Vernacular Art-space Laboratory is a community-based art organisation operating in Iwaya/Makoko suburbs in Yaba area of mainland Lagos, established itself as a platform where artists create artistic interventions in collaboration with the everyday people.
Our annual project, Iwaya Community Art Festival (ICAF Lagos) – an international community-based art festival, since 2016, has invited more than fifteen international artists (Portugal, Ireland, Kenya, Mali, Republic of Benin, Ghana, The Netherlands, USA, Italy, Spain) and forty local artists to the community for communal collaborations and artistic interventions. In 2018, our application for an alternative community art school project (Communal Re-Imagination) was accepted and funded by the Prince Claus Fund through its Next Generation Project. And Communal Re-Imagination accepted 40 applicants for the yearlong art school project. The workstation built during the project now serves as the only community art recreation space, where young creatives converge to experiment with their ideas.
The work of the Vernacular Art-space Laboratory has been greatly impacted by the advent of Covid-19 pandemic. Our space was closed for artistic activities for over four months, which in turn affected the community youngsters and young adults who use the space to create pop dance pieces for music videos and events, participate in the BMX training programme and the visual artists that emerged from the alternative art school project (Communal Re-Imagination), funded by Prince Claus Fund through its 2018 Next Generation project.
In a moment of adversity, we believe that story-telling through poetic rendition, flash-fiction and site specific artistic interventions are important, they could play a role in shifting peoples’ minds from depression, fear and perhaps crime. Equally, we believe that this is no time to entertain both illustrative literary and artistic productions that might contribute nothing to the plights of individual experiences but only highlight the dynamics of living in a time of global pandemic, particularly in a community like ours.
When most people in our community were yet to grapple with the impacts of the novel coronavirus, we went out to sensitize the people in our community as well as bringing to them safety materials, relief materials and funds through our “VAL Covid-19 Pyramid Intervention.” We raised funds through crowdfunding from our friends and colleagues around the world and supported over 100 individuals, 74 households and 10 small scale business owners.
At the beginning of the lockdown, we thought the virus was going to be for a short time, after two months, we adjusted our agenda for the year and two months later we realized that we have to indefinitely postpone our capital projects. We could not invite any artist to our yearly international community-based art festival (ICAF Lagos) due to the complicated safety measures that we have to put in place and our slated quarterly exhibitions, both solo and group, were cancelled because of our lack of funds to support the artists.
Recently, we distributed two sewing machines to two girl-child and also paid for their Tailoring Apprenticeship charges through our Community Outreach Programme.