By Tajudeen Sowole
In exploring the international market, painter Duka Asidere hopes to make a major solo art exhibition in the U.K, in the next few months with themes that question the competence of Nigerian government.
Few months ago, Asidere stepped up plans of promoting his art abroad when he went to Dubai, UAE, courtesy of invitation by Baginskaya Gallery. The gallery, Asidere disclosed, had shown interest in his work.
Women as Saviours, Oil on canvas by Duke Asidere.
But ahead of the expected deal with the Dubai-based gallery, he has something coming up soon, elsewhere. "Before the end of this year, or early 2015, I hope to have a solo at Arc Gallery, London," he said during a chat inside his Playspot Studio, in Egbeda, a Lagos suburban. If Asidere’s proposed show at Arc Gallery comes to pass, it would be among the few solo art exhibitions of Nigerian origin, in the U.K, since the recent international increase in appreciation of the country’s art. The prospect of taking the advantage of the rising value of Nigerian art is part of Asidere's projection. "Not just a show, but to introduce me to the U.K art market."
Arguably one of the few Nigerian artists whose works always put government and leaders on the spot, Asidere continues his vehement application of the palette knife to pierce through the dark colours of irresponsive leadership. Perpetual and gross inadequate electricity "is a deliberate design of government to deny us access to information," he argued as he fished out a piece of painting from a pack of canvases. "It's titled Darkness of Service." About two other works also highlight the power challenges in Nigeria, confirming that the sector is one of the most-troubled areas of the oil-rich country’s economy Like Asidere, Nigerians are questioning the huge resources government keeps pumping into the sector despite having privatised it. "The Federal government keeps pumping money into the PHCN, electricity tariffs are growing yet no light, even after privatisation,"
In the future works such as Asidere’s Darkness of Service and Power of Darkness would be historical access when power challenges are over and Nigerians enjoy stable energy supply. For now, failed-promises continue as government keeps shifting the dates: June/July of this year was the last promised period for stable power. Quite interesting, the months are two of the wettest periods of the year when the hydropower generation system works at its utmost as a result of natural rise in water tide.
For a country so blessed with individuals who have chosen to be counted among great professionals on the international scene, competent leadership at the federal level in Nigeria is still like a search in the wilderness. Asidere captures the vacuum of competent leadership in the work titled Nigeria in the Repair Shop. Depicted in a car that its doors are falling apart, the artist’s thought, specifically, focuses on people who are unprepared for the task of leadership. "Every time we take Nigeria to the repair shop, we give it to someone who is not competent," Asidere noted.
In the leadership crisis situation, where are those who know what it takes to lead a nation? "Those who run Nigeria are conmen: the intellectuals and those who have integrity are shut out of the system," he argued.
The vacuum, he noted has left Nigerians more impoverished such that women are being exposed to more work hours to support the families. This much a work like Women as Saviours explains.
On the soft side of the themes, from an estimated 18 works for the exhibition comes women, which is the artist's most treated subject. Across behaviourial patterns, Asidere has consistently touched female-related subjects, over the decades. For the Arc Gallery exhibition, Powdered Face, Negotiations and Peace, he said are among the works going. "All the women I have met appeal to me with the energy they bring," he explained.
On the interest of Banginskaya Gallery in his work, Asidere recalled that the connection was done online when the owner of the gallery, Katherina started communicating with him "after seeing my work on line."
Asidere last exhibited in the U.K., 2013 in a group show titled Transcending Boundaries.