Art jumps out of the box in Lagos

Iwaya Community Art Festival
Nigeria (Lagos)

A festival in a coastline settlement in Lagos is challenging the notion of art in the white cube.

Iwaya Community Art Festival (ICAF Lagos), is a project conceived by the Vernacular Art-space Laboratory Foundation (VAL Foundation) to bring art closer to people who might not be able to afford to see standard exhibitions in galleries and museums.

The annual art festival was started in 2016 to help the youth shun violence and embrace art. Known to be troubled zone, the Iwaya community is full of  young people from challenged homes who drop out of school. This community art project acts as a way for young people to choose an alternative means of life through art.

The three days take place in alternative and abandoned spaces for site-specific installations and performances, making use of the streets in Iwaya’s community to stage alternative artistic interventions – such as live performances, photography, video art screening, workshops, panel discussion and sports.

ICAF Lagos is one of the numerous not-for-profit artistic inventions by the VAL Foundation, which was founded in 2014 by a group of Iwaya community literati led by self-taught artist Aderemi Adegbite.  He uses photography and video art as a tool to engage society, to question individual realities and truths.

On four different occasions, the project has been vandalised, all because some people want money, but he fights back.

The aim of the festival is to bring local, national and, where possible, international artists to Iwaya for dialogue and discourse through visual narratives and interventions that don’t conform to any presentational styles or rules.

In 2016 the festival was also titled ‘Confluence’, borrowing from the ideals of open access and creating equal opportunities according to a poetry anthology edited by Akeem Lasisi published by the Association of Nigerian Authors in 2005. Artists who participated included Nigerian photographer Adeola Olagunju, performance artist Yusuf Durodola, an accomplished painter best known for his work with recycled waste material and and MES 56 BOYS from Indonesia.

In 2017 the team called for works and artistic ideas from artists that explore issues in the area of spiritual, economical, sociological, ecological and marital dimensions of displacement/migration taking place both inside and outside of the African continent. In 2019 the theme was ‘Communal Re-imagination’. The 2019 edition of the festival will take place 1–8 December.

AtlasAction: ICAF Lagos is featured in: An African AtlasChart: 4 magical citizen initiatives.

Written by

Grigri Pixel/MediaLab-Prado (06 October 2017)


Medialab-Prado is a citizen laboratory of production, research and broadcasting of cultural projects that explores the forms of experimentation and collaborative learning that have emerged from digital networks. It is part of the Department of Culture and Sports of the Madrid City Council. GrigriPixel is a programme of residences, meetings and workshops on the manufacture of magical objects in urban spaces based on collaborative, artistic and digital manufacturing practices and strategies.

Project leader

Aderemi Adegbite, Multimedia artist and culture activist

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