ArtoP - The Visual Articulations of Politics in Nigeria

Lead Research Organisation: Bournemouth University
Department Name: Faculty of Media and Communication


Still and moving images have historically played a key part in the articulation (visually and textually) of political ideas and have constructed positionings and discourses on the politics of elections. ArtoP sets out to capture these articulations through the images produced by Nigerian artists (and respective creative industries) at a critical time around the Nigerian presidential elections in February 2019.

As a multi-sited research project, ArtoP will identify the creators of artistic content that engage with political discourse across regions in Nigeria. It will focus upon the types of images that are being created with a view to collect and curate and analyse evidence of this for an archive. In particular it focuses upon how artists operate within and outside of official networks in Nigeria and within contested spaces on social media around the elections in 2019.

Through collaboration with our partners at University of Lagos and Bayero University, and links stemming from previous research (Callus, 2017, Gore, 2001) to established hubs and local networks of Nigerian art worlds including those in digital spaces, ArtoP will analyse
1) the ways regimes of political discourse are dispersed and/or resisted both materially and virtually in the arts;
2) the official and unofficial modes and assemblages of dissemination and consumption which make and seek to reshape the publics addressed by these art producers, political patrons and subversive commentators.

The aestheticization of political agendas has longstanding trajectories in West Africa (Gore, 2001) but has been deployed in innovative modes within the technologies of digital media that are able to make and address new publics. Previous research that focused upon animation from Africa, has found examples of animation being distributed in official and unofficial (real and virtual) networks to disseminate political voices (Limb, Callus, 2017) and the simultaneous making of tactical subversive animation (De Certeau, 1980). Animation offers a powerful tool for focusing on these articulations of politics and the wider creative industries within Nigeria due to it's hybrid modes of making and production. These have offered new creative possibilities and underpin the emergence of new (or renewed) formations of the creative industries within Nigeria which intertwine with its political structures that shape its trajectories and assemblages.

During the last elections in Nigeria, political campaigning exploited these new technologies (The Guardian, 23/03/2018), with animation in its varieties of forms playing a role in creating and making accessible political content. The Nigerian presidential elections of 2019 provide a lens to investigate these inter-connectivities as they further augment in real and virtual spaces and consider how local social media realise its regimes of visuality. Consequently, ArtoP moves away from the conventional concepts of art practice and production for a gallery context, to recognising forms that circulate in digital spaces and are considered to belong to spaces of popular culture (animation, gifs, videos, posters, cartoons). By identifying these types of images, one can chart new assemblages, changes in artistic practices and their relationship to new technologies whilst identifying aspects that relate to traditions of artistic practice across the range of Nigerian arts.

ArtoP's themes: Technologies, Materials and Art Practice; Visual Articulations of Politics; Assemblages and Networked Spaces, are representative of the convergence that occurs at this critical point in time and embedded across different events and project deliverables. An online archive, StoryMaps and a Creative Documentary are intended to broadly serve to inform general public, academics and stakeholders in globalised creative industries of these practices. Through the symposia and conference at SOAS, ArtoP will investigate these articulations in an academic context.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
The beneficiaries of ArtoP's research and related events and outputs include:
1. Academic Community
International academics will benefit from the knowledge shared at the research symposia in Lagos and Kano (with their respective sub-themes) and the conference at SOAS, London. They will acquire new interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks that can then be deployed in their own field.

2. Nigerian artists will benefit from the shared knowledge of practice in participatory workshops and focus groups hosted in Lagos and Kano, and from the enhanced debate over the role of arts and technology in political discourse that positions the arts in a more prominent place.

3. Non-Governmental organizations that have an interest in Nigerian politics, the electoral process and associated political discourse will gain from knowledge created from ArtoP's research that sees artists, their practices and technology as playing a key role in this context.

4. Arts and Culture Institutions (International)
Institutions such as ArtXLagos, Goethe Institute, British Council, AAF (African Artists Foundation) in Nigeria and the UK will have access to the range of Nigerian visual articulations that circulate in real and virtual spaces of popular culture (in official and unofficial modes) through ArtoP archive.

5. General Public
ArtoP impacts upon the societal understandings of Nigerian politics, African arts and their connections to technology. Through the interactions with the screenings of the creative documentary film, online StoryMaps and a touring exhibition, the general public will gain cultural and political knowledge on the arts and politics of Nigeria. Additionally this material can have wider educational purpose.

How will they benefit?
Knowledge Exchange
The different beneficiaries outlined above will have the opportunity to exchange knowledge across events and activities associated with the project: in workshops Nigerian artists will share different practices and tactics and engage with other modes of visual articulation of political discourse in Africa made visible through the exhibition; at the symposia and conference academics in Nigeria and the UK will have a platform to share their different methods and research.

Knowledge Advancement
For researchers ArtoP will set out a range of different methods for data collection in situations considered posing risk developed in consultation with advisory panel and experts resulting in a report. Other publications will advance interdisciplinary knowledge for academia and have instrumental impact for key policy makers. A case study report will be disseminated to key organizations focusing on how artists engage with political discourse and what modes of dissemination they use.

Capacity Building
By raising awareness of the growing creative sector and its engagement with digital technologies ArtoP responds to the 'cultural mistrust of this sector in Africa', but also encourages exchanges between artists and stakeholders in this sector through workshops nationally and internationally. In addition it promotes the recognition of the value of connecting sectors such as social networking media and artistic practice in political voice.

Enhancing Cultural knowledge
The exhibitions and screenings will raise public awareness of the range of images that are produced in Nigeria around the elections that are articulations of politics to offer insight into Nigerian politics.

New networks and Partnerships
Through different activities such as academic symposia and conference (UK, Lagos, Kano), and participatory workshops (UK, Lagos), webinars (Kano) ArtoP will enable the formation of lasting relationships between participants and partners for future transnational collaborations and to ensure sustainable development. Activities will serve as a platform to promote discussion on these themes and their connections.


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Title 'Wórowòro, Kóbokòbo' 
Description A live performance piece by artist Jelili Atiku, 'Wórowòro, Kóbokòbo' which was held outside the Brunei Gallery on 23 June 2022. The performance was based on the 1996 Pfizer drug trial controversy in Nigeria. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact This performance took place at SOAS, University of London. It was scheduled during the final symposium for the project where academics and artists from Nigeria and the UK were attending. It was also recorded and shared on the project website. 
Title Diary of Discourse - Jelili Atiku 
Description A series of online recorded performances with multimedia presented and performed by Jelili Atiku, as a political response to COVID-19, endSARS movement and other political events during the period of November/ December 2020. The performances are a reflection on the intersectionalities on COVID-19 being present in the environment and the endSARS campaign and the heavy handed response of the government. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact This work informs the publics in Nigeria and globally as a digital documentation, raising awareness of the experiences and issues of people in Nigeria in relation to COVID-19 and the endSARS discourses. 
Title In a Pot of Hot Soup Catalogue - a collaborative response 
Description This catalogue was designed by Art and Design students from the Arts University Bournemouth as a creative response to the exhibition in London. The catalogue was a collaboration between curators, artists and designers intended to be considered an artefact in its own right. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact A cohort of 50 design students from the Arts University Bournemouth visited the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery and met with Nigerian artists who were showing at the exhibition. They were given guest lectures by curators Paula Callus and Charles Gore on the different themes in the exhibition and the historic trajectories of artistic practice in Nigeria. Through these events, and further research, they created a catalogue intended as a creative response to the exhibition. The catalogue was exhibited at AUB (Arts University Bournemouth) as an example of collaborative design work and was on sale at the Gallery bookshop. 
Title In a Pot of Hot Soup, Brunei Gallery 
Description This exhibition presented key Nigerian contemporary artists from a spectrum of media and practice, including painters, sculptors, photographers, cartoonists, animators, video and mixed-media artists. Whilst the project began in 2019 coinciding with the presidential elections that year, it led to conversations with artists in Nigeria about art and politics that formed the basis of this exhibition. The title In a Pot of Hot Soup was inspired by a comment made by the artist Jerry Buhari. As the curator of his exhibition 'Zaria Art Society: Celebration of Legacies' he discussed the social and political impact of the art society with its founding members Bruce Onobrakpeya, Yusuf Grillo and Demas Nwoko. Following Nigeria's independence from British colonial rule in 1960, on occasion, Nigeria's social, political and economic landscape has been unpredictable and, as Buhari explained, many artists like himself and the artists known as the 'Zaria Rebels' could find themselves "in a pot of hot soup". Cooking also uses a mix of elements - the ethos of this exhibition which presents digital and non-digital Nigerian art as reflection on politics. The themes of this exhibition included The Struggles of Everyday Life; Gendering of Art; Envisioning the Environment; and The Art of Politics. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact This exhibition garnered significant interest from other cultural organisations in the UK. The Photographer's Gallery London, subsequently ran a special ArtoP Takeover for Black History month, with a focus on the 1884 Photo Collective that were exhibited in our exhibition. 
Description Although official party politics in Nigeria was an inevitable starting point for the research, it became apparent that politicking in Nigeria pervades society. Nigerian artists creatively respond to, and promote positive change so as to benefit Nigerian citizens. These findings have been explored through the project's online archive, an exhibition, and animation documentary available to a wider public. The exhibition identified four key themes to underscore how Nigerian artists respond to the challenges and issues that shape social environments in Nigeria.

These are: The Struggles of Everyday Life; Gendering of Art; Envisioning the Environment; and The Art of Politics. These themes are also discussed in a forthcoming edited book, "Art and Politics in Twenty-First Century Nigeria".
Exploitation Route This project has created an online archive of cartoons, photographs, videos and other digital visual artefacts that are associated with political discourse and the arts in Nigeria. This archive is preserved online for public access, with sections of the archive stored but withheld from public domain for the safety of artists and collaborators on this project but available to review upon request. The archive has been used also to question conventions in archival practices that may be grounded in Western discourse, through workshops with partners in Nigeria from various academic institutions we used the collection to raise questions about methods of digital archival practice and the challenges it presents.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Ethics and Risk Mitigation Practices in Academia
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Following the Ethics and Risk Mitigation Workshops that ran at Bournemouth University at the start of the project, Prof. Abdallah Adamu reported that he was going to look at setting up an ethics committee in the Department of Information and Media Studies, Faculty of Communication, Bayero University Kano - which did not exist at the time. The Ethics and Risk Mitigation workshops included specific case studies targeted at visuality and politics. It looked at the function of an Ethics and Risk Mitigation committee to establish good practice approaches within education and research on visuality. These included aspects around ownership, authorship, identify and potential risks that arise around public archiving.
Description BU ACORN Fund: Drawing Lines across Virtual Spaces: Nigerian Political Cartooning in the Digital Age
Amount £4,860 (GBP)
Organisation Bournemouth University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2020 
End 06/2021
Description COVID Assistance FUNDING
Amount £37,769 (GBP)
Organisation Bournemouth University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 09/2021
Description GCRF (Internal) Award: Peeling back the layers of Nigerian Digital Cartoons: Revealing cartoonists' craft to the next generation of Nigerian Digital Artists
Amount £10,453 (GBP)
Organisation Bournemouth University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 03/2021
Description Public Engagement Research Impact Grant
Amount £1,997 (GBP)
Organisation Bournemouth University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2022 
End 06/2022
Title Ethics and Risk Mitigation Good Practice with a focus on Digital Visual Archives 
Description The report that is being prepared and updated regularly offers documentation of good practices around ethics and risk mitigation for the data collection of visual material and the specific concerns that arise from visual processing of this material for long term storage, preservation and dissemination in the archive. The report has not yet been released in the public domain as it is iteratively being updated. Some of the issues arising have been discussed as separate articles that can be read on the project website. URL provided below. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The impact will be measured once the report is released. 
Description Bayero University, Kano 
Organisation Bayero University Kano
Country Nigeria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have invited partners to the Ethics and Risk Mitigation workshop with a special focus upon visual material, and provided partners with followup documentation in the form of an ongoing report on best practice. We have also been providing them with documentation about digital archival methodologies and practices.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners will be hosting a Digital Media and Politics Symposium that will focus upon how Nigerian artists and stakeholders use digital media for political voice.
Impact We plan to include papers emerging from the symposium in an edited publication.
Start Year 2019
Description University of Lagos 
Organisation University of Lagos
Country Nigeria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have been working closely with the University of Lagos to organise a symposium, guest lectures and workshops with Art and Design students. We have facilitated cross-institutional networks with YabaTech to co-host animation presentations from the creative sector (industry) to lead towards new pathways from academia to the private sector. We have also facilitated conversations between stakeholders in the private sector and academics in the Art and Design department.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have offered the project use of the facilities, including an exhibition space for the purpose of exhibiting some of the political work that has been collected during the life of this project. The exhibition will run alongside the symposium and here members of staff from the department will be presenting their own research on art and politics in Nigeria.
Impact Upcoming outputs will include co-authored publications with staff from University of Lagos, and will be multi-disciplinary.
Start Year 2019
Description Yaba School of Technology 
Organisation Yaba College of Technology
Country Nigeria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have assisted the Dean in the development of an animation course that is scheduled to run in 2020. We have been advising on establishing connections between educational establishments and the private sector.
Collaborator Contribution YabaTech has offered to host some of the activities scheduled for June 2020, including running Masterclass sessions with stakeholders from the private sector on animation. They have also offered to contribute to the exhibition, by way of including art pieces from their own collection.
Impact We hope that this collaboration will lead to contributions for an edited book.
Start Year 2019
Description Ethics and Risk Mitigation Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr.Paula Callus (Bournemouth University) & Dr. Charles Gore (SOAS) began the symposium sessions with an introduction to the project. Other speakers included Dr. Karen Fowler Watt (Bournemouth University) who spoke about recent GCRF project - Child Survivors of Colombia's Armed Conflict: Animation as vehicle for reconciliation. This talk offered some insights to the ethical challenges that we encountered working on a project that aims to promote peace and reconciliation in Colombia as the country ends more than 50 years of internal armed conflict. Working with young people caught up in the conflict - some as child soldiers - the project incorporates an autobiographical approach to re-construct first-hand experiences of conflict and to highlight the challenges of reintegration. It presented the participants' testimonies through a short animated documentary, that they helped to create themselves. It is widely acknowledged that peace-building occurs at the local level and is sustained through people-centred approaches. Hence, the film aims to promote the social inclusion of young people who have been exploited and marginalised, as well as provide a tool for peacebuilding education.

Dr Samantha Iwowo (Bournemouth University) presented a discussion and screening of the documentary RUNS. Filmmaker, Samantha Iwowo, is a screenwriter and director who commenced her career as a commissioned screenwriter with South Africa's largest cable network, M-Net, writing several episodes of the daily drama series, Tinsel (2008 - present), from 2013 to 2014. RUNS is docu-drama by Benedict Alli & Samantha Iwowo about six women from different backgrounds who share their experiences as runs/student prostitution. Dr Iwowo will be discussing the various approaches in making this film that negotiates tackling a taboo subject through different poetic devices.

Dr Jimoh Ganiyu (University of Lagos) presented a short talk - #We No Go 'Gree: Internet Memes and Political Power Contestation in Nigeria. Dr Ganiyu examined internet memes as a unique form of political power contestation narratives in Nigeria. Through the use of social media platforms as vehicle of political communication, internet memes about politics explore issues that contain visual metaphors aimed at provoking discourse and stimulate political participation. By employing semiotic theory, this paper examined 200 pictorial internet memes on politics in Nigeria between 2015 and 2018. Dr Ganiyu argued that internet memes about politics are related to political cartoons in form and context.

Prof. Abdallah Uba Adamu (Bayero University) focused his presentation on Picturing Islam: Artistic Visuality and the Islamicate Culture in Northern Nigeria. In this presentation Prof. Adamu discussed the spiritual, particularly awe-inspiring, representation of spirituality in religious media, especially reception of representation of Biblical and Islamic prophets in films targeted at popular culture consumption.

Prof. David Pratten (University of Oxford) spoke about The arts of oil: a cultural history of Port Harcourt. His presentation asked questions such as how do the popular arts reflect a dialectic of enchantment and disenchantment with the Nigerian petro-state? In what ways do the popular arts celebrate its profits and politics, and critique its inequalities and injustices? Enchantment and disenchantment offer multivalent concepts from art, religion and politics with which to frame an investigation into the anthropology of Nigerian arts.

ETHICS AND RISK MITIGATION WORKSHOP TUES 5TH and WED 6TH MARCH followed the symposium with a number of hands on sessions. ArtoP project data collection could present ethical dimensions around authorship, voice and visibility, connect to legal aspects in regards to copyright and archiving and pose potential risks to the research assistant and participants depending on the contexts and stakeholders that are interacting. In a political context which has been described as prebendalistic (Joseph, 1987), questions around patronage, identity and socio-political networks are implicitly connected to practices in research method.The workshops were designed to respond to these concerns and to identify methodological approaches. It will run all day as informal sessions framed by dialogue and exercises.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description The Art and Politics of COVID: Online Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 'Coronavirus is not an election' a Nigerian instagram post announced on the 17th of April  as  it  posted  a  picture with a counter of the number of cases and deaths in  Nigeria. The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected individuals across the globe in different  ways  and  in  Nigeria  politics  plays  out  even  as  the  country  goes  into  lockdown. Instagram posts and Twitter feeds with hashtags like #Nigeria #CoronaVirusNigeria #TheLockdownNigeria document a range of citizen journalist commentaries  on  the  experiences  of  social  distancing  and  the  impact  these  measures are having upon their daily life and the struggles they face. Nigerian artists have responded in their own ways, taking to digital spaces creating work that engages  with  the  global  effort  to  educate  people  in  the  effort  to  stay  at  home,  personal hygiene, or inversely to document namely through photography the lived experiences  of  Nigerians  across  the  city  as  far  as  they  are  able  to.  Whilst  mainstream media does it's part in Public Service Announcements (Effiong et al. 2020).

The online conference was a direct response to the effect of the Covid Pandemic  in  West  Africa.  The  panels  in  this  conference  draw  attention  to  the  various forms of artistic engagement and creative responses to Covid-19 and how it connects  to  political  aspects  of  life  in  Nigeria. Whether this is considered from a  local or transnational perspective, as cartoons, fashion, or performance. It will be presented  as  online  podcasts  and  video  conversations  between  panelists,  as  enforced lockdown changes the modes of interaction within the academic space.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description The Craft of Digital Preservation: Online Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop introduced some of the ideas and practices involved in digital preservation, drawing on the experience of the AHRC project led by Associate Professor Paula Callus ('ArtoP: The Visual Articulations of Politics in Nigeria'). This research project has been concerned, in part, with capturing and archiving ephemeral visual expressions of political ideas, which are often 'born digital' and circulate online.

Digital preservation is a growing area of concern for researchers working with digital and online content, and is increasingly an area of interest for research funding bodies like the AHRC. After briefly introducing some of the major challenges and approaches to digital preservation, Dr. Malcolm Corrigall demonstrated the use of the web-based digital preservation system, Archivematica. This session was aimed at anyone with an interest in digital preservation, or with a specific interest in using the Archivematica application for digital preservation work.

This session was followed by a subsequent workshops demonstrating the use of Access to Memory (AtoM), an application for creating publicly accessible web-based archives that works well alongside Archivematica, with a focus upon decolonizing the archive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020