Boys’ Quarters Project Space is the beginning of what we hope is a path towards transformation in the Niger Delta. We will continue our work in this gallery but overlapping with this is our plan to create a larger arts complex where we can do more intense and well-equipped training of contemporary artists. A space that acts as a much-needed sanctuary in the hustle and bustle of the overwhelmingly commercial and polluted city of Port Harcourt.
Port Harcourt used to be known as the Garden City but it is now a dirty and unsafe metropolis whose vast oil wealth is nowhere apparent in its infrastructure and physical environment. We want a space that is open to all where people can breathe more freely, rewire their thinking and draw strength from a beautiful natural environment dedicated to culture.
Beyond this, we plan on also starting a craft center. Mask-making traditions in the Niger Delta are unique and many masks from the region are found in international museums around the world. Despite this, masking culture is dying out in rural areas in the Niger Delta. By abandoning these crafts we dissolve our relationship with our environment, history and sense of self. Masking and carving need not be stuck in the past, it can be a vibrant part of present day culture and concerns. These masks can be worthy ambassadors for a modern day Niger Delta. We want to educate younger people in the ways of carving whilst also providing them additional business education.
Weaving and clay pot-making are other crafts, mostly done by older women, that are becoming lost arts. We want to ensure these skills are not completely lost and to twin education in these art forms with supplementary business education to those that engage. This is not just about preservation we also see traditional artisan skills as a basis for contemporary art practices where they can live in new ways. Mangrove Arts Foundation will ensure that the conversation between contemporary artists and traditional artisans is kept alive forging an identity in the Niger Delta that isn’t based on loss, violence and despair but rather creativity and strength.
Mangrove Arts Foundation is a US registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization