Saturday, 16 August 2014

Abroad, 20th century African collection shines, may strengthen west’s theory


By Tajudeen Sowole

A vast collection of African cultural and religious objects, mostly of West African origin, which opened a week ago and currently showing at Maryhill Museum of Art, Washington, U.S. may inspire a revisit of perception and legitimacy about African creativity.

Known as ‘African Art from the Mary Johnston Collection’, and said to be numbering about 90 with provenance dated to 20th century, the works may further blur the line – from the west’s perspective - between cultural objects of native African origin and the continent's modern and contemporary art.

Yoruba (Nigeria), Egungun funeral bowl, 20th century, 22” x 13” x 13”, carved and painted wood, a collection of Mary Johnston.


The content of the exhibition was inherited from Fred W. Welty, Johnston’s older brother.

While the collection has not yet been linked to any known illegal exports from the countries of origin, it would be of interest to probe or question such a large collection in the possession of an individual. Also, given its 20th century provenance, the exhibition could strengthen a section of the west's erroneous perception of modern and contemporary African art.  

According to a press statement posted on the Maryhill Museum website, the exhibition includes masks, sculptures and other objects from peoples such as the Yoruba (Southwest Nigeria/Republic of Benin), Bambara and Dogon (Mali),  Bobo (Burkina Faso), Senufo and Baule (Ivory Coast), Ashanti (Ghana), Idoma and Ejagham (North West Nigeria), and the Bamileke (Cameroon).

However, the common factor between the Mary Johnston African art collection and some looted cultural objects of Nigerian origin is the German link. Welty, according to Maryhill Museum, acquired his African art collection from Germany, except only one said to have been given to him as a gift in Abeokuta, (parts of the defunct Western Region) now in modern day Ogun State. Welty was in Nigeria from 1960–1964, during the period he wrote a variety of articles about psychology and psychiatry. Sources on the Mary Johnston Collection agree that Welty "helped raise money for Nigeria’s first psychiatric clinic." And in appreciating his contribution, he was "presented with an eight-foot-tall carved wooden house-post adorned with Yoruba religious imagery and fertility figures."

From the looted Benin works to several other objects of African cultural origin, Germany was a transit at which most of the works were sold to other Europeans and American buyers. For example, the controversial 28 Benin bronzes and two ivories donated to the Museum of Fine Art, Boston (MFA) U.S., by Robert Owen Lehman, the heir to the collection of Philip Lehman, were acquired from Europe, most likely Germany. Despite the request by the Benin monarch and Nigeria's museum authority, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) for the return of the objects, MFA went ahead to open a gallery for the collection. But last year, the MFA seemed to have gained a legitimacy of the collection when a section of the Benin royal house endorsed the acquisition by taking a large "representation" of the Oba to the opening of the Benin Gallery in Boston where the works are currently on display. The delegation was however disclaimed by Prince Edun Kenzua, the brother of the current Oba.

Beyond controversy that may trail the acquisition of the Mary Johnston collection, the educational and historic values of the exhibition appears more important, at least for now. “This is the first exhibition of African Art to be presented at Maryhill,” states Colleen Schafroth, executive director at the museum. “We are looking forward to giving residents of the Gorge and southeast Washington an opportunity to explore the fascinating cultural and artistic traditions represented in the exhibition.”

Maryhill Museum hopes that the educational programmes of the exhibition will give visitors an opportunity to know more about African arts and culture.

The collection is described as having "works by unknown Yoruba artists make one third," of the entire pool.

Traditional African sculpture, the museum notes, "is central to tribal life and thought." Viewed via reproduced images posted online, the collection suggests that the area of interest, depicted by the unknown creators of the objects include chests, stools, headrests, walking sticks, pulleys, combs, dolls, and spoons, as well as figure sculptures in tribute to kings and chiefs.  For example, a three figure sculpture, Egungun Funeral Bowl, of Yoruba origin depicts two Ifa priests and one masquerade standing over a figure of a supposedly dead body waiting to be interred.

Also, comes a wild life study from the perspective of the Bobo people of Mali and Burkina Faso. It's a mask in painted wood titled Antelope Mask.

From the perspective of 20th century African art, the Mary Johnston Collection at Maryhill Museum comes with the possibility of sustaining west’s flawed perception of creative strength of modern and contemporary artists of the continent. The increasing presence of works created by na├»ve craftsmen and ritual priests of African origins in the mass media and museums of Europe and the U.S keeps blurring the line between cultural/religious objects and modern/contemporary art of the continent. Visitors to Maryhill Museums are not likely to know, for example that as at the time of the reign of great portrait artists of Europe and America, pioneer Nigerian artist, Aina Onabolu (1882-1963) was painting portraits that could not be pushed aside in the league of global art of that period. In fact Onabolu predates great American portrait artist, Andy Warhol (1928- 1987).      

As cultural and religious reference - not exactly African art of the 20th century- the Mary Johnston African Collection offers valid knowledge in dying cultural values of the people. "Some objects are made for home altars and village shrines, while various types of masks are intended to be worn during initiation rites, harvest festivals, religious ceremonies, funerals, and masquerades," the museum states.

The exhibition is produced with curatorial assistance from the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University and sponsored by Laura and John Cheney.

Contemporary African Art Fair expands scope in second edition


By Tajudeen Sowole

When art dealers, artists and collectors as well as other enthusiasts converge for the second edition of ‘1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair’ holding at the East and West Wings of Somerset Housein, London, U.K. from October 16 -19, 2014, about 30 galleries from nearly nine countries will expand the scope of appreciation of African art.

Last year, ‘1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair’ made its debut with less number of participants. Perhaps, it's too early in a second edition to score the yearly gathering, but the organisers, in a press statement describes it as "Europe’s leading international fair dedicated to contemporary African art."



An installation from 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair
Strategically holding during the popular and well established Frieze Week, the organisers hope to tap from the increasing popularity of contemporary African art and "present a rare opportunity to explore the rapidly emerging African art market in an environment supported by some of the most influential people and organisations in the art world."

Like most fairs, the content is as diverse as including painting, sculpture, photography and installation art. Enhancing the presentation of contents at the fair is the input of RA Projects, an award-winning architecture and design studio established in 2009 by architect Rashid Ali. The studio was chosen for its impressive credits, which include being  recognised for building projects as well as research activities. The studio was shortlisted for the prestigious Young Architect of the Year Award in 2008 and 2011.
 Some of the of participating galleries include Art21 and Centre for 0ontemporary Art (Lagos), Whatiftheworld (Cape Town), SMAC Art Gallery (Cape Town), Afronova (Johannesburg), Knight Webb Gallery Purdy Hicks Gallery (London), Selma Feriani Gallery (London), Primo Marella Gallery (Milan), Taymour Grahne (New York), Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris), (S)ITOR/Sitor Senghor (Paris) and Voice Gallery (Marrakech).

Touria El Glaoui, the founder of 1:54 Contemporary recalls how the debut edition was encouraging. "The response to 1:54 has been incredible and it gives me great pleasure to increase the magnitude of the fair this year."

She hopes that with continued support from individuals and organisations, the 2014 edition "is set to be even more influential in encouraging the growth of contemporary African art in the international market place." She argues that the fair offers visitors the opportunity "to experience and engage with contemporary art by both established African artists and with the rising talent from across the continent and the Diaspora."

El Glaoui, disclosed that 1:54 of 2014 will expand, featuring artists,  "each of the highest calibre." She adds: "we aim to act as a catalyst for generating momentum in this exciting emerging market.”

The educational programme of 1:54 will be accompanied by what the organisers describe as "a critical conversations series." It will be curated by Koyo Kouoh, Director, Raw Material Company, Dakar, Senegal, "The extensive programme will once again aim to stimulate discussion and debate with some of the art world’s most inspirational thinkers." Features of the programme include lectures, artist talks, film screenings and panel discussions presented by international curators, artists and leading experts in the field.

“The discussion section include "the current trajectory of contemporary African art production and practice in a global context, and explore modes of existing, retrospective and theoretical artistic practice".

Friday, 15 August 2014

Ogunbiyi's Nightmare of kidnapped-Chibok girls, state of education


By Tajudeen Sowole

Despite the distraction created by the money allegedly given to the parents of the kidnapped-Chibok schoolgirls by the Federal Government, concerns over the fate of the girls keep spreading. This is the thrust of the artist, Temitayo Ogunbiyi in his visual rendering. 

Inside the top floor of Kongi's Harvest Gallery, Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Ogunbiyi's solo effort titled A Nightmare's Daydreams - prints, sculpture and collage - is not exactly a direct BringBackOurGirls campaign theme.

Caption: ‘Fueling the American Table’ by Temitayo Ogunbiyi
Currently showing till Sunday, August 17, 2014, the works go steps further to raise issues over the endangered girl child education in the increasingly volatile part of North east of Nigeria. Ogunbiyi, a conceptual artist who works mostly in reproduced images on fabric as well as collage and delves in issue-based themes, is not a regular commercial artist. Trained at Princeton and Columbia Universities in the U.S, she is barely four years old in practice in Nigeria after a debut solo titled Broken Weaves held at Terra Kulture Victoria Island, Lagos, in 2010. 

Cut outs of drawings as well as some painterly images on fabrics and canvas, supported with sculptures of boxes or classroom  "desks", contextualise Ogunbiyi's thoughts on what she describes as the nightmares that the Chibok girls kidnap has brought. "The situation of the kidnapped girls and the current state of Nigeria are like nightmares," she explains to one of the two guests during a visit to the gallery. The state of education, which she notes as endangered “is the Daydreams in the Nigerian context." 

This much oozes in one of the works, ‘Happy Dream House Dreamt from a Desk’, 2014. Work such as ‘Fueling the American Table’, (2014), and ‘Crown’ and ‘Costume in Glory’ (2014), stress the artist's passion on the issue.

As much as Ogunbiyi's exhibition attempts to focus more on the repercussion of kidnapping girls from schools, government's seemingly inaction keeps surging. For example, Fueling the American Table perhaps questions the efficacy of the foreign intervention. And that the Nigerian government has accepted the assistance of the U.S reminds one of the position taken by the presidency two years ago. Recall that in August 2012, when the U.S was debating whether to designate Boko Haram as Foreign Terrorists Organisation (FT0), the Nigerian government urged Obama administration not to accept such label. In fact, a day after, Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. Prof. Ade Adefuye, defended government’s position and explained why Nigeria was against plans by Americans to classify Boko Haram as FTO.

Ambassador Adefuye was quoted as saying such classification will subject innocent Nigerian travelers to undue embarrassment and humiliation from foreign immigration authorities. Now the President Jonathan administration would have to do a self-assessment of its handling of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Since the BringBackOurGirls campaign grew louder after the tactical denial of the kidnap by government, it does appear that there is a sudden rise of "overnight" activists. And as such, government and its sympathisers see the campaigners for the return of the kidnapped girls as opportunists, who are 'over dramatising' the calls and fronting for the opposition. In fact, the Presidency has been quoted as saying that "all it takes to get relevance these days is to say '#BringBackOurGirls”. The government’s argument appears more direct at someone like Ogunbiyi, for example, who has been inspired by the Chibok girls situation to set up what she calls ‘300girls.com’. Her ongoing exhibition ‘A Nightmares Daydream’ is being carried out as part of several efforts from the 300 Girls.com project.

 "I am not in opposition of the government," she clarifies. "I am only in opposition to corrupt government and bad leadership that denies children and youths good education." And if calling attention of the people in authority on the need to stand up to their responsibility is all it takes to be an opposition, Ogunbiyi says "I don't mind being labeled as one." The opportunity of freedom of speech, she argues is the people's right to speak out. "We have the right of speech to speak out against those who refuse to give our children education."

But she is being careful in responding to "steer as clear as possible from opportunism, and respect the tone and complexity of the circumstance."

The sculptures of boxes, representing school's desk, each weighing 10kg and made from eku wood, she says connotes the strength of education. Some of the cuts-outs include photographs taken by Glenna Gordon as well as reference to women, living or departed, who have spoken out since the abduction started. 

For the artist all is not lost; she dreams good futures for the girls who are victims of truncated education.  It goes beyond the Chibok girls’ kidnap: schoolgirls have been kidnapped regularly in the northeast before April when over 250 were taken away by the terrorists, Boko Haram. And having tracked the number of girls kidnapped by the insurgents, she discloses how she arrived at 300.  "By my calculation, 300 girls, if not more have been kidnapped by the insurgents in the north.” She however quickly adds that the figure include those that have escaped from their captors. "In April this year, I started archiving news of the nearly 300 girls abducted from Chibok, in addition to kidnapping of 16 girls in Yobe".

Ogunbiyi's ‘A Nightmares Daydream’ appears to be the first major voice on the visual arts scene in Lagos on the issue, since the Chibok girls’ kidnap and BringBackOurGirls campaign took a global trend. The arts appear too quiet on the Chibok girls’ kidnap, isn't it? The art scene, she notes, is perhaps too commercial. "Most artists make work for sale, and may not want to treat issues like this." But within the art for sale mentality, it is still possible to work on issue-based themes. "I do make art for sale too but I believe in making art for the larger society; my work is issue-based." 

As much as contemporary and conceptual artists lay claim to art that is laced with issues, aesthetics, perhaps and not necessarily of decorative values, are also needed to attract enough traffic required for the supposed message to get across to more people. 

Irrespective of the fate of the kidnapped schoolgirls – if found  - her project, she argues remains relevant in the face of state of the nation.  “That so many of them went missing for so long will forever remain worthy of consideration."

The mission statement of Ogunbiyi's 300girls project, include encouraging the education of Nigerian girls. The project, according to 300girls.com aims to encourage education among women and thereby counter actions that discourage women from seeking education.

Proceeds from this project, according to Ogunbiyi, would fund scholarships for girls in Nigeria who are attending schools at various levels. To apply for a scholarship, girls are advised to contact Ogunbiyi through 300girls.com for further instructions to be relayed about the scholarship.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Nigerian artists, new galleries head for global art market


By Tajudeen Sowole

As the appreciation of African art continues to rise in Europe and the U.S., more Nigerian artists are seeking representation abroad, and perhaps dumping the seemingly less innovative promoters at home. Surprisingly, new galleries at home - and not the old and pioneering ones - are also falling in line by exploring the foreign markets on behalf of Nigerian artists.

Meditation (enamel on canvas, 106.6 x 72.2cm (41 15/16
x 28 7/16in), by Abraham Uyovbisere

In the last three years, an unprecedented number of Nigerian artists have been exhibited in the U.K.-based galleries. Just the new outlets at home are poised at changing the old ways of promoting art. In fact, leading the trend are three or four new galleries based in Lagos. Although the development is gradually generating some level of competition among the emerging art galleries and promoters in Nigeria, the focus, as it appears, is the international art market.

In 2011, a group show titled Small is Beautiful (Miniature Art Fair), was held at Arc Gallery, Barge Belle, Tottenham, London and showed the works of Ndidi Dike, Duke Asidere, George Edozie, Okezie Okafor, Ayoola Gbolahan and Babalola Lawson. Over 150 pieces were reportedly taken to the fair.

In a separate outings, the gallery had also shown Nyemike Onwuka’s Elegant Urban Decay, a depiction of drift from beauty to decay; Uchay Joel Chima’s Much Strings Attached, a focus on mutual relationship; and in 2011, one of the exhibited artists of Small is Beautiful, Gbolahan made his debut with Arc in a body of work titled Horizon, a rove over his native Yorubaland, in relations to thoughts on global perspective.

When the Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA) elected its second set of executive in 2012, the new leaders, headed by Abraham Uyovbisere assured that the goal of the guild would focus the international art market. Last year, GFA, courtesy of a London-based promoter, Aabru Art showed the works of select GFA members in the exhibition titled Transcending Boundaries. In Asbru, GFA appeared to have secured a representative in the U.K.

Early this year, a new group of artists whose focus was international art market also announced its entry with a show, Serendipity, held at Alexis Gallery. Victoria Island, Lagoos. It comprises if Gerald Chukwuma, Jefferson Jonah, Dominique Zinkpe, Tolu Aliki, Nyemike Onwuka and George Edozie. The artists specifically have their eyes on lifting African art into the global art space.

Though yet to get a representative gallery in Europe, the Serendipity group, noted that launching from Nigeria was crucial in getting representative gallery abroad.
"We already have one or two galleries penciled down to represent us in Europe," Chukwuma said, but did not disclose the names.

However, a new generation of art galleries in Lagos, with focus on proper representation of artists at home and abroad have been emerging in the last one and half years. Art21 at Eko Hotel and Suites, Red Door Gallery, The Space, all on the Victoria Island and Omenka Gallery, Lagos Island as well as Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Yaba, Lagos, have been showing traces of changes to come on the visual arts scene.


Abiodun Olaku’s GRA Extension
But why exactly is it taking so long for the galleries in Nigeria to keep pace with the increasing broader expression of the artists? Some of the old galleries always complain of inadequate funding and lack of professionalism on the part of the artists. For example, the galleries are situated in choice property areas with high cost of rents. And when artists, according to the galleries, do not play according to the rules. Indeed, it has been observed, for example, that after a gallery orgainsed exhibition for an artist, those who reap the gains, according to one gallery operators “are art speculators, collectors and auctioneers who go behind the rules to negotiate with the artist.”

For the artists, enough of remaining at a spot, in an era when the international art market is waiting, so suggested the posture of the emerging group of artists. African art, Edozie argued during the preview of Serendipity, cannot wait forever. He warned that no matter how widely collected an artist is at home, it is still not safe to exclude the international market. "We want to concentrate more on showing abroad, we cannot continue playing local champions." He faulted Nigerian galleries for what he noted as lack of focus on the international scene. Clearly, a Nigerian gallery is ruled out in the focus of the group. "Nigerian galleries are not strong abroad."

Shortly before leaving Nigeria, few months ago for his last solo exhibition Chronicles of the Enchanted World, showed for five weeks at The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA), U.K, design artist, Victor Ehikhamenor argued that Nigerian artists have not been properly managed over the decades, noting that artists from other parts of the continent who are less experienced are better promoted in Europe. Despite recent impressive performance, and perhaps dominance of Nigerian artists at auctions in the U.K, Ehikhamenor thought they deserve more. “I think the reason Nigerian artists are seeking for galleries to represent them abroad has to do with the fact that we are not getting the best from galleries here at home, whereas some young artists in South Africa and other parts of the continents are doing better in the global market.”

With the growing efforts of the new generation galleries, Nigerian artists may not remain "local champions" any more. Last year, CCA Lagos took Ndidi Dike, Kola Adekola, Taye Idahor, Emeka Ogboh and Charles Okereke to the Marker section of Art Dubai Fair. CCA exhibited with other African galleries such as Espace doual'art (Douala, Cameroon); Maison Carpe Diem (Segou, Mali); Nubuke Foundation (Accra, Ghana); and Raw Material Company (Dakar, Senegal) at a fair that had over 70 galleries from about 30 countries across the world participated.

Also, last year, Red Door Gallery, which says it has about ten artists being represented, started with Ghariokwu Lemi's Po-Lemi-Cs in London after opening in Lagos. Few months ago, another new entrant, The Space, a sister outlet of auctioneer, Arthouse Contemporary showed Sokari Douglass-Camp, Kainebi Osahenye, George Osodi, Victor Ekpuk, and Victoria Udondian at Art14 Fair, Olympus Ground,  in London:. Omenka Gallery was also in Germany, U.K. and Spain with the works of late Nigerian photographer, J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and  South Africa-based artist, Gary Stephens recently. And currently, Art21 and CCA are listed among the galleries participating at the second edition of 1:54 Contemporary in London.   

The two Lagos-based outlets are showing at 1:54 Contemporary’s second edition with quite a number of other galleries from around the world.

Photographer, Ade Adekola’s repetitive technique shown at Art Dubai Fair 2013

Such participants include Whatiftheworld (Cape Town), SMAC Art Gallery (Cape Town), Afronova (Johannesburg), Knight Webb Gallery Purdy Hicks Gallery (London), Selma Feriani Gallery (London), Primo Marella Gallery (Milan), Taymour Grahne (New York), Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris), (S)ITOR/ Sitor Senghor (Paris) and Voice Gallery (Marrakech).

The ongoing search for Nigeria’s bite of the growing global art market is no doubt a commendable efforts by the artists and the new generation art galleries based in Lagos. However, the future side of appropriation seems to suggest an imbalance; the disadvantage of having the best of Nigerian art being outside the country, and perhaps in the collection of foreigners that are not traceable.

The absence of a modern and contemporary art museum or gallery in Nigeria makes the cultural flight of the nation more unavoidable. And with the rise of African art market abroad via art auctions and art fairs, Nigerian artists, irrespective of status, would not resist the global openings. 

Again, Museum for African Art scales down building project


By Tajudeen Sowole
This is not exactly cheering news, coming from the U.S. The ongoing construction of new building at Museum for African Art in New York has been scaled down. The authority recently announced plans to scale down its construction plans for financial constrains. 

Lobby of the ongoing construction at Africa Centre, New York, U.S.
Recall that the museum was one of the venues for the touring exhibition, Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria - a collaborative effort of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and foreign partners - which traveled across Europe for nearly two years.

Originally scheduled to have opened in 2008, the project’s long delay, according to a source last year was due to expanding the institution into New Africa Centre with museum and policy institute. The new expansion, they said, will accommodate members’ club for business executives, cultural leaders and policy makers who may have interest in African subjects.

About a year ago, the museum went on wide fund raising, under what was to be a new name Africa Centre. But it got less than $1 million against an estimated target of more than $7 million raised in the previous year

It was budgeted at $135 million dollar originally. The project, according to the latest development, has been scaled down to $95 million dollar.  Sacrificed to accommodate the new reality are features such as carved wood expected from Ghana and a spiraling staircase as well as a theatre and restaurant.

Founded three decades ago, the museum was ready to sell what it called “naming rights” for $50 million. But sadly, it “found no takers.”

The plans for the new face of the edifice have been in the making since 1997, and a design unveiled ten years after.
Making a contribution, the Vice President of Clinton Foundation, Chelsea was said to have pledged a $9 million donation. However, October date completion has been targeted with the hope of raising $11 million.

To complete the construction of the edifice, which started in 2007, about $60 million dollar was being raised last year towards a target 2015 completion period.

Opened to the public in 1984, the Museum for African Art is dedicated to the arts and cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora. The Museum is internationally acknowledged as a preeminent organizer of exhibitions and publications related to historical and contemporary African art, with programs that are as diverse as the continent itself.

The Museum is currently planning a new building that will enable the long-needed expansion of the Museum's exhibitions, public programs, and educational initiatives. Designed by the celebrated Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP, the new Museum for African Art will own and occupy about 90,000 square feet in a mixed-use joint-development project. The new Museum building is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 110th Street, in New York City, where it will join Manhattan's "Museum Mile." With its expansive exhibition and programming spaces, the new facility will enable the institution to dramatically expand the audiences it serves. An announcement of the Museum's public opening date will be made during the final phase of construction.

While it prepares for the public opening of its new quarters, the Museum continues to develop important exhibitions that travel to major venues internationally and are accompanied by scholarly publications. The Museum also presents a wide range of public programs for adults, families, and schoolchildren, held at locations throughout New York City.

Friday, 8 August 2014

From George's palette, Naked Truth of declining values, irresponsive leadership


By Tajudeen Sowole
Shades of behavioural patterns that reshape the society attract painter, Wande George's brush strokes in a body of work that represents the good and the ugly of changing values. 
  
Tears For Our Girls by Wande George
George's critique of his environment is expressed in covert concept, but tiled Naked Truth, and is showing from August 16 to 26, 2014 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.

As much as the artist attempts to expose the declining values and highlight few hopes, his smooth brush movement on canvas struggles to capture a society's slippery demeanor where nothing else matters, except the temporary excitement of individuals’ immediate gains.

And as the 30 wall pieces include all the styles and techniques that George is known for, it does appear that he is unleashing so much energy onto the mainstream art scene after escaping from two decades of confinement in ad agency studios. The Truth and Naked exhibition is the artist's first solo after quitting the advertising industry as a brand artist, two years ago. In 2012, George had a joint with fellow ad man, Kola Arifajogun in the show titled Re-emergence, in which the two artists announced their return to the mainstream art scene.

From the slim figures that explain some of his conceptual themes to the more representational images and portraits that chronicle his thoughts about changes in the society, George condenses his oeuvre into an eclectic gathering. He says the exhibition is about the reality "that stares us in the face every day." And the "truth" as glaring as he argues its existence, even gets "documented" by the people, but "is hardly discussed."

In works such as Desperate Men, a five figure of men walking in oppose directions; and Deceit (The Seat), a vacant chair in a lonely space, George explains his thoughts on a society increasingly breeding people of little or no integrity.

And perhaps, the young generation would rescue the declining values. Not so, says another work titled Generation X, a figure bewitched in the age of info tech. The vast opportunity provided by the Internet and info tech-related devises, George notes, is not being used by many, particularly the Younger generation to improve the society. So much energy, he says, is being spent "on non-intellectual things via the social media." And the results; "today's generation are still not properly informed about issues around them."

In a satirical portrait, East and West, representing two major faiths in Nigeria - Islam and Christianity - George chides religious leaders and their cohorts, the political class for what he describes as "unnecessary religious rivalry among Nigerians." Quite a glaring fact though, but the artist's "West," as representing Christianity appears incorrect or perhaps contemporary. Christianity, like Islam originated from the Middle East. Perhaps, “West” in George’s argument represents the political and enterprise characteristics brought into Christianity by countries such as Britain and the U.S. It might of interest for George to note that a school of thought believes that the gospel emerged as a source of spirituality from the Middle East, turned into a weapon of political rivalry in Europe and became an enterprise in the hands of the Americans.

Still on religion, In God's Name, a preacher in naira notes patterned garment stresses the artist's thought on the failure of faiths. "Every corner, there are churches on Sundays; it's not about salvation, but materialism."

Quite a number of issues, including faith-related, appear to have energised security concern and worries around the world. Simply titled Security, an unidentified figure sitting on a globe fitted with ticking time bomb raises alarm about a world on the edge.

Still on security issue, the Boko Haram insurgency and the kidnapped schoolgirls come into the radar of George. The meeting of President Goodluck Jonathan with parents of some of the Boko Haram-abducted Chibok schoolgirls and the N100 million Naira, which the presidency allegedly gave to the families would not stop the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign. In George's contribution to keep the campaign alive comes a portrait Tears For Our Girls, of an unidentified girl in moderate hijab scarf. "It's so sad that we still can't recue these girls after over 100 days, " George laments.

Some of the other works, with traces of cubic rendition, such as Seated Models, Good News, City Girls, For Better For Worse, Drummer Ecstasy, African Queen and Waiting softens the Naked Truth body of work, away from the worries of failed leadership and declining values.

"I am just trying to be fair to my conscience," the George clarifies in his Artist Statement. He discloses that it’s a journey of ten years. "I have been exploring this concept of Naked Truth since 2004."

He recalls how he started the theme as series and as "soul searching, religious concepts." He however warns that a few of the works for the exhibition may appear offensive to some people. But they are innocent expression aimed at alerting people and leaders about looming danger, he says.  "it is a wake up call that violence is real and it is becoming our second nature, therefore, if we do not act fast, danger is imminent." 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

One million-year-old artefacts excavated in South Africa


By Tajudeen Sowole
Artefacts of stone age tools said to have been excavated by archaeologists at a site as old as one million year have been  dated to the early Stone Age period.

Flakes and cores found at the Kathu Townlands site, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Image credit: Walker SJH et al.

According to Sci-News.com, the objects, which include hand axes, flakes and other tools were found recently at an archaeological site near the town of Kathu in Northern Cape Province, South Africa. The archaeologists from the University of Toronto and the University of Cape Town describes the Kathu Townlands archaeological site as one component of a grouping of prehistoric sites known as the Kathu Complex. "The site, named the Kathu Townlands, is one of the richest archaeological sites in South Africa. It is up to 1,000,000 years old."

  Sources recall that in the past, other sites in the same vicinity such as Kathu Pan-1 has produced fossils of animals such as elephants and hippos. The site, more importantly has  produced "earliest known evidence of tools used as spears from a level dated to half a million years ago."

Other sources say the objects, which were excavated between late last year, and early 2013 explain the recent results of the archaeological tests on the objects as stressing the site's richness in museum pieces of ancient origins. Kathu Townlands have produced tens of thousands of stone tools such as flakes, cores and artefacts in recent times.

This much has also been confirmed by Dr Michael Chazan of the University of Toronto’s Department of Anthropology “The Kathu Townlands was the site of ongoing intensive occupation and exploitation for stone tool manufacture,” Dr Chazan was quoted. Also, other archaeologists seemed to have argued along the same line of thoughts, so suggest  an article published in the journal PLoS ONE. “While one function of the site might have been as a quarry, rough-outs and primary flakes are rare, and there is a small component of finished tools (including rare hand axes made on non-local quartzite) suggesting that the site might have had a more diversified function.”

Chazan added: “we need to imagine a landscape around Kathu that supported large populations of human ancestors, as well as large animals like hippos.”

He was also quoted as saying that there were  indications suggesting that Kathu was much wetter, maybe more like the Okavango than the Kalahari. 'There is no question that the Kathu Complex presents unique opportunities to investigate the evolution of human ancestors in Southern Africa.”