Acclaimed author Igor Torony- Lalic recently published a column in which he decried norms bordering ‘reverse racism’ and specifically, wrote at length on the undertone of a new unequal union in the beautifully dystopian, ever-imperfect industry of art. “Short of chaining minorities to seats”, Mr. Torony-Lalic remarks on the subject, “…arts institutions couldn’t have done any more”.
It’s a bold stance (though admittedly part of a larger narrative which the author no doubt masterfully crafts); it is one that warrants attention and will likely garner interest and support. However, it is important to note that when forecasting the state of this union, longstanding inequalities do linger.
They deter not just a worthwhile education in the arts, but stifle the ambitions of those who feel that their gifts have been crafted and are, perhaps at a young age, ready for the prominent stage to showcase them. Born in West Africa and early in my life I believed that I wanted to be the best artist in the world.
In this light and with these ambitions in mind, I believe a refresher is seemingly needed on the current appetite of the industry internationally to promote artists from seemingly unique walks of life. Perhaps a barometer is required to gage exactly how level the playing field truly envisions itself to be in contemporary art and indeed culture, after so much ‘progress’ has been achieved.
Ageism, apparent in the discrimination of artists young and old, continues to halt the forward-trajectory of many talented individuals who dared to dream with the gifts they have been given and adamantly believe that their ideas are of equal merit.
They continue to reach for opportunities consistently denied to them, ever-climbing despite in some cases, a lack of traditional training and worse yet, the dreaded alibi for their inevitable disentitlement, ‘seasoning’. In Nigeria and around the world, sexism, as another example, is a cross-sectoral threat to budding genius and innovation.