Tutuola Institute is response to ‘White Money’ funding art, culture in Nigeria, Africa

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By Aderemi Adegbite

THE Tutuola institute is actually an intervention on a particular project called ‘White Money.’ Three years ago, I was invited by a theatre company based in Berlin, Germany, and they asked me if I would like to be part of the project called ‘White Money.’ The idea was actually to probe the complexity of European art funding schemes. Whenever you get funded, there is always a hierarchy and complexity around it: how you have to use the money, what you have to use the money for, and this is not only about when they are dealing with people from the Global South. They also do this with people from the Global North, even people from their own countries as well. So we were asked to probe these structures – Geothe Institut, British Council, Alliance Francaise, etc.

Towards the end of last year, we had winds of hope that we were going to get funding for our project, because we’ve been trying for the past three years and by January, our project was chosen. And for about three or four months, we started the lab project, and we talked about a lot of things. All the artists on the ‘White Money’ project, of course, were from the global art community – we had one from Iran, one from Egypt, two from India, one from Tanzania, and myself from Nigeria. We were invited and we started talking about ideas. Some of us had not been funded before by some of these institutions, but I had received funding for various projects. So, I know what this hierarchy is; I know what this complexity is. I had issues with one of those funding bodies, and it was really a serious issue between us.

So my response was actually Tutuola Institute. So the idea is, instead of always waiting for these Global North’s funding organizations to bring funding to artists and cultural producers in the Global South, why not create some kind of alternative funding schemes that can also begin to put us on the map, and have that global cultural diplomacy conversation instead of these one-sided conversations that are always coming from Europe? So, why are we always waiting for them? Why can’t we also do something, like having Tutuola Institute working in Berlin and funding local German artists? So this was what gave birth to the idea of Tutuola Institute, and I went ahead with it. The only thing is that Tutuola Institute is not funded by the Government of Nigeria. 
I see a lot of myself in (Amos) Tutuola, as a person, maybe style of writing. I am so interested in him as a writer, and how he was able to make it to the level where his work is being discussed at the international front, and I think I see myself a lot in his unique position. That’s a way of letting you know how to do a lot of things; so, it was interesting for me to actually pick the name for the institute. 

This was a question that was asked a lot of times when I was in Berlin during the launch of Tutuola Institute. Well, it’s a visual arts project. Well, for now we don’t know where to go with the funding. I intend to start talking to people, because I actually would love to raise the funds for projects in Nigeria, and not getting money from any of these European institutions to fund an African institute that would function in their own country. I don’t think it makes sense. But then as it is now, I have to then go back to the drawing board and see how to start raising funds and see what to do in terms of projects. 
We are not going to start really big. I think by the first quarter of next year, we’ll start giving a series of lectures on programming and projects. Even if we can only fund a project with N50,000 or even if it is N20,000, I will do it. We just want to make sure we don’t want to go through the Global North for funding any more, that something can also be done here as well without their money. Without them funding projects here, we can also make things happen. We actually have an office in my community in Iwaya, Yaba, Lagos. We have a very small space, and we intend to take it to the next level. We have a library with a lot of books; we have a lot of vinyls (old form of holding music in records now CDs, DVDs, etc); we have a lot of old music from the 1970s and from the 1960s and late 1990s, and all of these we would like to make accessible to the public; so, we need a really big place.

Just like Goethe was also a philosopher and writer, and Goethe Institute is dealing with all kinds of cultural productions, the institute is out to promote our art. These foreign art and culture agencies are here to promote their languages and their cultures. The first time that I was ever given an opportunity to travel abroad, it was a visiting programme for me to go to Germany for a week to experience their system and culture, and that was what the programme was all about, and I left Lagos for Germany to learn about German culture, art system, language, and all that, to understand how things work. Like I said, it is a big art project, but then it can also have the other sides to it, because it’s been registered. We have a certificate and all the paperwork has been done.

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