Aderemi Adegbite, an award winning photographer, filmmaker, publisher and poet whose works have been widely exhibited beyond Nigeria, in this interview, speaks with LARA ADEJORO on filmmaking, photography, poetry and other issues. Excerpts…

Talk more about yourself; the aspects people really don’t know about?
I became interested in the arts because of my passion for writing. I wanted to become a writer and see my writings in a book form. This aspiration drew me to a playwright whom I wanted to teach me how to be a good writer and help publish my stories but the tune changed when I told him about my intention. He said ?write?. So, I started writing stories using dramatic dialogue and prosaic styles, he would ask me after reading each of the stories which I really want to write: prose or play? It took me a while to understand the basics. In those years (1999-2002) I would defend my writings saying that I have written what I wanted to write using those elements I considered relevant for my story.

Indeed, I was being stubborn and defensive without any prior knowledge in literature at that time. The playwright who became my mentor along the line started feeding me with books on various issues. And I became his apprentice in his theatre company, where I learn a great deal about theatre management, which reflected in my ability to produce a monthly show ?Poetry Potter? for four years.

In 2002/2003, a friend bought a bestselling book: White Teeth by Zadis Smith, and the writer had won several awards in 2000 because the author dammed consequences of styles and structure, and told her story in a style unique to her. The lesson from this for me was that there is no space to experiment enough within this space.

How do you combine all being a filmmaker, photographer, poet and a producer?
Personally, I don?t believe in being ?Jack of all trades? theory. But if the expression of feelings and ideas captured in a distinctive style and rhythm is called poetry and the usage of camera to draw with lights is photography, I think both are writing with different formats. Poetry is written with pen and paper and photography is written with the use of camera.

Filmmaking for me came as a result of expression in moving-images, which is sister to photography ? still image.

The job of a producer is to coordinate and take care of administration aspect of a production which is important to filmmaking, photography and writing too. I sincerely see everything as one, giving strength to each one of them based on my position in a particular project. That said, I am not saying that I am superhuman I have been able to do them only because of my sojourn in the arts.

What is the state of filmmaking, photography, poetry and producing in Nigeria?
It?s really amazing to see how other Africans relate with me whenever I am outside the country based on the home movie industry which is Nigeria?s biggest export of culture and tradition. Nollywood is bigger outside the country and the government must begin to see how it can be used to propagate the image of the country.

Filmmaking in the country is currently at the point where is needs to redefine itself. Some filmmakers are yet to reckon with Nollywood but it will be hard to make good film as a Nigeria and not align with Nollywood.

Quality is imperative for filmmaking, but it comes with the right condiments ? funding. If a film project is well funded, be it an art film or a commercial film the final product will be different from the ordinary. I have the honour of working with a videoart artist ? Candice Breizt ? last year and we spent some amount of money that could produce two to three Nollywood movies on a short videoart with two great actors in the industry as the only characters.

Producers must change their games and stop producing films (home movies) thinking about a limited market. They have to see beyond their nostrils, we may not have enough cinemas in the country but what about other countries in Africa.

South Africa is so good in theatre productions and they have tour the world with their products ? Theatre projects. We don?t have to envious of them; we only have to make a statement that Nollywood too. It?s appalling to see good story being badly told in pictures due to available funds.

We can be the biggest film export in Africa if we value the structure we have in place, some people will argue the structure, it?s there in my own opinion.

Photography is gradually gaining momentum in the country with the LagosPhoto Festival which brings photographers and their works from around the world to Lagos for a month.

This is the fourth year for the festival, which is being produced by the African Artist?s Foundation (AAF). Also, the work of the director of Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos), Bisi Silva, has really contributed to the new presentation of photography in the country.

Photographers themselves are not wasting time; they are constantly working and winning awards with their interesting projects. A little bit of structure, exchange (residency) and studio spaces will help the practitioners.

Poetry is still struggling but there is a good space for it. Spokenword is seriously gaining ground amongst certain audience but it needs to fly.

Is the government or private sector doing enough to boost these aspects of your works?
To make a good film, you need funds, structure and space. To embark on a good photographic concept/project, you need funds, structure and space, so also it is with poetry.

An art manager needs funds, structure and space to producer effective projects. Space is the major problem of artist in this country and there are a lot of abandoned buildings in Lagos and other states own by either the state or federal government.

Since when the capital of the country had been moved to Abuja, quite a lot of buildings had been left empty and decaying in Lagos.

A world class photographic exhibition opened few days ago at the former Federal Government Press which is one of those abandoned buildings on Broad Street, Lagos Island.

This happened because of the interest, influence and involvement of the director of Goethe Institute Nigeria, Marc-Andre Schmachtel. The old Colonial Prison was approved to be turned into a park ? Freedom Park ? more than ten years after the project was first pitched to the state government. Federal and states government must partner and collaborate with artists and art managers as they are the image-makers of the country.

We need art schools and arts centres for capacity building in the arts and some persons are ready to take transform some of these buildings for good use.

You have won several awards even internationally, how has this helped improved your career?
Winning awards is not the ultimate for every creative mind but it comes anyway. The awards have only made it clear to me that I have to work hard and move away from the regular and create works that can stand the test of time and initiate discourse.

As the Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of Image & Heritage, can you boldly say the purpose of promoting arts in all spheres as one of it activities been achieved?
We have been able to make a statement with our projects: Poetry Potter, P.A.G.E.S and other projects. Recently, one of our books, Symphony of Becoming by Iquo Eke, was on the long list of the biggest prize for literature in Africa ? NLNG Prize for Literature. This nomination says a lot about the quality of works we produce. We have since published two books ? Endless Roads by Ralph Tathagata and Symphony of Becoming by Iquo Eke, which are both first collections by the poets, which have gained good reviews.

We still believe that we can do more and even better, so everything we have done are just concrete in a beam. We are currently talking to some creative minds about a festival which will be produced next year.

You are a young man in your early thirties and you are self-taught photographer, how have you been able to make your works remarkable?
I will say that I am still learning how to be a good writer with my camera. Even though I may have been part of exhibitions and other photographic here and there, I think that I have not started expressing myself the way I will love to with the use of my camera. Therefore, I am working really hard on making works that express my feelings and thoughts.

What exactly are your sources of inspirations for excellent outcome in your works?
The people around me and my environment are my greatest sources of inspiration.

How can upcoming artiste in any of the categories you are involved meet up to the standard as expected?
They have to work hard on improving themselves, which I am also doing on a daily basis. I read, I research before I render my thoughts and ideas in any format. To be a good photographer, you must learn how to write with your camera in a unique way. A poet must read other poets both old and young. A filmmaker must watch a lot of films and read as well. But don?t forget that there is nothing new, we are all recycling ? add your own voice.


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