…It was removed for harboring criminals – Task Force
The demolition of the iconic canoe art installation (The Community) at the popular Ile Zik area, a suburb of Ikeja in Lagos State has drawn the ire of the art community.
The magnificent iconic monument served as a form of documentation of the names of all the 57 Local Council Development Areas of the state and their maps to project the spirit of communalism in the state.
The art installation which was commissioned, among several others in 2017, by the immediate past administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, was meant to give Lagos State a defining artistic profile.
Surprisingly, the beautiful art installation was pulled down and demolished by agencies of Lagos State government on Wednesday on the excuse that the space it occupied harbored criminals.
However, the multi-disciplinary artist, Abolore Sobayo, who installed the iconic piece while commenting on the demolition of the art installation on his social media pages, said he was not given any form of notification about the demolition, and would have preferred that the work was professionally removed or relocated.
“As the artist who created the work, I felt quite bad that I was not given any form of notification about the demolition, and sincerely wished that the work was professionally removed or relocated.
“The installation had been vandalized so many times – first was the lighting (a few weeks after completion), then on July 11th, 2019 when some of the perimeter fence was stolen. Later in 2020, the metal pole carrying the logo of Lagos state was also removed. For every time it happened, I sent in recommendations based on the security situation of the location and also proffered possible solutions.
“I will surely miss this piece, as I will be reminded every time I pass through this route. COMMUNITY talked about the communal life in Lagos state and also served as a form of documentation with the maps of the 57 Local Government Areas and LCDAs,” he lamented.
He however wants to know who ordered the removal of the artwork and lamented the constant demolition or removal of artworks in the state.
“There are so many questions yet unanswered? Who demolished the public art work and why? What is going on at the Lagos State Ministry Of Art and Culture? Are art works and intellectual property in the state safe? he asked.
The demolition has drawn the ire of art lovers in the state.
According to an artist, Abinoro Akporode Collins, he lamented the absence of legislation to protect public art while calling on art bodies in the country to push for reforms that will protect public art.
“Without the push for art bodies in Nigeria pushing for reforms to protect public art in Nigeria, this is what you’ll always get and nothing will be done because there are no laws and modes of practice put in place. Shame we constantly lose beautiful public pieces” he said.
Emeka Ezeala is similarly miffed about the demolition.
“It’s quite unfortunate that we find ourselves in a society where art works are not appreciated and preserved. People don’t consider the value or resources put in place to set up this kind of work.
I wouldn’t know if the site of the work is the problem or reason for its demolition. And was it approved by the State Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture or the Ministry of Environment, or any other relevant ministry as the case may be?
It’s very unfair and unreasonable for anyone to have done this ungodly damage” he wrote.
Anthony Bandele Ogunde called on the Society of Nigerian Artists (Lagos State Chapter) to investigate this demolition to unravel the reason behind it.
“It is very unfortunate. I think the Society of Nigerian Artists (Lagos State Chapter) should investigate the cause of the demolition and why the artist was not informed before the demolition” he said.
To prevent a future recurrence, Abolore Shobayo called for legislation to guide against demolition of public art.
“What I want the government to do is to put legislation in place to protect public arts as it is done in other climes. No government agency should carry out a demolition of public art without recourse to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture which is the custodian of the art” he said.
This is not the first-time public art will be removed or demolished in Lagos State.
Sometime in February 2020, The Lagos state government removed the big fish statue at the Abraham Adesanya Roundabout, Ajah when the round-about was being reconstructed. But rather than relocate the ‘big fish’ installation elsewhere, it has been lying derelict in a bush nearby, according to a government official Who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“The statue is currently lying on the lawns within Eti-Osa Maternal and Child Centre which is located off Ogombo Road, Abraham Adesanya, Ajah,” the officer told TCN.
Similarly, the iconic statue of afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, at Allen Roundabout, Ikeja was also removed from its original location.
The statue which was incidentally designed by Abolore Shobayo was pulled down by the Lagos State government due to the removal,of the roundabout at Allen Avenue – Aromire junction, but was thankfully relocated to another part in Ikeja.
The Liberation Statue, unveiled on Fela’s 79th birthday in 2017 by Former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, was built to “celebrate a man who voluntarily turned his back on a life of comfort and privilege, and took up his saxophone as a weapon to fight for the liberation of our people from neo-colonialism and bad governance.”
The statue was removed because it is located at one of the four roundabouts the administration of Babajide Sanwo-Olu identified as ‘a major cause of gridlock in Lagos State’.
The statue was eventually relocated to Toyin roundabout along Opebi Road.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has disclosed that the community art installation monument was removed from Its Ike Zik location because it was serving as a hideout for criminals that attack commuters on that axis.
The Lagos State Taskforce in collaboration with its sister Agency, Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (KAI) were responsible for the demolition of the monument.
According to the Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce, CSP Shola Jejeloye, the Lagos State Task Force removed the Canoe monuments because it served as a hideout for suspected criminals which was made known to the Agency through a series of complaints by innocent members of the public.
“Commuters who constantly ply that axis claimed that suspected traffic robbers after carrying out their illegal acts usually run into the canoe monument erected to beautify the City but being used by criminals as a hideout and leeway to avoid being caught by the long arm of the law” he said.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture were unsuccessful at the time of filing this report.