Dr Roberta Comunian and Lauren England
In April 2019 we undertook an intensive week of fieldwork in Lagos (Nigeria) as part of an AHRC funded research network “Understanding and Supporting Creative Economies in Africa: Education, Networks And Policy”.
In line with the Highlight Notice and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to build collaborations across a range of countries which receive Official Development Assistance (ODA), the research network aims to connect and mobilise different communities, including academics, practitioners in the creative/cultural sector and cultural and creative policy bodies. It aims to develop a better understanding of creative economies in emerging African countries and to explore strategies to encourage and enable sustainable context-specific cultural, social and economic development. It also provides a platform for academics, creative practitioners, and policy and network bodies to reflect on their work and practice in relation to creative economies in Africa. The network will involve the fieldwork in Nigeria (Lagos) as well as Cape Town (South Africa) and Kenya (Nairobi).
Within the broader agenda of the research network, we specifically decided to focus our research and engagement on one key area of research: the work of creative intermediaries. We have developed a working definition of creative intermediaries which aims to distinguish the term from cultural intermediaries. Here we define creative intermediaries as being engaged with the business practices and sustainability of creative individuals, rather the content of their creative endeavour.
During the fieldwork in Lagos we concentrated our investigation in three contexts: co-working spaces in Lagos, the University of Lagos and a focus group/forum amongst creative intermediaries in collaboration with Hatch Africa and British Council Nigeria.
Co-working spaces in Lagos
We managed to interview directors or managers of 6 co-working spaces in Lagos during our stay. We previously mapped these spaces and found Lagos to be an emerging hot-spot for freelancing and creative work as well as for general spaces to support entrepreneurial start-ups. We found co-working space managers very involved in and informed about the creative economy – we were struck by the fact that many of them were moved to start in the sector from international experiences, having studied in the UK or USA and also motivated by the lack of space that they themselves experienced when starting to work in Lagos after their studies.
Creative economy and the university: a case study of the University of Lagos
We spent a day at the University of Lagos, Department of Creative Arts and organised a local workshop with academics there to discuss the work and practices in relation to the creative economy. We had the chance to hear from local policymakers and international organisations such as the British Council to understand how the policy sector could benefit from stronger connections with creative industries research. We also discussed connections with the university sector and the Department of Creative Arts’ involvement with local arts and creativity. We especially enjoyed a visit to the art gallery of the department – a new space specifically established to share the Department’s artistic practice with others. You can read more about the event here.
Creative intermediaries: Lagos forum
Finally, we organised a forum/focus groups specifically for creative intermediaries – across a range of fields from fashion, to music and dance. The attendees, around 20, discussed their work passionately and highlighted the DIY nature of creative industries and creative industries support in Nigeria. They highlighted a general distrust towards policy and any policy intervention, but also the importance of CCIs working together across the supply chain and more strategically. They presented the tendency of creatives in Lagos – due to policy and work isolation – to create unsustainable portfolio careers, where the designer is also the marketing person, the accountant and the producer. It was reflected that this limited space for real creativity to emerge locally, nationally and internationally. You can read the full report of the event here.
The fieldwork in Lagos was an exciting first opportunity to research the creative economy and its dynamics in African countries. We look forward to more fieldwork in Cape Town (June 2019) and Nairobi (September 2019). To keep up to date with the network and our activities, please visit the project website blog.