With her recently opened art hub in Lagos’s affluent Lekki neighbourhood, Sarah Sanni is intent on taking her art practice to a new level. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports.
Smack in the middle of a serene, mostly residential area of the upmarket Lekki Phase One neighbourhood, the Cera Cerni’s Art Hub is unobtrusively nestled someplace along a curving, crescent-like lane off Adewole Kuku Street, named Akintunde Adeyemi Street. The art hub, a brainchild and self-funded project of Cera Cerni – a Lagos-based mural and aerosol art Nigerian company, which specialises in all aspects of interior and exterior wall designs – had been in the works for a while.
Talking about the company, it is led by Sarah Adenike Sanni, a self-taught muralist who is undoubtedly Nigeria’s most well-known and sought-after female mural/aerosol artist. The 2010 University of Benin computer science graduate, who is known for her iconic, public and private murals, has always wished for a space dedicated to art education. To that end, she used the proceeds from her inspiring mural and art services to make this project a reality.
Long before the project’s eventual completion and seven-day launch from Friday, December 3 to Thursday, December 9, she had always thought that Lagos needed regularly-scheduled, moderately-priced, locally-located art instruction classes, available at various times of the day. “Existing venues,” she argues, “are either unable to serve a larger market segment, are membership groups, or are sideline businesses. The people of Lagos need more art instructional opportunities, especially ones focused and tailored to the interests, skill levels and time availabilities of different cadres of people.”
Furthermore, she believes that a megacity like Lagos could benefit from more recreational opportunities to relieve its residents from the energy-draining pace of its bustling life. This explains why the Cera Cerni’s Art Hub, despite being conceived as an art skills acquisition centre and an exhibition gallery, also positions itself as a go-to site for recreational painting and pottery sessions, which are free to the public all day.
Several street campaigns and media events had preceded its seven-day debut. And the fact that it began with an event called VIRAL: Technology Enabling Art is a nod to how much it has benefited from technology-based social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. This, she adds, is “aside from the fact that we apply ourselves diligently to our craft, we can comfortably link our growth with the enablement of these platforms to reach a wider range of customers, who later engaged our services.”
In addition to the seven permanent employees who handle day-to-day operations, the hub employs five ad hoc workers. As the visitor wends his way through the impressive facilities, he discovers a wonderland of round-the-clock recreational painting with finger foods and a glass of choice drinks on offer, as well as a dedicated recreational pottery session offering a unique hands-on experience. There are also skill-acquisition services, which include art instruction lessons at three levels of proficiency as well as bespoke and on-request-only pottery classes. Sanni describes art instruction as “infused with business and commercialisation training to equip students with tools for a successful career in art.”
For established artists looking to rent an ideal workspace to produce their artworks, the hub provides “Hot Easel” as one of its services. Then, on the upper floor of its duplex building, there is a dedicated exhibition space for artists and art-related businesses.
Still on the subject of renting spaces, other guests who aren’t necessarily organising art events can rent spaces within the venue for small gatherings and bespoke events.
Meanwhile, the hub’s mini-bar and restaurant are open to all paying clients regardless of whether or not they are participating in any of the hub’s events.
Despite its posh position in Lagos, it attracts customers from the city’s diverse demographics, which include both indigent and affluent children, young adults, corporate executives and retirees, as well as Lagos residents and visitors.
With sights set on becoming Nigeria’s leading art appreciation space, the Cera Cerni’s Art Hub bases its operational philosophy on the belief that “everyone has a modicum of creativity resident in them” and therefore is committed to providing a platform for both the expression and appreciation of this creativity in “an inspiring artistic and relaxing environment.”
Consequently, the supply of commercially viable art instruction services, the provision of viable income-generating alternatives for art enthusiasts, and the enhancement of employability and commercial preparedness of art students in Nigeria are listed among its goals and objectives. There is also the possibility of providing alternative recreation options for the teeming local youth population.
Back to its founder, Sanni, who long ago decided on a whim to forego the security of a salaried job in favour of the uncertainty of self-employment, she has come a long way in her full-time vocation that sees her transforming walls with delightful murals and graffiti and is known to have so far executed over 400 mural installations within and outside Nigeria to the satisfaction of her corporate, professional, and individual clientele. Top brands in Nigeria, including well-known corporations in the beverage, construction, telecoms, hospitality, education, food confectionery, and service industries, have commissioned her 2D and 3D paintings, abstract paintings, hyper-realistic paintings, and graffiti projects.
The hub, which was conceived in 2020 and opened in December 2021, is merely the latest in a long line of her inventive initiatives in the creative economy.