MMA2: Adding arts to flying experience

Busy travelers don’t always have time to visit the artistic hotspots in the cities they pass through. But for culture vultures in a hurry, the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2), provides another way to experience quality artwork on the fly, writes, WOLE SHADARE


Hey, what are all those big fancy artworks doing in a corner of the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2)? Never mind,  there is a part of an exhibit to increase passengers’ travel experience and to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the airport terminal, regarded as the best-run airport terminal n Nigeria. It is a place where passengers can relax and enjoy an interactive exhibition.

Airports, by nature, are hectic, chaotic spaces, with planes jockeying for runway space as passengers file, seemingly endlessly, through lines and terminals.

In a world of perpetual motion, it’s easy to move with a greater focus on the destination than the airport itself, but as more and more airports integrate art into their terminals, it’s increasingly possible to stop and enjoy the airport/terminal itself before hopping on a jet.

Prominent displays of priceless masterpieces and contemporary craftsmanship are now a common feature of MMA2.

In these stressful traveling times, it is even more important to offer art experiences. Art can comfort and distract those anxious about traveling. It also creates a welcoming environment for the essential workers on the floor.

Like many airports these days, the one in MMA2 is full of art and cultural treasures that speak to the ability of the modern airport to transport both minds and people. There’s a growing number of airports where actual artworks are very much on display, and that’s by design.

This cultural initiative also allows MMA2  to up the ante when it comes to the level of services it offers while increasing its revenues.

As people come to the terminal, they will see these artworks. They will be witnessing the transformation of everyday objects that they are familiar with.

Sometimes airports install items that are representative of the destinations they actually serve: sections of ancient mosaics at Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport and a sampling of Dutch Masters’ paintings at Amsterdam’s Schiphol, for instance. Then there are times when airports go into a full-on art gallery/modern art museum mode.

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Beehives of activities

The MMA2 has the singular honour of being the only airport or terminal in Nigeria to have an art gallery and one that has been drawing art enthusiasts to the area as the section has become a beehive of activities for both travelers and enthusiasts who throng the area to catch a glimpse of artworks on display.

The Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) penultimate week moved the flying experience a notch higher by creating an Art Gallery and turning the terminal built 16 years ago into a complete or near complete airport facility.

Across the world, an ideal airport terminal has gone beyond just being a place where passengers are processed for travel. It has transformed become an edifice that houses several shops, malls, art galleries, and exhibition centres amongst others.

Nigeria is beginning to get in touch with the international transformation that has swept through airport terminals.

It was therefore with excitement that passengers welcomed the launch of a new art gallery put together by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), the operator of the Murtala Muhammad Airport Terminal Two (MMA2).

The art gallery has become a place where travellers meet arts, culture, and artifacts.

New passenger experience

The art gallery is expected to enhance the passenger experience at the terminal. The gallery has various compartments that would delight passengers.

There will be a normal component where we will sell art, interact with it and expose it to the people.

There will also be a place for collectors, but the most important as described by Bi-Courtney is to use the platform to celebrate Nigeria and encourage people.

Global standard

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The gallery, designed to enhance the standard of operation and passenger experience, features Nigerian arts and culture, promoting innovation and providing a platform for young artists to interact with art enthusiasts, Wale Babalakin, chairman of BASL said.

He noted the MMA2 terminal was designed to maintain global standards and provide seamless operations for passengers.

“The terminal was designed by top architects in the world, and the flow of the terminal makes it easy for passengers to operate seamlessly,” he said.

“The design was a major assignment; we didn’t just start building. We sat down with the best architects in the world to design a terminal that will have the flow. It is the flow that has made it easy for you to operate here,” he continued.

“You can see the link between the car park and the terminal, so you’re not going through a disjointed journey because you want to travel. You can see that from when you come up the escalator, it’s a seamless process till you board the plane,” Babalakin said.

He also stated the establishment of the art gallery at MMA2 reflects BASL’s commitment to showcasing Nigerian art and culture, fostering innovation, and providing a platform for emerging artists to engage with art enthusiasts and experts.

Experts’ views

Describing the gallery as the parlour of the airport, Wilson Agu, manager of the Art Gallery said the gallery is expected to be a projector of Nigerian cultures.

This is to have a platform where art can live, thrive and interact with people,” Agu said.

“Art can make a space feel more human,” says Adewole Jobs who was one of the guests at the MMA2 for the launch of MMA2 Arts Gallery.

“It can evoke emotions and provide something that is often overlooked in large spaces such as airports.”

According to him, some airports dedicate permanent space to exhibits within their walls, integrating art as part of the airport’s design.

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Memory lane

In the early hours of May 10, 2000, the domestic airport of the Murtala Muhammed Airport went into flames and all efforts by the firefighters to save the airport from the unprecedented and wide-scale destruction proved abortive. Thankfully, no life was lost in the incident. The domestic terminal had been built in the pre-independent era and before the construction of the International terminal to cater to both international and regional flights.

Following the inferno, the Federal Government made a decision to redevelop the Airport using private-sector investment under a Public-Private Partnership Scheme.

The plan completely transferred all development and operating risks to the private sector specifically on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement. Bi-Courtney Limited, the parent company of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, was in 2003 awarded the concession by the Federal Government of Nigeria to design, build and operate the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos Domestic Terminal, and ancillary facilities on a land area of 20,000m2.

The project comprises an Airport Terminal Building, a multi-storey car park, and an apron. Bi-Courtney Limited set out to work promptly with the goal of building a world-class Airport Terminal that will be the pride of Nigerians and promote Lagos as a major hub in Africa.

Catering to more than three million passengers and connecting over 15 destinations, MMA2 is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most important transport hubs. It’s also one of Nigeria’s best airports, with the sheer number of shops, restaurants, and amenities within the airport alone.

MMA2 airport terminal, Lagos

Last line

The terminal was commissioned on April 7, 2007, and flight operations commenced on 7 May 2007. Presently, MMA2 is the first BOT project of its magnitude in the area of infrastructure development which was completed successfully by a Nigerian company.

Wole Shadare