On Wednesday we start to round off preparations for the FotoClique event. By noon word has already gotten to us that the panellists are en route. Oluwamuyiwa Logo and Osahon Okodugha, are about four hours away from Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. We have not been able to talk to them all through their trip: their phones are off. We are excited. But soon, our excitement gave. The D-day keeps drawing near with every tick of the clock. And we are uncertain of what it holds.
Around 7pm we receive a call from Logo. He is just getting off the bus at General, Ilorin. Dr. Kehinde Kadiri breaks into a smile as she announces to us. Soon, we are heading out of the University of Ilorin campus in a party of three to pick our man up.
Adefowope is in charge of the wheels. He is a masters students at the Department of Mass Communication. I sit beside him, backing up when necessary, and Dr. Kadiri behind both of us. We chatter above the soft drone of the car. Ade revises items off our list to see what is yet done. When an item has been accomplished, Kadiri ticks the items off with her mouth: done it! She is following up Logo and also trying to reach Osahon to no avail. Picking up the two panellists are the only items on the list yet to be finalised. She says to us, she even wants to know who this Logo is; she wants to see what he looks like. Her anticipation heavy and ready to burst. All the while, Kiss Daniel’s Mama battles with our voices to fill the cabin.
When we hear from Logo again he is already at Challenge. Dr. Kadiri remarks that the young photographer is a weird person. He moves stealthily, like a ghost, one second he is here, and next, it is only opaque trail that is left—like shrivelling images on television. It is no wonder we had a tough time finding his photograph on the internet; he has no selfie on his social media or elsewhere. Well, except for one blurry photograph that makes him appear solemnised. Ironically, the man of picture does great job to overwhelm the internet with his works. Kiss Daniel’s high-keyed music is still droning from the speaker. The music stir up a particular thought in my mind. But I am not given to say it now.
Logo is standing near the Sterling Bank ATM terminal at Challenge. His face dropping low and peering into the screen of his phone; white rays washing softly over it. Kadiri had gotten off the car to look for him—she does not know what he looks like—but she wanted to be the first to see him and tell him: thank you for coming. Ade cuts his hand inwardly to where taxis carry fare from Challenge to the University Campus. The beam of our headlamps reach him warm on the face. He raises his head and catches my wave. I am sure he says something. But I cannot say what it is as she makes to take his hand. He recognises instantly that this is the enthusiastic voice he has been communicating with via phone over the past five months.
Dr. Kadiri introduces Adefowope to him. They exchange their pleased-to-meet-you. And we head towards the campus again.
“It is good to be in your town, finally.” Logo remarks, a small smile roaming his dark face.
FotoClique is not a desultory business. She had started planning for this event since June 2016. There were no resources: only purpose and the resolve to impact on the students; there was the can-do spirit, too. A vibe the students immediately imbibed from their first Photojournalism class.
After the idea of FotoClique was conceptualised, she started to preen it. It was going to be a photography exhibition. Fine. But what is it going to be like? She did not have a full picture in her mind’s eyes. She was researching ideas on how to package the event. She was sharing and telling people about the idea, too. There were people who fancied the idea of organising an exhibition for the students and there were people who thought the idea was balderdash.
She continued to talk about FotoClique with a pace that was defined and purpose-driven: never slowing down, never looking back to say can I still do this thing? With Instagram, she met Emmanuel Olayiwola, the first person who keyed into the idea. Zeal, as Olayiwola is popularly called, would later become part of the panellists.
By July she had already preened FotoClique. Or rather FotoClique had already preened itself off those bad feathers and dusts. One day Dr. Kadiri, K.K. asked:
“Do you know any photographer?”
I say what do we need that for?
“It’s good if we ask them about the exhibition and how it is done.”
Oh, that? Cool. But won’t it be better if we know this thing on our own first so we don’t look like dundees in their face?
“It’s true, o.” She sighed.
We were silent for a while. I kept staring at the Amygdalus communis tree in front of the faculty awning. K.K. ran her finger over her scarf and tapped the screen of her phone with the other. The air was casual. I felt at ease and at the same time unease, one, for her humble mien, two, for alerting her that we would probably look dumb if we communicate our ignorance to the photographers. Then she raised her eyes from her phone and said again, this time assuredly:
“We are bringing the photographers to speak at the event.”
Awesome! I thought.
The trouble now was to articulate FotoClique such that whomever we spoke to about it find reason to indulge us.
K.K. shuffled to her office and I followed at a close distance. She scribbled all the things we needed to do on a sticky note. By the next morning the FotoClique brief was ready. We went through it. And said no, we don’t need this, delete. She wrote. Then discard. Then wrote again. Then again and again. While she was writing, she was also speaking with people about the event. At this time, the event was yet to be named. But she had told the students that next session they would have a photojournalism experience that would stay with them forever. Their body is ready.
It was August before she finally took another major step. This time the over-peppered brief was emailed to one of these big-boys in the Nigerian photography scene and also one of these Nigerian companies for sponsorship. Every day, she would check her mail, expectantly, only old mails would greet her back: of course, and some spam messages from unruly websites. She would close the browser tab, before pulling off her playful purple eyeglasses and rubbing her eyes wearily with the back of her hands.
“These guys are not forthcoming, what do we do?”
Whenever she spoke about this her voice broke. She would pick her phone and scroll through her messages again, as if she had somehow missed it on her laptop browser, and as if to revalidate an evil that she had already been aware of.
The day one mail message arrived from the company, she clenched her fist in anticipation, and her chest heaved. At first she did not want to check. But she opened the thing anyways. Her heart sank. After all this while, the company representative only replied: “We are in a meeting.” And the big-boy photographer’s mail did not come back at all.
If anybody takes anything away from you, remember that you have the power to get another one even better than the one you lost; after all, is it not you who got the first one in the first place? Dr. Kadiri searched in the recess of her mind. And an alarm started tolling. She started to look at other places. It is from then that she realises that there is no scarcity of big-boys and girls.
Fatima Abubakar, the Bits of Borno curator, mailed back in the speed of light and assured her she would come. She broke the news with a high-five voice. As a result, the first photographer for the event was already secured. That same August she secured the appearance of Oluwamuyiwa Logo, the curator of Monochrome Lagos, a personality she would later find to be quaint in every artistic sense. She started to believe again.
By September the venue was secured. The event date was December 16th 2016.
K.K. was proactive. She had made predictions about a possible delay in resumption. For the event to be a success, school has to be in full session. It was in September she decided that it was best the event was moved to January 2017. But what? Venue was already secured for 16th December 2016. She hotfooted to the office of UNILORIN Property and Management Board (UPMB) to lobby for venue approval for the new date. 26th January was selected, but more trouble lurked, because she must to keep the panelists abreast of this new development.
Fatima Abubakar would have a very busy January and would not be able to make it to the event. But her support was immense, keeping in touch with Kadiri until the final moment of the event.
With Fatima Abubakar out of the event, FotoClique was already three panelists short. Back to square one. And so, the struggle to fill the void began again with more rejections from photographers and stifled finance and less time to get things in place. The possibility of the event still holding was now more than ever bleak. This was in October.
I am pointing out landmarks to Logo as we leave Challenge behind. The Kwara State Government House. Tanke Junction. Tipper Garage. Sanrab. He keeps nodding. Dr. Kadiri turns around from his sit and asks Logo: “Why is your hair full?” He laughs and says the hair is a result of “nonchalance” that has become part of him overtime. “How come there is only one photo of you online?” She queries him again, and this time he offers a profound explanation for his reluctance to put his picture online. He says that he wants people to concentrate on his works and not the person behind it. Because he believes that that is the only way people can assess his works without bias.
Osahon Okodugha is waiting for us in front of the senate building. Logo checks into his room at the Researchers’ Lodge and follows us to the senate building where Osahon is already waiting for us. We get to the venue at 9pm. Some of the students are looking fatigued from all the mounting and setting ups. They huddle on white plastic chairs. Their eyes, red with tiredness, travel about slowly. As we stroll into the Basement, the venue of the event, they rise on their feet and we start to introduce the guests to the students.
It is interesting how the introduction transforms to become a pre-event lecture. Osahon and Logo scan the already mounted photographs. It appears they are already picking out favourites, even when it is still thirteen (13) hours to the event. Logo, being the more outspoken one, speaks to the students about the importance of being consistent, and how serenity aids creativity, especially for photographers. Osahon echoes him and chips in two or three sentences when he can. The students, touched by the power and range of knowledge dropped by the professional photographers, listen with their ears, eyes, and minds open.
Dr. Kehinde Kadiri, the lecturer and coordinator of Photojournalism course at the Mass Communication department, UNILORIN, worried that the guests are exhausted from the long trip to the school, pleads that the panellists retire to their guestrooms. They will speak at the seminar on Thursday, the next day.
“Tomorrow will be fun for everyone.” Oluwamuyiwa Logor’ says. The students look on mesmerised as the panellists shuffle out of the Basement.
Written and compiled by Nauteeq
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