped playing the music since the mid-sixties when Nigeria descended into a 30-month brutal Civil War – has been revived. A classic example is the career of 79-year old Fatai Rolling Dollar who is still actively performing on stage, and has been travelling extensively.





5.    The Arthouse Forum: This is a monthly session of exploration into fast-breaking development in the arts and culture sector of Nigeria. It is set up as an agenda setting forum for those who administer culture in Nigeria. From the Forum they could test the pulse of the arts and culture community. It is usually arranged around landmark event in the life and career of personalities in the culture sector. It is organized on the platform of the Friends of the Arts, Lagos (FOAL), and a CORA initiative. 



 

6.    Lagos Circle of Critics (LCC): Periodic meeting of journalists, art critics, art , and practitioners with bias for criticisms and historical developments around the arts.   

 

7.    Culture Working Committee, which passes developmental ideas regularly to civil servants in charge of culture administration in the country.



 

8.    Collaborations: We have also been collaborators on a number of other projects including  - 




•    The BOBTV annual Film and TV Festival, Abuja, of which, starting from the 2006 edition, we became collaborators and resource facilitators for the colloquium; and



•    The Lagos Comic Carnival the first edition of which we incubated in our Festival in 2004 is an idea birthed by three CORA members in collaboration with the other group of young men and women creating the silent revolution in the newly developing area of comic publications and animation (they are so enthused they’ve started referring to it as an industry) in Nigeria. This is fast becoming an international event.



• National Festival of Arts and Culture – the annual celebration of the diverse artistic and cultural expression of the peoples of Nigeria, organised by the Federal Government.



•  In addition, now and then, members of CORA are encouraged to participate in other international cultural programmes with the aims of contributing our quota to the formulation of ideas as well as articulation of cultural agenda for the universe. In this instance we have networked and worked on workshops, symposiums, seminars etc with UNESCO, Commonwealth Foundation, British Council, The Goethe Institut, the Public Affairs Department of the American Embassy, The Netherlands Embassy, the Russian Embassy, the Japanese Embassy etc.  



 

9. CORA Library Projects 
CORA plans to establish a project under which libraries will be established in major cities of Nigeria, especially the under-served areas of the cities.  The library is where we would articulate all our ideas about the imperatives of reading, book, and literature for national development. This is why we support Book Clubs as part of the extension service outposts in dissemination of the ideas in books. We however take the view that libraries and book clubs should go beyond the upper middle class clientele. 
 We are focusing on Lagos at the moment because the city habours 10% of the Nigerian population. If Lagos is 15million as estimated, then having 15 well equipped, adequately staffed community libraries with community related activities along readership campaign in Lagos for a start is a much cheaper way to obliterate the ignorance of our people.


CORA’s Strategic Direction

Mission 
 To create an enabling environment for the flourishing of the contemporary arts of Nigeria. 
Note: By contemporary art is meant all of the arts, including traditional/folk art, of Nigeria so far as it has bearing on contemporary living and expression. 

Vision: 
To make art & culture the prime destination for investment in Nigeria by 2018

Note: As prime destination for investment, it must be:


 

•    The most attractive


•    The most profitable


•    The most prestigious

Shared

 

Values: 


•    Knowledge-driven


•    Avant garde


•    Passionate


•    Business-minded


•    Proactive

 Discriminating Competencies

•    Continuous Knowledge Acquisition


•    Broadening our network to embrace middle class/business sector


•    Redefinition of our concept of ‘culture’ to broaden the scope to embrace contemporary themes and trends.


•    Putting the appropriate structure in place to support current vision.



 

Operating Model & Functional Strategy


 

Our Definition


 

We are “Cultural Landscapists”



 

This best describes and encompasses the scope of our activities which have led to our traditional definition as:


•    Activists


•    Advocacy Group 


•    Interventionists


•    Facilitators


•    Organisers



 

CORA Organogram

 

CENTRAL WORKING COLLECTIVE

GOVERNING BOARD

BOARD OF TRUSTEES







CORA According to Prince Claus 
Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) is a unique Nigerian organisation that creates spaces to engage the public in debate on cultural issues. Started in 1991 as a non-profit, non-governmental activist organisation, CORA’s aim is to explore all legitimate means to create an environment for the flourishing of contemporary culture in Nigeria, in particular to make the arts a lively, social and enjoyable experience for all people especially the young generations and to create a culture-friendly society.

CORA organises the quarterly Art Stampede, known as the ‘parliament of artists’, a lively, open-air, informal, discursive platform on burning issues in the arts where leading figures and invited international artists engage in public discussion and workshop-like sessions. Central issues have included the quality of recent Nigerian literature, special editions on Wole Soyinka and Okwui Enwezor, artists as arbiters in political crisis, and private broadcasting. CORA organises an annual Cinema Carnival showcasing outdoor screenings of high quality African films. It also organises the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival, an open-air popular market featuring live music, drama and dance, activity workshops for kids, poetry and literature readings, book parties and seminars. CORA publishes ‘Lagos: The City Arts Guide’, a quarterly calendar of cultural events, listings, previews and reviews.

 

CORA has worked in the complex environment of Lagos, with neither government nor foreign donor support, for 15 years. It is building audiences for all branches of the arts and provides support for the work of artists and intellectuals. It is a democratic organisation run by a collective of involved citizens with current officers, Toyin Akinoso and Jahman Anikulapo. This award highlights the contributions of committed citizens, the role of local energy and initiatives in stimulating the arts and the importance of creating spaces of freedom, debate and cultural exchange.


Culled from   pp. 91&92 o 2006 Prince Claus Awards Publication (also in http://www.princeclausfund.org/en/what_we_do/awards/PrinceClausFundAwards2006CORA.shtml)

 

 

 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CORA

 

The following is culled from an interview granted by CORA to a national newspaper in January, 2006. The questions are nonetheless the kinds of questions that CORA functionaries have had to answer again and again, whether in private discussions or in public fora.

 

How long has CORA been in existence and what would you say has been your achievement till date?  

The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) came to life on June 2, 1991.

 

What exactly is CORA committed to? 

It's a culture activist organisation with the agenda to do all in its powers to help create an enabling environment for the flourish of the contemporary arts of Nigeria, in the forms of Literature, Theatre, Fine Art, Movie Making, TV Programme Design and Production as well as Music

 

Who are the people behind CORA?

It's a club of culture enthusiasts, really. The membership includes a working petroleum geologist, a newspaper editor, a finance lawyer, an architect, a literature scholar, a digital designer, two practising theatre artists, a painter/art curator and others whose interests are such they can't be pigeonholed. Even those whose vocations seem so clear also work in a multifaceted way that you can't say, well, they are strictly this or that. For example the newspaper editor is also a theatre artist and culture communicator, who is involved in the Tony Blair's Commission for Africa. The architect writes a weekly column in a top quality magazine and has been selected for an intensive British Council sponsored writers internship. The geologist publishes a bi-monthly magazine and writes a weekly arts column; the finance lawyer writes for an oil and gas magazine and has written better literature reviews than some of the most noted literary critics in the land. The digital designer started life as a graduate of mathematics and has won a prestigious British Council facilitated international design award. One theatre artist runs his own theatre production outfit and works in the daytime for a human rights organisation. The other works for a Government Culture parastatal and writes full weekly movie articles for a leading newspaper. The artist/curator runs a design shop from his house. And there's a poet who is so fixated on his poetry that he runs a poetry association. This eclectic bunch makes up what we call the CORA Collective or Core Team. The age ranges from 45 to 21. But the average age is roughly 28. It is a 15 year old organisation. But it is a young body with a promising future.

 

How has CORA benefited the Nigeria Art World? 

 

CORA is, at best, a facilitator of the sharing of ideas. We create the sort of interactions that lead to birth of ideas or sharpening of existing ideas. Some of the most forward looking initiatives in the Nigerian culture environment came out of CORA- organized talk shops. Among our programmes and activities are the following:

 

1.  The Quarterly Art Stampede: This parliamentary event in which artists, art critics, art journalists and art connoisseurs gather to discuss hot burner issues in the arts and its 57th edition will hold in June;

 

2.  The Annual Lagos Book & Art Festival: Dubbed “The biggest Culture Picnic on the Continent’, LABAF is an art festival with a heavy book content and is a testament to the commitment of CORA that only way to translate the ‘teeming’ population of Nigeria into a true human resource is to develop their mind. The 8th LABAF will hold in September, 2006.

 

3.   Lagos – The City Arts Guide: This is a quarterly publication on the cultural life of the city of Lagos, arguably Nigeria’s culture capital and the entre port into the nation’s business and commercial industries. In its short time of existence, Lacag was already beginning to force on the consciousness of the practitioners in the culture setting of the city, the culture of disciplined schedule and calendar which is the hallmark of all advanced tourist countries of the world.    

 

4.   The Great Highlife Party: Held in conjunction with the management of O’Jez Nightclub, Surulere, Lagos, this monthly programme set out as a Highlife music revival forum and has additionally emerged as a forum for the celebration of landmark achievements of the best in the Nigerian cultural scene. Its 57th edition will hold in June.

 

5.    We have also been collaborators on a number of other projects including  - the BobTV annual Film and TV Festival, Abuja of which, starting from the 2006 edition, we are now the collaborators and resource facilitators for the colloquium; The Lagos Comic Carnival the first edition of which we incubated in our Festival in 2004 and idea birthed by three CORA members in collaboration with the other group of young men and women creating the silent revolution in the newly developing area of comic publications and animation (they are so enthused they’ve started referring to it as an industry) in Nigeria.

 

6. The periodic ARTHOUSE FORUM: This is a soul-to-soul meeting between culture and Art bureaucrats (administrators) and members of the Arts and Culture Community (producers of artistic and cultural products). The platform offers the administrators opportunity to give an account of their stewardship on the prompting of inquiries from the producers of culture.  The next edition is in May and will bring both the administrators of Tourism departments of government into a roundtable with tourism practitioners.

 

What exactly is the Art Stampede all about? 

There has been 55 Art Stampedes since we started. The Art Stampede is the best way to see what we mean by facilitating the sharing of ideas. The Stampede is a discursive platform, at which the burning issues of cultural production in the country are discussed by the artisitic community, or what you might call the cultural holoi poloi, every quarter. Our very first stampede, held in Festac Town on June 2, 1991, had as its theme: What Literature? It problematised the issue of the quality of prose and poetry coming out of Nigeria. Writers tore one another’s works into shreds. Since then, the idea that Nigerian literature started and ended with Soyinka and Achebe started looking passé. We knew that people were writing and our discussants took a look at what they were writing. Nigeria may have won all the literary awards on the planet and that's almost true. But if you took a random sampling of the works of Nigerian writers; do you get a sense that ours is world class literature? That's what the stampede was about.  One of the most recent stampedes was on the evolution of the Nigerian movie. CORA took the position that our home videos evolved from our TV soap operas (including the formats) and that the soap operas were coming from a tradition that started with The Village Headmaster, our first televised drama series. But we ended up discussing more about the distribution and piracy. We do take off on tangents at these discourses, but they help enrich whatever is in the air.

 

 

On the Lagos Book and Art Festival, what are the experiences like, since it started?  

The Lagos Book and Art Festival is an advocacy idea; we are promoting the idea of people reading books; gaining knowledge, freeing themselves from ignorance. We have in it reading workshops for teenagers; panels discussions on contents of selected books; cross cultural exchange between Nigerian writers and writers from elsewhere in the world; book exhibitions and sales by publishers, book sellers, embassies etc; art and craft sales and art exhibition. Our audience keeps increasing year after year. 2006 will be our eighth edition.

 

Has it been good or disappointing? 

It has been good in the sense that it is self-fulfilling for us.  

 

Does CORA get sponsors for the festival? 

Yes, enough to pay about a sixth of our total bill. It is a cheap festival; no more than Three or Four Million Naira. But all the payments, including advert payments, never reach One Million naira in a year. The rest we have to come up with, as individuals.

 

 

Over the years, has the conception of the Festival improved? If yes, in what ways for example? 

Before 2004, we didn't think it'd be worthwhile to bring writers from other countries.  But in 2005 we brought Antjie Krog, who is one of the top three South African writers, for a "literary duel" with Chris Anyanwu. We made sure that either of them read the other's major book. The "confrontation" was a blast. Krog, who is widely travelled, said she'd never experienced that sort of thing before. We also brought Chris Dunton, a British literature Scholar, from the University of Lesotho, to lead the discussion on Lagos in Nigerian Literature. The seminar was "Lagos in the Imagination". Also in 2005, we came up with the idea of a Book Trek which is a road show, sort of, of select books, both localand international, across almost all higher institutions in Lagos. It held in the two weeks leading to the Book & Art Festival.

 

What is CORA’s vision for the festival in 2006 and beyond? 

This year we will have a similar programme as last year. Akin Adesokan, author of Roots in the Sky will be dueling with Moses Isegawa, the Ugandan writer based in The Netherlands. 

 

How far has CORA gone with its library and reading promotions projects? Are there any functional libraries that CORA has set up as at this time? 

No, and that's quite disappointing. We are looking to establish two libraries before this year comes to an end. The library is where we'd coalesce all our ideas about reading. 

 

How important in your view are book clubs in the process of reading promotion in Nigeria? 

Book Clubs are part of the extension service outposts in dissemination of the ideas in books. They are important. But they should go beyond the Victoria Island clientele, which they are now. How do you increase them and spread them out? By having libraries in all those big population centres: Oshodi , Ajegunle, Ipaja,  etc. In those places you can't start book clubs without some place to gather. I am focusing on Lagos because it habours 10% of the Nigerian population. If Lagos is 15Million as they say it is, then having 15 well equipped, adequately staffed community libraries with  community related activities along readership campaign in Lagos for a start is a much cheaper way to improve the ignorance of our people.

 

Is CORA, as a body for the promotion of the arts in Nigeria ever going to introduce a writing competition in the near future, since they are in a better position to promote Nigeria writers? 

We take it that ours is to facilitate improvement in the quality of writing; not test writing. To go to the first principle, we'd rather have reading activities in schools and in communities. But other organisations are doing that and we are keen on encouraging them.

 

You have carried on with this vision for quite some time now. Are there moments when you regret ever having begun? What kinds of things encourage you and what others cause you to be discouraged? 

I am encouraged by the fact that people are doing things, around me that we'd said, 15 years ago, were possible and which in retrospect, I think we have willed to happen. 15 years ago, we worried about things like "Oh, the American Embassy is closing its auditorium against regular performing arts, or exhibitions. We worried that the places to go for the art show or an opera concert was the Italian embassy. For the most intellectual curatorship of art it was the Goethe Institut. But today, such places don't have foreign complexion anymore. You'd think of Nimbus and TerraKulture and Didi Museum  if you want to engage Nigerian art. The opera venue, for those who want to see it, is Muson Centre. These are things we have discussed at art stampedes. The ideas are taking flesh now.

 

Who is your ideal Culture and Tourism minister? What qualities should (s)he possess? 

Someone who is ready to do the work, without being distracted by his own innate vanity. He doesn't need to be an artist. 

 

Has the NLNG Prize made any difference in the Nigerian arts scene? What kind if any? 

It is a good idea, no doubt. It is good for writers to compete to earn $20,000.00 as prize money. But it doesn't do more than just having a contest. So who were the winners of the 2004 award. Do you remember? What prizes do elsewhere is to link the writer with the market. This is why CORA chooses reading promotion and writers' workshops over writing competition. In our view, the Nigerian Breweries Limited Reading Promotion campaign, which involved more than 200 secondary schools all over the country, is better as a capacity builder than an NLNG prize.

 

What should Nigerians expect in the 2006 Arts and Culture season? 

It would improve, but not with any bang.