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Why this entrepreneur was determined to launch West Africa’s first international arts fair

For creating Art X Lagos to celebrate contemporary Nigerian and pan-African work, Tokini Peterside is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

Why this entrepreneur was determined to launch West Africa’s first international arts fair
[Photo: Lakin Ogunbanwo]


On the day Art X Lagos, West Africa’s first international art fair, opens to the public, Tokini Peterside likes to hang out by herself and watch visitors explore the art. The entrepreneur launched the three-day event in 2016 to support Nigerian and pan-African artists and give curators, collectors, and the public better access to them. Last November, 8,000 people visited from 30 countries. The event also featured a music festival and a new prize for emerging artists.

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Fast Company: How did you decide to start this art fair?

Tokini Peterside: I’ve always wanted to contribute to reshaping how the world sees my city, Lagos; my country, Nigeria; and my continent, Africa. I fundamentally believe that it is through culture that this change can be achieved.

FC: Has the festival changed the way artists think about showing their work locally?

TP: One of the major reasons for launching the fair was to get more Nigerians and Africans collecting….We’re definitely seeing a lot more collecting happening—from a pan-African perspective as well. We have helped drum up a lot of that excitement….Collectors get to see and experience this.

FC: What motivated you to introduce the new prize last year?

TP: We thought it was important to support artists who would not ordinarily be brought into the fair by galleries. In Nigeria today, we don’t have many grants, residencies, or opportunities for these emerging artists. . . . It was exciting for us to introduce [someone like 2018 winner Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola] to a massive audience.

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FC: How do you see Art X Lagos growing in the future?

TP: One of the things we’re excited about is shaping Lagos as a cultural destination. There’s a lot happening in terms of music, fashion, film, and art, and the rest of the world doesn’t get to see that. . . . We want to use our networks to start attracting more people to our city [so that they can have] the true Lagos experience.

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About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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