In Nigeria, art boom feeds a revival of interest in traditional animist art

(Artist and designer Nike Davies-Okundaye poses for a portrait in her art gallery in Lekki district in Lagos August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)

The haunting stone sculptures have stretched bodies with enlarged heads, mask-like faces and elongated chests – the kind of sharp, geometric qualities that inspired the works of Pablo Picasso and the Cubist movement in the 1920s.

Displayed at a Lagos gallery alongside colourful paintings of domestic scenes, they represent a revival of ancient art forms in Nigeria, rooted in traditional spirituality, that Christian missionaries tried to banish a century ago.

That revival coincides with a turn by the country’s super rich elite and small but growing middle class towards art as a store of wealth.

An art investment boom is under way across emerging markets, but it has been seen as largely centred on China, India and Gulf Arab countries. The planet’s poorest continent is still widely viewed in art circles more as a source of fine art for auctions in the developed world rather than a market in itself.

Guestview: Terrorism and Religion in Nigeria

(Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Nigeria walks through Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Cardinal John Onaiyekan is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja. Following is a short presentation on current religious tensions in Nigeria that he made on Tuesday to the annual scientific meeting in Milan of the Venice-based Oasis International Foundation, which studies Christian-Muslim relations. 

By Cardinal John Onaiyekan

Let us begin with the general observation that there is violence in the Nigerian culture and I imagine like in every culture. Apart from the history of the inter-tribal wars in the past and of the colonial conquest of our land as well as the resistance to that conquest, our independent Nigeria has also seen the experience of the Nigerian Civil War in which there was a lot of violence and killing. Following this experience, the country has had to deal very much with criminals, armed robbers, militants and kidnappers, most of which are a carry-over from the situation of violence in the last decades. There is also the communal violence that has been in the country every now and then between different ethnic groups, between social groups, even between political groups. Our elections have often been marred by serious violence. In this context therefore, the religious dimension simply falls into a relatively “normal” pattern. People quarrel and fight over many things, including over their religion.

Nigeria passes anti-gay bill with penalties up to 14 years in jail

(Nigerian legislators in session in the capital Abuja, October 10, 2012.  REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to criminalise gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and even membership of a gay rights group, defying pressure from Western powers to respect gay and lesbian rights.

The bill, which contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison, passed Nigeria’s Senate in late-2011 but President Goodluck Jonathan must approve it before it becomes law.

Nigeria failing to tackle religious violence in its “Middle Belt” – U.S. agency

(Security officials assess the scene of a bomb blast in Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

Nigeria’s government is not doing enough to tackle religious violence in central Nigeria, where more than 100 people have been killed since March, a U.S. government agency said on Monday.

Plateau state and other parts of the “Middle Belt” have suffered for decades from violence linked to land disputes between the semi-nomadic, cattle-herding Muslim Fulani and settled Christian Berom farmers.

Amnesty says Nigerian army rights abuses make Islamist insurgency worse

(Soldiers search a car for suspected explosives along a road in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano January 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer)

Human rights abuses committed by Nigeria’s security forces in their fight against Islamist sect Boko Haram are fuelling the very insurgency they are meant to quell, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

Boko Haram says it wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria and its fighters have killed hundreds in bomb and gun attacks targeting security forces, politicians and civilians since launching an uprising in 2009. The sect has become the No. 1 security threat to Africa’s top energy producer.

Nigeria resumes haj trips to Mecca, ending row over unaccompanied women

(Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Al-Masjid al-Haram (Grand mosque) in Mecca October 31, 2011. REUTERS/Ammar Awad )

Nigeria has resumed flights to Saudi Arabia for the annual haj pilgrimage, ending a diplomatic row over the detention of hundreds of female pilgrims for arriving unaccompanied by men, the country’s haj commission has said.

Saudi authorities have deported more than 600 female Nigerian pilgrims and detained hundreds for trying to visit the Islamic holy city of Mecca without male relatives. Nigeria suspended flights to Saudi last week.

Nigeria stops pilgrimages to Mecca over unaccompanied women row

(The Mecca Clock Tower overlooks the Grand Mosque during the Muslim month of Ramadan in the holy city of Mecca August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Hassan Ali )

Nigeria has suspended flights to Saudi Arabia for the annual haj pilgrimage, following a diplomatic spat over the detention of hundreds of female pilgrims for arriving unaccompanied by men.

Saudi authorities have deported more than 600 female Nigerian pilgrims and detained hundreds for trying to visit the holy city of Mecca without male relatives.

Saudi deports 150 female pilgrims, holds 1,000 more, Nigeria says

(Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque, on the last days of the annual haj pilgrimage, in Mecca November 8, 2011. REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Saudi authorities have deported 150 female Nigerian pilgrims and detained another 1,000 because they came unaccompanied by men, Nigeria’s government announced on Wednesday.

Mohammed Bello, chairman of Nigeria’s national haj, or Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, said 150 women on one flight had been stopped at the airport for “lack of … lawful male accompanying pilgrim”.

Nigeria says its push against the Boko Haram Islamists is paying off

(Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan speaks during an interview with Reuters in New York, September 26, 2012.  REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz )

Nigeria’s “robust” approach to neutralizing a threat posed by Islamist sect Boko Haram using military force, holding indirect talks with the group and improving education in the north is paying off, the Nigerian president said on Wednesday.

Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has been blamed for more than 1,000 deaths since its insurgency intensified in 2010. The United States has designated three of Boko Haram’s senior members as terrorists.

Interfaith report: Poverty and injustice drive Nigeria’s sectarian violence

(A roadblock burns after a bombing at St. Finbarr's Catholic Church in the Rayfield suburb of the Nigerian city of Jos March 11, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer)

Poverty, inequality and injustice are threatening to trigger a broad sectarian conflict in Nigeria, an international Christian-Muslim task force said on Wednesday.

Clashes between Nigerian Christians and Muslims have already killed hundreds of people this year alone. But although the violence is the worst between members of the two faiths since the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, the root causes go far beyond religion, the group’s report said.