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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Picasso Baby




Ever wondered if there was a rewind button in life and there were some things you could do over? Well, I do. Every time something fantastic happens, I get greedy and I long for more. This is exactly how I felt last week because we had a long weekend in Nigeria. Our work week ended on Wednesday and we had a traffic-free Lagos for 4 whole days. That’s saying a whole lot, guys!

So in the spirit of just lounging, I went to see a play at Terra Kulture with my awesome writer friend. It was exciting to go see a play with the playwright himself… or so I thought. The people behind us were running commentaries and finishing off sentences for the actors on stage. My friend was fuming beside me – “You Nigerians are just Philistines. Can’t you just simply enjoy the art of the play without turning it into a Basket Mouth performance”. I replied that he should please calm down and stop being a snob abeg! Which one was Nigerians can’t simply enjoy art? I replied that we do enjoy art WELL!

The day before that I’d had drinks with some friends and I’d mentioned that I was going to TerraKulture and Ngozi’s response had been “Isn’t that the place where they have paintings and stuff on the wall – where people just go to stare and feel very important with themselves.” According to her, she had been dragged to an art exhibition with a friend and while they were staring at a painting her friend said “Oh look! You can actually sense the anger in the stroke of the painter’s brush!” She said “Are we looking at the same canvass? What anger biko? All I see are random lines and colors”.

After laughing so hard I remember how I’d been to an exhibition with my friend in London. It was one of these places where you don’t talk and you don’t take photos. You look at the art and indicate interest in purchase. I remember that I’d been staring at some images waiting for some deep introspect into the paintings – nothing came. My friend then had said that the taste for art came to some people naturally. He said it takes a certain culture to appreciate art. I mean, I love paintings as much as the next person but some times I don’t see those “angry strokes” too.

I asked a couple of people if they had an appreciation for art and the responses were interesting. My friend, Jill said she’d buy paintings when she became mega rich. I reminded her that if she wasn’t buying now that she was a church rat, if she started buying later she’d just be like all those noveau rich people who try too hard. Another friend said that he preferred art with abstract landscape images especially as images with humans and animals creeped him out. “There’s usually a spiritual effect with those things”. I responded that Nigerians sha found a way to link spirituality to everything.

That’s how my brother came back from NYSC after having spent 3 months at the NCCF (Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship) house and he was filled with the spirit. His first act was to “cleanse” our wall unit of all the “demons” in the little artifacts my mother had gathered from around the world. It was very hilarious because he was quite serious in his task – making sure to remind us that we couldn’t be sure which spirits had been residing in the little stone statuettes from India!

You gotta love Nigerians and our deep cultural and religious attachments! Anyway, I shall love you and leave you at this point. Don’t forget to tell me if you’re a lover of the arts and if you have an appreciation for the “finer things of life”. Do you believe that Nigerians are not inherently artistic or is it more of an upbringing/ acquired taste thing?

Have a beautiful week ahead. Remember to keep your head up and have a fabulous week ahead.

Peace, love & cupcakes!

Photo Credit:

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore.Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. Berry Dakara

    August 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I think that art isn’t well appreciated in Nigeria. You have the few who enjoy art galleries, theatre productions, photography, etc. But to the random Nigerian, it’s just “whatever.”

    BTW, I’d have been pissed off if people were running commentary during the play, as well. That disturbs the surrounding audience members from hearing the words clearly, and takes away from THEIR experience. It’s the same thing with watching movies. If you can’t shut up for a couple of hours, wait until you get home and watch it by yourself or with someone who doesn’t mind your yapping.

    And no, it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with being a snob.

  2. Fashionista

    August 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

    “what anger biko, all I see are line and colours” – Lmao! your friend is hilarious!!!!

  3. Vanessa

    August 12, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I appreciate good art whenever and wherever I see it but I have not bought any painting in my life. It has never occurred to me to buy any. The art work I really don’t like is the painting of one self. Most times, the painter does not get it very right. I prefer paintings of landscape or abstract paintings.

  4. Neo

    August 12, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Angry strokes kwa? That how oyinbo pple will put paint inside baloon and smash it against canvas and call it art. Appreciation for art doesnt mean i have to like those ones biko, i like what i can explain, what i find beautiful. If its abstract then the mix of colour should appeal to me too.

  5. Kiki

    August 12, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Art is beautiful and its life!!

  6. Sade

    August 12, 2013 at 10:10 am

    The truth is your friend is very correct. “Ngozi’s response had been “Isn’t that the place where they have paintings and stuff on the wall – where people just go to stare and feel very important with themselves.” . There are very few Nigerians who appreciate art that are not like this. Very few. Most of them come across as snobs and see people that don’t as plebs as if appreciating art is the gateway to heaven and they are gods looking down their nose at mere mortals. That person saying he is seeing angry strokes, na lie o, he is seeing nothing. He just wants to sound important and intelligent, and most times they come out sounding very pompous and silly. Meanwhile if you trace their history and background, many of them did nto have such upbringings o, very many of them. It is something like the accent thing that they picked up to set themselves apart, as if they belong to some class. My cousin is like that. Yes it is good you picked up the appreciation of art as an adult, but don’t come and be talking as if, you’ve been going to the Louvre since conception. She is so full of herself, and her “artsy” friends. Their noses are shoved up so far up their asses, I wonder how they can see road. Meanwhile many of my artsy oyinbo friends are not like that at all. Very open, unassuming and not snobbish at all. Yes there are some like that really cool people, and some of them were literally born with into staggering wealth, their families own million dollar paintings and stuff, but these our 9ja fellows with no shishi in their grandpa house will be talking as if they and Da Vinci were buddies. mschew

    • jinkelele

      August 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm


  7. Amaka

    August 12, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Nigerians are very artistic, in our minds, we just have other ways of showing it!

  8. Hmmmh

    August 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Atoke o..I have been waiting for Monday morning! Bless ur heart!
    Art is lovely if you know how to interprete it and some people are blessed with that gift. I love art,I love colours .I see a lot of those paintings on exhibition but I always wish I could get someone to explain what they all mean. Concerning Nigerians and spirituality,that no one can ever take that away since Christianity surfaced. A friend of mine told me he had one of his church members visit him one day and this guy really condemned him for having all those African sculptures in his living room cos to him it’s a sign of worshipping idols. We need to go back and learn more about our culture. Even the so called whites that brought Christianity to Africa know more about our culture and do appreciate it than we do.

  9. impervious

    August 12, 2013 at 10:45 am

    As with all things in life… different strokes for different folks. I have been lucky enough to see all sorts of art from the humble beginnings of Nigerian artists before they make it big (when it is all about the purity of their work) to spending 3 days drinking in the realists in Amsterdam. Everyone is different. I cannot understand the post-modernists and Andy Warhol and all that, for some people it is the BEGINNING OF LIFE. To each his own. I still LOVE, LOVE LOVE Nigerian artists… particularly sculptures because mehn that ish requires patience 🙂
    I was raised in the same house as my sister and she doesn’t give two hoots about all this art malarkey.
    Don’t get me started on people talking in the cinema… I could write parables. I just know that there is a special place in hell for them… with those who talk during plays/ opera/ musicals

  10. Gbemmy

    August 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

    It’s so funny when you see some work of art and you wonder if a child was just playing around while someone else would see the same work (esp whites) and all the wows and emotions would start … For me 99 percent of them do not appeal to me and they are usually over-priced

  11. Miss Anonymous

    August 12, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I can totally relate to the spirituality bit. I remember watching a show on tv about Nike Okundaye, renowned artist and gallery owner with a Pastor friend and he was like ”all these sculptures and funny paintings have spiritual connotations”. I’m sure I shot him a bad look. In March I was going to buy a silver Bhudda head sculpture just to decorate my living room and my sister in law kept saying “mi o si n be o” (i’m not part of this) because she believed it could “wake up” one day.
    Personally I have always appreciated art. I may not know a Van Gohg from a Picasso but I’ve been exposed to the works of some of our local artists like Bruce Onabrapkeya, Ben Enwonwu, Tola Jeje and Nike Okundaye to name a few. I think the appreciation of art is inate and you either have it or you don’t. I don’t think it has anything to do with social class or wealth. Take a trip to the Lekki Art Market and see what local artists are doing.
    About the pricing issue, art is priceless. When you are a nobody no one is really willing to pay that much for your work, but once you begin to carve a niche for yourself people who appreciate your work would be willing to give up an arm and a leg for it, no matter the price tag, and once you die your works become collectors items which further drives their prices up.

  12. Mariaah

    August 12, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I love art. I appreciate art. Have I ever bought one? No! The ones I’ve seen and loved I can’t afford ATM.

    Infact, today is my artist friend’s bday and I ‘m thinking of taking him to transcorp lobby where they have those lovely artworks. Might speak to one of those guys to take us through like a proper exhibition LOL.. We will pretend we are in an art gallery in London’s West end or Paris 😀

  13. Aminatu

    August 12, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Which yeye angry strokes??? People just want to sound cool, like there’s some art appreciation lingo and as a very deep person I must make myself to feel and say those words. Meanwhile, the “angry ” painter is somewhere giggling and hoping you fall for his “anger”

    I appreciate art but please it must make sense and look nice, it must not be rubbish as I am not a mad person. I have a friend who is always buying paintings, I believed his house was very big for him to have enough space to display all those paintings. One day, i actually visit the “castle” only to find the walls bare, ahn ahn, where are your paintings sir? He promptly took me to one rooms and the entire place was filled with the paintings, just wrapped and stacked. He buys them strictly as investments. I don’t know that this is wise as I believe the value of paintings in these parts do not appreciate…lol

    The paintings I just cannot bring myself to appreciate are all those paintings of naked people and the fact that that’s all some painter’s can paint. Why would a painter’s brain only work when its time to paint naked women oooo. Paint something else and lets see.

  14. Ibukun

    August 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Not true Aminatu, sometimes you can read emotions off paintings…but everytime i find myself staring at a piece of art, i keep my thoughts to myself cos i know there’s the tendency for the person standing next to me to think i’m a “snub” or i’m “crazy”…but its real. some people fake it, but not everybody does.

  15. jinkelele

    August 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I talk in the cinema usually small chit-chat and i don’t mind when others do. Constant chit-chat is disturbing however if you really do want silence then watch films at home. Then about sculptures you need to realize that as much as people buy them because of the art others also buy them for their spiritual significance so its not a case of Nigerian’s bringing spirituality into things motives are different. I mean a taxi driver from north India doesn’t have a Buddha head in the front of his cab simply because he likes the artistic feel .


      August 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      No Jinkelele. If you want to talk, watch the movie in your house! Did I pay for a movie AND a commentary? Be sure that if you chat near me, you will hear a “Shut up or go home” comment from me. It has always worked; silence reigns after.

    • Fashionista

      August 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      What do you mean if I want silence I should watch the movie at home????? you’re the one who should have bloody stayed at home!!! I cant stand it when people cannot display very simple cinema etiquette! If anything, show some consideration for others, schewzzz! Now you’ve pissed me off.

    • jinkelele

      August 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Oh please! You might as well censor laughter and screaming as well. YOU can only ensure total silence in your house shikena.

  16. Suyacrush

    August 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Art is for the sensitive. I’m always in awe when people see paintings and can translate or channel “emotions” out of them. My baby sister can even tell you there is latent or sound cry just looking at a statue smh! I don’t, the most i love is music period.

  17. Lilian

    August 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    i love Art and i have a couple of paintings for sale . if u are interested contact [email protected]

  18. D

    August 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t chit chat when I go to the movies because I believe in respecting others around me but @ Not the girl you know. You bet if I have something to say I will and if you told me “Shut up or go home” you can bet then my conversation just started and there is NOT ONE DAMN THING you can do about it!!! I guess you have just been fortunate in the past. The movies (theatre) is a public place and should be treated as such(Freedom of Speech). I do get irritated when people yap non-stop anywhere movies included but I respect that that’s the way some people enjoy seeing movies. We need to be more tolerant of others like Jinkele said stay put at home if you know it gets on your nerves that bad.

    • jinkelele

      August 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Thank you oh , a little tolerance that’s whats needed. Most people will reduce their chitchat anyway but how do u censor chitchat in a public place even if it is a cinema not to talk of telling someone to shut up. Ever watched films with younger children? and i’m not talking about cartoons – major feature films that they are permitted to watch

    • Ready

      August 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      I’m going to tender my complaint here. People can gist briefly around me…but why clap at DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING? Hermoine saved Harry from a flying something, they clap. The guy kissed the girl, they clap. Iron Man saved Pepper Potts from dying, they clap. Iron Man is a superhero, he’s supposed to be awesome! The most that should happen in these things, I think is a loud gasp, and maybe a “that was so cool!” It’s not a stage play…the movie characters won’t appreciate your clapping! And now your clapping has stopped me from hearing some of the witty dialogue that usually occurs after something cool happens.

    • nomad

      August 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      You’re one of the people that’s the problem with Nigeria. If you’re inconveniencing others and are called out for it, would it be so much of a problem to actually change your behaviour? You’re disturbing other people’s enjoyment that they paid to enjoy! Why is it such a problem to just keep your trap shut for two hours? All this aggro and rudeness and unnecessary bs is part of what makes me so sick of Lagos and its inhabitants

  19. Aibee

    August 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I love stage plays, I love book readings – provided I have read or will soon read the book, I love paintings of real things – humans, places, animals etc. Those are the only forms of art I understand. I can stare at abstract paintings for hours and not see anything. When I see a sculpture or other 3D art, I appreciate the creativity and effort that went into it, provided it is something recognizable. Putting a stock on a pedestal and calling it art is slightly hilarious to me. Which is why I do not understand how anyone can think of Yoko Ono as an artist. But then, to each his own.
    As for those who run commentaries at cinemas and theaters, I say live and let live, just keep your voice as low as possible.

  20. Ruby

    August 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Art is so beautiful..I love and appreciate it. Whatever form it takes, be it a paintwork, sculpture or stage plays. At the office, the wall is decorated with paintwork and on my desk I have this really cute clay work I bought at Art and Craft village. The first day my colleague saw the clay work, there first question was ‘Have you seen the figurine?’
    I explained to them how the clay work was made from clay from Taraba state indicated by the color of clay…there confusion was overwhelming.

  21. Ready

    August 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Art…I mean, I appreciate beauty and works that make you think. But some of the commentary on prized art is so….bleh. E.g. the Monalisa, that lady is not pretty. I’ve tried to find the beauty..nothing I’ve seen makes her a standard for beauty. The paintings on the Sistine Chapel ceiling are very detailed, but the topless white dudes with draped private areas and their fingers almost touching? -_- I’on get it, and the looks on their faces just don’t sit well with me.
    Now, I went to Olumo Rock and I loved the art in their gallery; really cool stuff that you could understand, and if you didn’t, when it was explained to you, it made sense. Not that I don’t get foreign art…sometimes I get the emotion like chaos, or the irreverence of Ayi Kwei Kwei’s artwork which shows him dropping a Ming Dynasty vase.
    But the one that we’re auctioning off a painting or Faberge egg for millions and hundreds of millions of dollars, please what are we appreciating to that level? Art should not be that priceless, in my humble opinion. I understand the liberty/capitalist’s their money, they can spend it as they want. But I also understand the law of supply and demand…what other rendered services are priced that highly? That’s the one that me I don’t get.

  22. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    August 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I will never forget an episode of Girlfriends where the Bohemian character (I forget her name) was contemplating one of the paintings at this art exhibition. It was a red painted arrow pointing right on a white background. To me, it was just a bloody signboard, but by the time she finished interpreting the “drawing”, I could not believe it was the same thing. I guess that was the whole point.

    Do you have to be elite to appreciate art? That’s a paradox considering that most of these renowned painters were dirt poor, especially the impressionists, and could not even afford to eat unless they sold their paintings. Me, I love art. In fact, I worship art. I have the knowledge because I took time to study it as if I was preparing for exams; same way I studied about cars, wars, wines and read old books from before Jesus’ century. With some friends who are my mates, I come across as uppity. But considering most of my friends are fifty and above and very well read, I am often in good company. Hollywood with their movies on art heists, Sotheby’s with auctions running into obscene millions have contributed into making people think this is a past time of the rich. I come from a spanking middle class family and yes, I can see when a brush expresses the artists anger, thank you.

    We had this reproduction of Mona Lisa, hanging in the sitting room when we were growing up. We were so scared of that drawing. We told our mom the eyes followed us round the room whenever we were in it. I remember one time in the middle of the night, I forgot something in the sitting room I wanted to pick. I remember trembling at the door for several minutes, my heart pounding heavily. By the time I summoned courage to enter, Bolts could not have caught up with me. I hit my head on the door on the way out and did not stop running till I entered my room. We mutilated that drawing until my mom was forced to throw it away. Now I regret it so badly. I know it was a reproduction, but at least it would have been an old reproduction.

    Right now, I have two arts hanging on my wall in my room one is of a man and his son in a very austere surrounding, the other is of Spider Man.

  23. TA

    August 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    I personally find art exhibitions interesting,engaging and soothing.One time i went to an art gallery, believe it or not when i stared at a painting of some Nigerian children playing in the rain,i could almost hear the squeals of laughter… Does that make me a snob or pretentious wannabe? No way! Just the way i still don’t get why some persons enjoy clubbing.Tastes in arts,entertainment,fashion and style differ from person to person influenced by a lot of factors. You know what they say,to each his own. 🙂

  24. Miss Anonymous

    August 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    @ Bobosteke & Lara Bian…..omg! We also had a Mona Lisa reproduction growing up and i remember the eyes seemed to follow me around the room. I was actually too freaked out to ever mention it to anyone 🙂

  25. Miss Anonymous

    August 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    omg! The frame was eventually eaten by termites and I think I eventually gave Mona Lisa tribal marks with my pencil. Fun memories 🙂
    Now back to work *with a serious look*

  26. lofe

    August 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Art appreciation is a very personal thing, it differs with personality and taste. I have this painting on a canvas I have loved and taken everywhere for over five years now. Whatever form of art you choose to love, you also reserve the right to choose how to express your love for it. It could be to stare at it till you cry, laugh out loud, buy it, get up to dance or talk about every scene. Which brings me to movies and the cinema hall; well, same way you paid to see the movie and have the right to see it in silence is the same way someone else paid and has the right to pass comments as s/he sees fit. You cannot shut them up cos u paid, they also paid, remember, and have the right to enjoy the movie their own way too. Worst case, you’ll get up and change position when you cant take it anymore. However, incessant clapping is overdoing sha o.

  27. Que

    August 13, 2013 at 12:42 am

    The question to answer this is- what is art? that
    definition has changed wit time and keeps changing. Why do u assume
    that art is only appreciated by pple from wealthy backgrounds- have
    u considered that many great artists were paupers even till their
    death?- till one person decides to have a revelation by their work
    n place much value on it…. Its all in the perception of the
    viewer. But if anyone thinks himself suddenly better cos he loves
    something he considers as art- den dat one is himself the real
    joke! In my opinion- Nigerians appreciate art- art is around us and
    we’re full of it- try studying the vast number of cultural
    dressings, dance, use of colour, hand and craft techniques that we
    have and see differently if u will! we may not place goldmine value
    on it like d western world- which is a massive branding exercise in
    most cases today, but it doesn’t make its appreciation any less for
    those who love it- and they are more than u and I can count! I have
    seen quite a no of exhibitions in my time and I’m mostly drawn to
    pictures and sculptures… things dat are built creates questions
    in my mind… and I can tell u my same eye that is fascinated by
    one piece often finds another to be totally pointless and brings
    out my Ngozi side! I feel art should reveal, question and educate
    (which isn’t always d case)… and still doesn’t mean I will relate
    or even care to!

  28. fiesty chic

    August 13, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    for those of you saying you have the right to talk in a cinema pls read this and please try never to talk near me cos the way i will speak to you would embarass you a lot.

    as for the art issue, our eyes see different and what might give meaning to someone might not do so to you.

  29. mia

    August 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    my appreciation of art includes appreciating stage plays, oh i love them, i see past what other people see in stage plays and i love cultural dances, traditional songs, local jewelries and pieces. it just makes me feel like i’m connecting to my ancestors. i also love collages that speak especially those that involve the love of mothers towards their children. but as for those obscure ones that reveal someone’s abstract nature or inner struggle or anger, count me out.

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