New Patrons

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The New Patrons
of Zaria, Nigeria

Facade in Zaria

© Neue Auftraggeber

New facade for a city gate

Patrons: Magajin Garin Zazzau (Mayor of the city of Zaria) and representatives of local communities,

Commission: We want to commission a work of art that manifests how our cherished traditions combine with the progressive spirit of our culture at the beginning of the 21st century.

Mediators: Mudi Yahaya, Alexander Koch,

Artists: L'atlas,

Cooperation Partners and Sponsors: Goethe Institut Lagos,

Duration: 2015 – 2017

There are situations in which a project cannot be continued despite high urgency due to external circumstances. In Zaria, tensions around destructive movements such as Boko Haram prevent the implementation of a mission to counter the destructive forces of the region with an awareness of Zaria's cultural and scientific achievements.

Zaria is an important historical and contemporary city in the centre of northern Nigeria. Its long tradition as a spiritual centre with one of the oldest Islamic universities in North Africa shapes a proud and culturally rich community, politically represented by the Lord Mayor Magajin Garin Zazzau. As the educational center of the Northern States, the city has university institutes for education, economic and social studies, administration and health, agricultural research, as well as a training center for civil aviation and a branch of the Katsina College of Arts, Science, and Technology. There is a school of fine arts and a school of pharmacy.

However, Zaria's public perception in recent years has been dominated by the political tensions in northern Nigeria and the violent and destructive movements in the region, notably Boko Haram. The citizens of Zaira regret that this has led to the recognition of their rich and peaceful culture being forgotten and to a dwindling awareness of their progressive and open-minded society.

For this reason, the New Patrons of Zaria would like to commission a work of art that is capable of underlining Zaria's modern identity at the beginning of the 21st century with a progressive symbol.

The most significant and visible manifestation of Zaria's culture are the ornamental facades and interiors in the old town. Highly qualified artists and craftsmen have created magnificent wall reliefs over the centuries. Famous are the eight city gates, some of which are particularly richly decorated.

The commissioning group proposes to make one of these historic gates available for a redesign by a contemporary artist.

After research, the mediator Mahammodu Yahaya, whose family is themselves from the region, proposes the French artist Jules Dedet Granel aka L'Atlas. He has studied calligraphy in various countries and cultures and has thus found his own written form, which finds expression above all in public spaces. He became known as a street artist for his painted facades and monumental performances, which he often realizes in historical places.

Graffiti by L'Atlas in Straßburg

An invitation by the mediator and the commissioning group to L'Atlas to begin a joint discussion on site and to visit possible sites for a public artistic intervention failed for months due to the security situation in the region, which did not allow the artist to travel. At the same time, the priorities of the commissioning group shift to existential questions of their everyday life. Finally, the decision is made not to pursue the project any further.

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