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Lagos art fair tackles climate and culture

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A toddler on a bike and well-heeled women in bright African fabric tunics made their way past screens flashing infrared images of a dystopian future in which simulated plants and flowers replace the real thing destroyed by climate change.

They were among hundreds attending ART X, an annual fair in Lagos, Nigeria’s buzzing commercial capital, that hosted more than 120 artists from 40 African countries and the diaspora.

The fair’s theme “Who Will Gather Under the Baobab Tree?” aimed to tap into African wisdom to address problems from climate change to political crises.

“We wanted to leverage the art and creativity to address all the challenges that we saw in our society,” founder Tokini Peterside-Schwebig told Reuters.

Just beyond the fair, flooding has laid farmland to waste and displaced more than a million. Desertification has deepened conflict in Nigeria’s agriculturally rich middle belt. And elsewhere in Africa, drought has increased food insecurity.

Artists are seeking to assert their cultural identity by finding African solutions, they said at the fair that concluded on Sunday as African and other world leaders began meeting in Egypt for two weeks of United Nations talks to strive for global agreement on combating climate change.

“I think it’s very important to be given a platform here at home, so that people can first-hand feel your emotions, feel your anger, and all of the narratives that you’re driving at first… before it’s being exported to the outside world,” said Julius Agbaje, 30, who exhibited his paintings at the fair.

Ify Obi, 24, standing by her favorite piece – a giant woven design by Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor that threaded plastic rosaries onto lace to create images of traditional African leaders – said she most appreciated works that amplified African culture and African solutions.

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