An Art Lover's Guide to Lagos

Crown Troupe of Africa Performing during LABAF 2016|Courtesy of Lagos Book and Arts Festival
Crown Troupe of Africa Performing during LABAF 2016|Courtesy of Lagos Book and Arts Festival
Photo of Ayodele Olofintuade
9 October 2017

Due to the diversity of people living in Lagos and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Lagos can be described as the nerve center of the arts in Nigeria. This is due to the fact that the various races and cultures that have made Lagos their home, usually bring along their art, music, and even cuisine.

Kick Off the Tour With Book and Poetry Readings

November of every year is a period of fun and networking within the arts community in Lagos. As the Lagos International Poetry Festival and the Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF) take place during this period. The Lagos International Poetry Festival is the largest gathering of Spoken Word Poets from around the world in a two-day celebration of diversity and poetry. The adventurer can also take part in the workshops on offer during the festival.

The Lagos Book and Arts Festival, described as Africa’s biggest culture picnic, is a three-day marathon of talks, art exhibitions, discussions, book readings, film screenings, and music. There are also art, sculptures, and books on sale during the festival.

Crown Troupe of Africa Performing during LABAF 2016 | Courtesy of Lagos Book and Arts Festival

Explore Museums

There are several museums in Lagos, both government and privately owned, where you can get a sense of the history of the people of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. Some of the best are Viekete Slave Market in Badagry (where you can also buy carvings), National Gallery of Modern Art, Badagry Black Heritage Museum, Jaekel House Museum, and Kalakuta Museum (dedicated to the art and life of Fela Anikulapo Kuti). The museums are full of art pieces, relics, archeological discoveries, and installations. Some of them, like the Jaekel House, are colonial relics.

The National Gallery of Modern Art, located inside the National Arts Theatre in Lagos | crashdburnd/WikiCommons

Soak Yourself in Music

The very air of Lagos is thick with music from both the continent and other parts of the world, but to get authentic Nigerian sounds you should visit the old neighborhoods of Lagos, Campos, Isale-Igangan, Isale-Eko, and Lafiaji, which are home to the best Agidigbo music, which the original settlers in Lagos played (and danced to). Several open air music festivals also take place in Lagos during the course of the year, like Felabration (a celebration of Afrobeats), an annual music celebration which takes place in October, and Afropolitan Vibes, a rave which takes place at Muri Okunola Park every third week of the month. The Muson Centre holds regular classical music concerts, while The New Kalakuta Republic features live music weekly.

Discover Art Galleries

There is no shortage of Art Galleries in Lagos, both on the island and mainland. The Galleries hold vast arrays of arts from across Nigeria and other parts of the world. Terra Culture, Omenka Gallery, ReLe Gallery, and White Space Gallery are a few places you can visit to attend an exhibition or buy art. There are also dedicated spaces like the Lekki Market, Yaba School of Technology, and The National Arts Theatre, where you can browse and buy art.

Interior of Rele Art Gallery, Lagos | Rele Gallery

Attend a Masquerade Festival

One of the hallmarks of storytelling in Yoruba land is the performance arts, and the greatest vehicle for this is through masquerades. Lagos is no exception to this form of theatre/storytelling, and the biggest drawing masquerade is Eyo, celebrated to commemorate the passing of a king or chief or the installation of one. It is an annual festival featuring different masquerades from the original settlers in the city. Another famous masquerade is the Zangbeto Masquerade Festival, held in Badagry annually. The Igunnuko Masquerade is another performing arts worth watching or filming.

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