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Contours News West Africa

Welcome, Derin Ajao

Get to know our new colleague

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We are thrilled to introduce our new colleague Aderinsola Ajao, who joins Pro Helvetia Johannesburg in the role of Programme Manager for West Africa. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Derin will engage and develop new partnerships and programming in the urban centres of Lagos, Accra, Dakar, Bamako, Ouagadougou and Abidjan, and their surrounding arts ecosystems, and play a facilitating role for Swiss connection in this region.

Since 2020, our office has been exploring a decentralised way or working with team members located in urban centres in Southern, East and West Africa to support the strengthening and deepening of networks in these regions. Within the framework of our CONTOURS programme, we look to engage with dynamic art scenes across the continent working with and through local partners around the realisation of projects concerned with artistic and professional exchange and collaboration, and the presentation of significant work, often emerging from collaborations.


Aderinsola Ajao has over fifteen years’ experience spanning journalism, academia and arts administration. She was previously Programme Officer at Goethe-Institut Nigeria, and is currently on the editorial committee of Awotele, a bilingual pan-African screen journal. Her writing has appeared – in English and in translation – in publications including Chimurenga, Africiné, Awotele, The Notebook, Glänta, The Sun, and La Furia Umana. She holds a first degree in Dramatic Arts and has organised programmes across creative genres and formats, while continuing to facilitate research and collaborations between Nigerian and international cultural agents. Derin is interested in structures that support and promote innovation, exhibition, preservation, production, and critical discourse in the creative and cultural industries. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where she also organises Screen Out Loud, an independent cinema programme, in partnership with Alliance Française Lagos.

What do you enjoy about organising programmes and facilitating collaborations?

…the spark of creativity that is ignited and enabled during artistic encounters. I also enjoy the thrill and anticipation that accompanies each encounter or programme from concept development through to completion. To be reminded much later that subsequent collaborations or projects have also been borne out of that initial or singular encounter is an invaluable reward.

What’s happening in the West African arts scene now that you’re excited about?

I would say I’m excited about everything. Cross-genre collaborations; multimedia form(at)s of expression and the ever-active consciousness that art need not be aesthetically separated from social realities nor restricted within the boundaries of a specific genre in order for it to be valid. I also find the immense possibilities in the digital realm intriguing, and I am amazed by how many more artist-led initiatives are being established to develop, promote, and support up-and-coming practitioners via trainings, residencies etc.

Can you share any hopes or intentions that you’re looking forward to bringing into this new role?

I intend to fulfil the requirements of my contract (laughs). On a serious note, I’m hoping that a broader variety of artists and initiatives in West and Central Africa will be able to access Pro Helvetia support towards creating exciting and impactful work and equally supporting critical engagement of arts in the region. My colleagues have been doing excellent work facilitating cultural exchanges and artistic interactions between the Sub-Sahara region and the Swiss arts scene, and I’m excited to be joining them on that mission.

Upcoming maintenance work

The application portal myprohelvetia will be updated from 1.1.-7.1.2024. Due to these changes, open applications must be finalized and submitted via the current online portal (myprohelvetia.ch) by the latest 23:59 on 31 December 2023. Until this date, the deadlines and criteria outlined in the current guidelines and calls for applications apply. New applications can be created and submitted in the application portal as of 8 January 2024.