With Evolution of New State, artists see hope in Nigeria
By Tajudeen Sowole and Yemi OlakitanDespite the obvious signs of a failed state, participants in the yearly art exhibition, October Rain, are strong in their dream of a virile Nigeria as reflected in the theme of the 2011 edition, Evolution of New State.
THE exhibition, 13th in the series, by the Lagos State chapter of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), seemed to have derived its theme of hope from recent developments, especially in the political arena in the country.
Held at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos from October 8 to 16, 2011, the show, being the largest gathering of artists in the state, also provided some of the artists a window to showcase new technique,style and forms.
Although, artists, through few recent exhibitions, have shown concern over the state of the nation, Evolution of New State, however, took a step further by taking a definite position. In fact, Chairman of SNA, Lagos State, Oliver Enwonwu, shortly before the show opened, explained that the last general election was the pedestal on which this hope is being built.
He said that “the exhibition will chart the progress of democracy in Nigeria and celebrate our recently concluded elections, widely adjudged to be free and fair and seeks to uphold the gains of our nascent democracy.”
The works of over 100 artists on display, said to have gone through a juried process, were though produced before the elections, the rays of hope radiated in most of them appeared not to have connected well with the theme.
One of the works at October Rain 2011, Oyerinde Olotu’s Leventis Bus Stop .
As Lagos is the heartbeat of the country, the recent orderliness and environmental upgrading are fundamental to the artists’ preference to evolution as against revolution or the Arab Spring-kind of approach to change. For example, Oyerinde Olootu’s painting titled Leventis Bus Stop – a dipiction of passengers at a BRT station – documents a shift from the typical past. Rendered in a soft impressionistic form, it brings to fore a major change in Lagos State’s transportation agenda, a process, though ongoing, which started with the introduction of the LAGBUS-BRT in 2006 and LAMATA-BRT in 2007.
The queuing of passengers and the comfort ability of these buses, as well as the new bus stations, depicted through Olotu’s palette knife on canvas would not be missing in history as the nation, hopefully, moves towards a new dawn to attain stability.
Olojo Kosoko’s The Feel of Agbede suggests that the rural dwellers and the serenity of their environment cannot be isolated from the future of the country. However, it is a contrasting story compared to Olotu’s Leventis Bust Stop. In Kosoko’s Agbede, the expanding cracks on an asphalted road, demolished and dilapidated houses are disturbing features to this serenity.
There were other works on display, that interrogated the social responsibility stance of the citizenry towards this hope, particularly in such areas as indecent fashion trends of women and disappearing family values.
Kolawole Kosoko’s The Feel of Agbede showed at October Rain 2011
WITH this show, the artists appeared to have oiled the struggle for a better Nigeria. Enwonwu explained that Evolution of a New State is part of a series of initiatives developed by the SNA to highlight the role of visual art as a change agent in harnessing “our human potential, define and re-organise our socio-economic and cultural assets.” He noted that with this exhibition, the SNA would continue to seek critical thought, contributing to narratives of contemporary art practice in Nigeria, “while expanding the local market by encouraging connoisseurship and exposing our artists to increased audiences.”
The exhibition, he stressed, would attempt to document art produced during this significant period in Nigeria’s history.
Printmaker and proprietress of the gallery, Mrs. Nike Davies Okundaye believed that October Rain has come to stay as one of the most important art exhibitions in Nigeria. She noted that the quality of the works, in every edition, indicates that “Nigerian artists are improving.”
For almost 13 years, October Rain was not held because of what observers believed to be result of the instability of SNA, both at the national and state levels. However, Olu Ajayi-led SNA, Lagos State revived the event in 2008.
And at the 2009 edition, Enwonwu-led executive council added award segment when some selected artists, collectors, promoters and journalists were honoured with medals.