Established in 2013, the Nlele Institute (TNI) is a Pan‐African, autonomous and non‐profit art photography organization. It exists as a cultural hub that enhances social cohesion through visual learning processes. We are recognized for our professionalism in the study and research of photography throughout Nigeria and the sub region. TNI makes use of all available resources (be it manual or digital) in executing programmes and projects that help create awareness and interest in photography
We also aim to detect and develop new talents predominantly in grassroots areas. By providing public access to photography and art education, we are able to adequately address the needs of underprivileged (or deprived) communities as they relate to financial inclusion, entrepreneurship, education, gender equality, digital technology and professional training.
TNI is a multiple-portfolio art organization that encompasses:
Our overall aim is to build viable and sustainable programmes and projects that are of benefit to everyone.
Photography in Nigeria over the last 20 years has gained international recognition, traversing national borders and making its way into mainstream international photography festivals and discourses. With representations at major art events like the Bamako Biennale, Paris Photo, Documenta and the Venice Art Biennale, photographers from Nigeria are measuring up with their contemporaries all over the world.
A large number of young artists use photography as a medium to express their views on contemporary issues that affect the society. Thus, emphasizing photography as a critical tool and language of expression in modern times.
Unfortunately, very few indigenous platforms exist in Nigeria with the objective of educating and promoting emerging artists alongside the eclectic mix of international artists. Recent figures that only about 12 out of 55 institutions in Nigeria offer courses in art and design. Some professional bodies try to identify brilliant artists and promote professionalism in art; however, there are a lot of inconsistencies in the programme curricular that exist in Nigeria.
To meet this need, TNI has collaborated with various organisations to create an enabling environment for education in photography as well as develop several high quality educational mentorships and programmes that give the desired visibility to emerging photographers in Nigeria. Our programmes are also used as platforms to provide training opportunities in art photography to address some of the barriers that exist in the implementation of effective formal educational strategy.
At the crux of each programme is the need to provide a platform for artists to develop their craft and expose their work to a wide audience. Our commitment to discover and develop talent in Nigeria has been designed around a three-tiered mission that reflects the structure of TNI. These programmes are not just interrelated and interdependent but above all augment and complement each other.
1) The Academy: Art Photography Education and Training
Launched in 2013, this platform provides technical and thematic aid for artists’ development processes. The workshops run once every quarter with a curriculum that covers basic, intermediate and advanced level courses for a period of 12 months on theory and practical/field work. Each curriculum level has an average of 20 participants over duration of 7 days with the aid of local and international facilitators. Participants are taught new concepts, techniques and how to apply the latest technologies in the production of their work. Creative and critical writing, portfolio presentation, dark room techniques, artificial light studio, daylight studio, suites for video, film editing, framing workshop for canvas, wood, glass, aluminum, dibond etc. and printmaking are a few of the topics that have been covered in the workshops. Participants are also encouraged to produce images that capture personal experiences and cultural identities from across Africa but yet unite national, regional and international stories. These workshops have been successfully carried out with organisations like The Market Theatre Foundation, South Africa, Centres of Learning for Photography in Africa (CLPA), Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten (Rijksakademie) and Goethe Institut Nigeria.
Agence France Presse (AFP) is currently working on setting up a training programme in Sub-Saharan Africa for journalists in several media (print, photography and video) and is prepared to partner with Nele institute for courses in Lagos.
At the end of each workshop, participants are presented with certificates and the opportunity to be in a group exhibition as part of the activities during FOTOPARTY Lagos. TNI trains an average of 75 emerging artists each year for the photography training workshops.
In February 2018, TNI initiated a five year mentorship programme to identify, train and promote a group of 25 young photographers in Nigeria. The programme focuses on the reflective aspect of photography through consistent engagement with the participants in a series of activities that emphasize on critical thinking, research & critical writing, visual storytelling, development of photography projects, exchange programs, participants (individual/group) seminar projects and portfolio reviews. The platform runs in through formal sessions, exhibitions and a publication and collaborations within Nigeria and across Africa in order to provide visibility for all the participants.
2) Art Residencies: Artists’ Development
This programme is designed to foster artistic, intellectual and professional development of photographers by offering working and living facilities that primarily serve their creativity. Our residency style encourages the artist to retreat, carry out research and produce their work whilst we provide studios, project spaces, mobility support, equipment, materials and a library for the designated period of their residency. We have successfully collaborated with other specialist faculties, visiting/guests artists, curators, art critics and international organizations to support and develop the future of creative professionals involved in contemporary photography in Africa. The residency is multi-fold (across the lens based media – photography, video, sound), curatorial practice and will operate from 1 (one) month to 3 (three) months.
3) Artists’ Representation, Promotion and Visibility
To democratize photography with key audience participation and to engender exposure in prominent and public spaces; In 2015 TNI established the Lagos OPEN RANGE festival and FOTOPARTY Lagos. Both project uses visual imagery (photography and video art), music and entertainment to engage the public and photography/video art enthusiasts in unique public spaces within and outside Lagos, Nigeria.
Our Mission & Audience Outreach
Our mission is to be the pre-eminent art photography training, development and resource centre in Nigeria. Our aim is that our programmes are as immersive as possible – we inspire our local community and the wider art community at large on photography as it is embodied in education, photojournalism, the exploration of historical and contemporary social issues, the sharing of cultural practices, and the promotion of social projects.
Our target group is wide ranging and inclusive, circa 17-55 years old extending from members of the local community, nationally, regionally, as well as international art audiences who we reach through travelling programmes and exhibitions. However, there are no age restrictions to participate in most of our programmes.
Within Lagos, we attract around 8,000 visitors through our Lagos OPEN RANGE platform, FOTOPARTY Lagos and other local satellite exhibitions with organizations such as Goethe-Institut and Video Art Network (VAN) Lagos. Our photography workshops and mentorship programmes also create key community engagement.
Nationally we reach audiences through media outlets including radio, TV, online and print, with a total estimated reach of 50 million. Internationally, we attract audiences through media attention both online and print, from publications such as the Centres of Learning for Photography in Africa (CLPA) Newsletter.