The international art fair in Nigeria, ART X Lagos, has been postponed in solidarity with the ongoing protests against police brutality that have been rocking the West African country.
The fair says that it took the decision as a gesture of respect for the lives lost during the #EndSARS protests that have surged this month, as well as after seriously considering the potential ramifications of the civil unrest on the fair. After originally being slated to run November 6 through 15, the fair been postponed to a yet-to-be-fixed date later this year.
The founder and chief executive of the fair’s parent company ART X Collective, Tokini Peterside, says in a statement that it stands with the activists fighting for Nigeria’s future. “We are vehemently against police brutality and fully support those who are against a system that denies essential civil liberties, freedom, and opportunity to its people,” Peterside says.
The #EndSARS protests erupted at the beginning of October in response to the violence perpetrated by SARS, Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which was launched in 1992, and has been accused of carrying out unjust arrests, discrimination, extortion, and torture. Since the protests began, the Nigerian military has violently cracked down on thousands of young Nigerians who have been peacefully protesting. At least 12 protesters were killed during a protest in Lagos on October 20 after the Nigerian military opened fire on protesters, according to Amnesty International.
The fair consulted with participating galleries, collectors, partners, and other stakeholders before arriving at the decision. Peterside stresses that the postponement in no way diminishes the fair’s dedication to “championing the excellence, creativity and resilience” of artists from Africa and the Diaspora. The fair, which launched in 2016, has become a major event in the African art market calendar.
“2020 has been a year of awakening, from the turmoil and trauma of the #EndSARS protests sweeping across Nigeria, the ongoing pandemic being experienced around the world, and the global reckoning with centuries of inequality and violence against black bodies,” Peterside says, adding that she looks forward to a time when Nigeria’s artistic community can come together to “contemplate society’s shared demands and expectations for tomorrow, and to meditate on new ideas for how our global community might move forward as one.”
The fair has also launched an open call for 100 photographers and filmmakers working on the front lines of the protests to apply for support earlier this month. It says that it received nearly 1,000 applications in just two days, and that it will show some of these important images at the rescheduled edition of the fair. Peterside also promises that the fair will continue to amplify these artists’ voices in the coming weeks, when the new dates for the fair will also be confirmed.