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Revivifying Cultural Life in Apapa

Revivifying Cultural Life in Apapa

The first encounter with the founder of Q-Gallery in Apapa, Princess Juliana Edewor was heartwarming- a sincere smile arising from a sincere heart to cause a stir in the once-lively cultural hub, Apapa. This side of Lagos which has been on the blacklist of many who had suffered agonising traffic caused by mismanaged tankers is now the home of a beautiful cultural centre comprising a restaurant, interior design space, bar and a sprawling art gallery. At the VIP opening of its on-going show titled ‘Five Solos’ that features six artists, Yinka Olatunbosun engaged in an exciting conversation with the art collector – sometimes slipping out of the typical Q&A into a friendly chat.


I had worked on Creek Road for many years and it’s a surprise to me that I had never heard of any gallery like this through the years. How did that happen?

The gallery is actually new. I am an art collector and I have been collecting art since I was 13. I have a very vast collection of art. Apapa used to be the centre of Lagos in terms of entertainment, culture and all. I could remember years ago at Ajorin market I bought drawings of Uche Okeke in one of the little shops belonging to the Mallams to show you how important that Apapa was. Then people started to emigrate from Apapa to other areas because of the congested due to the tank farms in the area. I have a tropical garden which I have cultivated and nurtured for the past 25 years. I said ‘Where will I emigrate to? Why should I leave my environment? I did not. I do not and will not blame anyone for leaving. It was hell living here. I am an interior designer. And I had my restaurant Chardonnay on the island. I wanted something here in Apapa. Then I thought why not have a gallery. We need to enjoy some kind of culture within Apapa. There were no galleries and no top restaurants. I decided to create a cultural centre and so, that’s how this place evolved.

Within this complex, we have the restaurant, bar, the interior and the gallery. Our first show was few months ago. It was a big success and you know, so completely different from this one. different in a sense that we had a solo artist and I wasn’t here. I left it to my staff and management while I was away in England. This is the one that I have curated directly from start to finish and decided on the artist and what I want done.

A view of some paintings at the gallery

What direction do you have for this gallery? What are the kind of works or artists that you would like to represent?

The direction is for up-and-coming artist with the focus on women- female artists. I welcome other artists but at the same time, I am going to push women. Very few women are actually up there. Of course, you have the Peju Alatise of this world, a highly talented artist. We have Juliet Ezenwa Pearce and so many others. we are beastly as women because we have to struggle to achieve what we want. I am truly focusing on women.

Is there a theme for this exhibition?

There is no particular theme for the show. initially when I started this particular exhibition, I wanted landscape artists because the trend at the moment is towards the figurative. But sadly, I put all the landscape artists together and I wanted female landscape artists. I had just two. Fortunately, I encouraged Juliet Ezenwa Pearce to bring something and she brought me abstract non-figurative works for this exhibition.

How do you feel about this show so far?

Yinka, you have to tell me. I feel good. I woke up 7:30am. We have such a limited time. It was raining and I knew I had to come and help because we had to paint and get the space ready. I am happy with it. I hope I have done a good job curating.

I didn’t want to come to Apapa for this show. But then I sat down and thought that whoever thought of having a show in Apapa must be-

Yes, people thought that I am completely crazy. (laughs). This building was a dump. It was deserted. I took it over. It took all my money and six years to put it together and friends would come. Prof Ebun Clark called me and said, “Initially I thought that you were crazy. But I know you are not. You are the only one who actually thinks like a westerner. You know exactly where you are going and you are going to achieve it.

You must have had people who discouraged you especially with the Apapa factor?

Well, they did. But in fairness, I had a lot of support from some of my old friends. I had in my showrooms art works that I used for interior design work and when they heard about the closure of the restaurant on the island- despite the fact that I still had a showroom on Glover Road, I saw them coming by boat. That is the boat club. (pointing towards the boat club opposite the building). Most of my customers at the restaurant are not from Apapa. They just wanted to come and experience my restaurant and the space and I have been blessed. So many of my friends- you know Ambassador Nimi Akinkugbe she came to Nigeria and her son said Aunty Juliet has started Chardonnay in Apapa. She got onto a boat and came for lunch.

It gives me a lot of pleasure being in Apapa and doing this. Eventually, people will see other sides of Apapa. As I told some artists, as a landscape artist – I would expect you to paint the tankers in Apapa and show the suffering that we are going through. It is quite political, you know. Please, show the world what we are experiencing and then later, you can come and experience our private gardens. Apapa has some beautiful gardens- privately owned.

Would you say owned mostly by retirees?

No. I started my garden when I was in my 20s. if you are into horticulture, you just have to do it. I am still continuing.

I love gardening too. And I had been moving homes. On the last move, I couldn’t leave with my plants because they were firmly rooted to the ground.

You have to start potted garden. Everything in the pot. When you move, you move them like your furniture. You move everything with you. I don’t have land. I have the balconies that had been created.

What was the first attraction for you then when you started ever before the clamour for green living?

You know, I went to school in Ireland and obviously- even here I was at a convent. We were all nuns. We had to grow with the Irish nuns. We had roses, gardens and I learnt to garden and bake at school. I then I moved from Warri to Dublin and my school was beautiful. The garden there- if you are under your period –just go for a long walk in the gardens. No painkillers.  Just go for long walks through the garden. Long treks. Relax. That was then. In terms for horticultural flower arrangement, it had to do with my late uncle. At the age of 15, he taught me how to arrange flowers and the flower designs concept was the Japanese. And then you visit parks in London, and you wish your place looks like those. I grow indigenous plants but that concept of western and eastern garden I fused with the African plants and horticulture. When I visited Cape Town, post-Apartheid …oh my God, a lot of inspiration from different cultures.

Also growing up, my mother was a gardener. Even though she was a lawyer, we had wonderful hibiscus and other flowers in the garden. She grew a lot of fruits and vegetables which I have not been able to do. I have a lot of herbs- basil, Tyme, peppers and tomatoes (smiles)


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