I have always wanted to own paintings by an artist whom I will call Dom (for this write-up). Like several contemporary artists who are putting Nigeria on the visual arts world map, his works stand out and capture your attention. His colourful, fractured faces series using geometric shapes, super-imposed on the human form is nothing short of exceptional. But they cost a pretty penny and it comes with the territory. This one day, I was at a small art gallery to frame a new acquisition and I saw work that looked like Dom’s sitting at the corner like it was just brought in. It did not have the fine details in its finishing like I thought it should, coming from Dom. I asked the lady attending to me for the price. The amount she said immediately aroused suspicion. She then told me it was a knock-off. I made it clear to her I was not interested in such.
Just then, a gentleman walked in and the staff of the gallery greeted him with a lot of warmth. Seeing him dressed in polo shirt and jeans on a working day, told me he was a creative who controlled his own time. I said hello and the local curator told me, “Ehen, this is Mr. Dom whose artwork you have been asking us about”. Oh, OK. Pleasantries and compliments follow. I told him about the drama with the knock-off. He took one look at it and said with all equanimity, “Oh, I know about this young man. He goes about copying my work. I hear he is now based in Abuja. Don’t mind him”. I ask him why he does not go after the guy and he just shrugged and said “Our market is different. Those who buy my work will never speak with him or his types. So, let him enjoy…How many of them can I run after?”. I did not ask him what he felt about the gallery carrying the fake work, as I found it abnormal.
Now that is Dom, an accomplished artist with a lot of clout at the upper segment of the Nigerian art market, speaking. What about the up and coming who still get the product of their imagination and grueling effort, stolen by copycats and fakers? I am sure they will not share in his disposition. The music sector and Nollywood are some of the new areas where these fakers have now fully camped. We grew up seeing books from Onwubiko, Achebe, Soyinka and other writers, get faked and mass reprinted without permission in the 80s and 90s. Appropriate legislation did not come into being until much later. Even then, the enforcement leaves much to be desired.
Reading about Segun Adeniyi’s recent predicament at the hands of hackers, who broke the codes of his latest book’s – Against the Run of Play – online version and their accomplices who are indiscriminately sharing the book across different platforms, I am concerned for the future of the creative arts in Nigeria. What people should know is that piracy has the indirect effect of demotivating creativity. We will eventually see a reduction in the output from this sector and all of us will be the most affected. No one wants to be the monkey that works while several unknown baboons eat up their profits.
Do not receive or share what you did not properly purchase. It is stealing. Period!