Bolanle Austen-Peters is a name known around the nook and cranny of the arts and culture scene in Nigeria, and for good measure. The lawyer cum movie and theatre director has for years channelled her flair for art into creating a good and sustainable ecosystem for creators not only in Nigeria but in Africa at large. She observed that there were just a few institutions effectively supporting Nigerian culture. Mrs Bolanle realised that only a few places in Nigeria had provisions to provide the appropriate ambience for Nigerians and foreigners to learn about Nigeria’s cultural and linguistic heritage. To this effect, she created Terra Kulture, a foremost art and culture institution that is now so popular it is a household name. In its 11 years of existence Terra Kulture has organized over 200 art exhibitions, 135 plays, 65 book readings and over 10000 individual adults and children, as well as school trips, have attended our language classes.
BAP, as she is largely called, through her production company has brought several fascinating and enthralling plays to the stage. In 8 years of founding her production company, BAP has given us 7 staged plays that were nothing short of excellent. As well as 2 released movies and one scheduled to hit the big screens soon.
Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters
It is therefore no surprise that when Google decided to foray into art in Africa, Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters and her Terra Kulture fit the right profile and the best vehicle with which to take art in Africa forward. Google Arts & Culture announced the launch of Eko for Show, a partnership with a number of art institutions in Lagos including Terra Kulture. There are a few main sectors being targeted by this partnership and they were highlighted by Mrs Austen-Peters at the launch of the collaboration;
- The agenda is to showcase and celebrate Lagos, one of the world’s most vibrant cities for youth, creativity and technology. In this work which is majorly an online exhibition, over 100 creatives across the spectrum of music, art, photography, fashion, musicals, literature and food, are being profiled and showcased with exuberance and splendour. The online exhibition will shine a light on the city’s thriving creative communities and aims to inspire the next generation of creatives.
- Google Arts & Culture Collaboration’s aim is to showcase African acts to the world. Everybody needs a platform to display their talents and creative excellence. This is in fact Mrs Austen-Peters’ inspiration to set up Terra Kulture more than a decade ago. Artistes in Nigeria suffer from a lack of enabling environment, a suitable platform with which to show the world what they can offer. This situation has led to many wonderful works of art being overlooked, undervalued and underappreciated, mostly leading to frustration for the artist. Google and Mrs Austen-Peters plan to use this online exhibition to showcase as many acts as possible to an audience beyond the shores of Africa through the Internet. From written words to painted pictures and even to musicians, they will be found now through this medium.
- This collaboration provides a medium to catalogue Lagos art history and with accuracy. Like Mrs, Austen-Peters said when she was asked about what was important when she told her stories, she expressed that she likes to infuse history into her stories and productions. “When I tell my stories, I apply an element of history, for instance with Fela and the Kalakuta Queens. In historical tellings of Fela, the stories told about his wives were either ambiguous or lacked authenticity. This provoked me to meet the Queens and tell their stories through Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, the Musical,” she said. This collaboration provides an opportunity to accurately tell African history. Just as new events and arts are being created, it is important to not forget the old arts that could be showcased and celebrated too. Just like Mrs Austen-Peters’ work with Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, the Musical, the accurate depiction maintains the integrity of the art, just like the original creators would have wanted it.
- With the spotlight on Terra Kulture and Lagos, Nigerian art would be put on the world map. When asked What was next for the African continent, Mrs Austen-Peters had this to say, “Last Christmas, four out of five musicals showing in Lagos were from thespians that came out of Terra Kulture. The future is bright for the African continent. People need original African stories and we are here to fulfil their needs. Musicals are here to stay. Nigerian culture is here to stay. We are just getting started”. This is a massive pointer to a lift-off point for African art from Nigeria to the world. The expression of the art moving from the experimental environment created by Mrs Austen-Peters and her Terra Kulture where artists can hone their art, to graduation of near perfection to the international scene. The future holds much promise.
- A wonderful platform for Theatre and stage displays. It is undoubtedly Terra Kulture’s main strength and it gets a bigger chance at the spotlight. Mrs Austen-Peters talks about her actors with a proud voice and offers effusive praise to them. She speaks highly about their talents and their talents are heightened by her phenomenal storytelling ability and masterful directing.
- The wonderful creative ability of Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters in conjunction with this effort by Google promises to elevate the art space in Lagos to a greater acme, delivering her appreciation for art to the global eyes and the global scene where the careful excellence would reverberate, projecting a feeling of high value to the world. This is the plan of a great mentor of Art in Nigeria, and it promises to be successful just like everything she touches does.
The Eko for show project with Terra Kulture is an amazing development, taking Nigerian art and her talented youths online and to the world, all thanks to Google and Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters for their wonderful vision.