Friday, 7 November 2014

Challenging tradition with Hybrid Theory


By Tajudeen Sowole
The quest for Africa to get out of her underdeveloped toga attracts Adesoji Adesina and Uthman Wahab in a body of work that, contentiously, traces the continent’s challenges to the people’s inability to imbibe modern contents of advancement in economics, science and technology.

Astronautical  (2014) by Uthman Wahab
Titled Hybrid Theory, the works of the artists, which included paintings and drawings, just exhibited at Signature=Beyond Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos also raises question on the relevance of African cultural values in meeting modern challenges. As pieces of contextual images, the renditions bring onto the Lagos art landscape a kind of art that attempts to bridge the gap between modernism and contemporary practice. The middle ground in identity is also more pronounced as the two artists are not exactly known to belong to either the strong conservative and traditional wing nor the emerging, perhaps confrontational contemporary section of the Lagos art.

Largely monochromatic and deliberately devoid of the "vibrant" colours of which typical Lagos artists take pride in, most of the renditions rove over abstract impressionism with some flavour of contemporaneity. However, there exist a thin line between the styles and techniques of the two artists: the works could pass for a solo of either Adesina or Wahab. Aside the hues that are almost colourless, the similarities in image renditions suggest that both artists have been sharing the same library of sci-fi movies. Their thoughts are largely done in what looks like lifts from the studio of the art director of George Lucas' Star Wars Series.

So much volume has been written and said about Africa's development challenges. And contrary to some school of thoughts that it is important for the people to go back to their root and use native contents to propel modern advancement, Wahab argues that such "is contradictory to the ethos of globalization and the need for change that is constantly determining how cultural identity is perceived."  He however notes that "our languages" becomes the victim in the identity crisis that lacks direction. He insists that the exhibition focuses on " human ability to subdue" challenges through self-innovation that is devoid of "racial and cultural barrier."

Trying to trash or demystify the much-muted native based aid in advancement, Adesina is more blunt. He argues that it is a "misguided need" to remain in the perception of 'African solution' which he says "has continuously led Africa down the path of poverty, disease and chronic underdevelopment." Stressing the irrelevance of his African identity, Adesina in a conversation with Jude Anogwih brings in his art profession as an example. " I often ask the question why do I need to render my works in a certain way because I come from a certain part of the world? I have learnt to apply the freedom to explore unique forms and make visual representations that are specific to the theme of any particular series in my work."

Fiction Becomes Fact (2014) by Adesoji Adesina
Not exactly an unfamiliar space, the two artists had, two years ago showed at the same gallery in an exhibition titled Fresh Vernacular, which featured Cyril Oma, Adewale Fata and Mudi Yahaya. But for Hybrid Theory, the large canvases are the only similarities with Fresh Vernacular as the figural renditions of images are distinctly apart, understandably based on the themes in focus.

From the artists’ bios:  Adesina, holds a Higher Diploma degree in Fine Art from the School of Art, Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos.
  Adesina has participated in several group shows both in and outside of Nigeria as well as art residencies and workshops in Lagos. Other recent group exhibitions include The Global Critic Clinic residency with Kianga Ford, Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (2011 & 2010); Dancing with the Masters with Olu Amoda (Art workshop) Yabatech, Lagos (2010) amongst others.


  Wahaab also holds a Higher Diploma degree in fine art from the School of Art, Design and Printing, YabaTECH, Lagos.
  He has participated in several group shows both in and outside of Nigeria as well as art residencies and workshops in Lagos. Group exhibitions include: Fresh Vernacular Signature- Beyond Gallery, Lagos Nigeria (2012); The Global Critic Clinic residency with Kianga Ford, Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (2011); The House of Tasia Miss Africa California

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