"The strange thing about Africa is how past, present and future come together in a kind of rough jazz, if you like"
- Ben Okri, Poet and Novelist
The title is a play on the word Powerless - meaning to be helpless or to be without electricity. This project is foremost about documentation of the challenges and realities facing Africans in the present (with Nigeria as my focal point and electricity generation as my takeoff point) with the knowledge that as artists we have to observe and show to others so as to add our opinions as well as our part in adding to the discourse on topical issues in our societies. On another layer it aims to show the resilience of Africans and how we would always evolve and adapt to new and severe challenges. And then to show that these challenges, especially in the power sector, needs to be surmounted to pave way for a future that is considerate, fair and just to all Africans, creating equal opportunities in the process.
This documentary project, based on sound and photography, aims to show the current state of the nation with the incessant and unpredictable power cuts, poor electricity distribution and conscious (and unconscious) disregard for climate change through photographs made during Periods of Power cuts in Lagos and Sound Art made from Small Power Generator noise. Towards the end of the 19th century in 1898, 15 years after its introduction in England, Nigeria got its first power plant in Marina, Lagos. 118 years later, after numerous laws and ‘roadmaps for the power sector reforms’ initiatives, the Senate declared that “there is no hope for Nigeria” (Vanguard, 25 May 2017) in the power sector.
Power cuts in Nigeria are at a critical stage with only about 40% of the people connected to the energy grid but yet it is hardly available. Needing about 10000mw but only able to produce below 4000mw, the shortage of electricity has lead to the over-use of generators for energy and wood fuel as an alternative. It is estimated that about 30% of energy is produced in this manner. 3 of 4 resources used for energy production in Nigeria are linked with increasing greenhouse gas emissions: coal, oil and natural gas, with coal the worst. Currently the only plan the government has in place to help solve the energy crisis is to expand the fossil fuel burning sector without consideration for the climate. At the moment, 2017, the Government of Nigeria is seeking $5.2 billion from the World Bank to expand the country’s electricity generation according to the Minister of Power Raji Fashola.
With challenges ranging from the Niger Delta crisis and kidnapping to bribery, corruption, mismanagement and poor maintenance culture to absence of research & development as well as diversification of generating systems, an end to the problems faced is not in sight. However, it’s important to note that the sufficient and consistent supply of electricity to residents is the foundation of genuine socio-economic development of a country and it’s unavailability, thereof, is the opposite. This is 2017 and epileptic and inconsistent state of power distribution has not changed or improved.