By Tajudeen Sowole
Efficient management of public transport system and vehicular traffic is no doubt recurring challenge for successive governments of Lagos State. But in recent times, it has been generating widespread interests and inputs from citizens, so artist, Festus Adeyemi's new body of work confirms.
For Adeyemi, the debate is covertly taken into the academic sphere via his solo art exhibition titled Between the Lines, which is currently showing at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. Though a social science and technology-related issue, Adeyemi, a teacher in the art education field, brings artistic perspective into the debate, perhaps asserting the role of the academia in contributing to the environment.
Adeyemi depicts different modes of transportation in the evolving Lagos megacity, highlighting challenges of sustaining mini buses as well as the effect of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the complexity of motor cycles as taxi outlets. Before one goes into the exhibition with an expectation of artistic solving of the challenges, Adeyemi warns that his thought is to "inspire" solution: "The expectation of this exhibition is not only to draw the world's attention to the heavy tolls of traffic challenges facing Lagos residents, but importantly, to inspire a proffering of solutions to galvanise positive change in this state believed to be a commercial nerve centre of Nigeria's economy."
As an artist, line means so much to Adeyemi in the process of creating art. And within the context of the technical application of the word to the theme at hand, he arrived at Between the Lines, "as a medium of passing information through art."
Some of the works on display include Civilian brand bus Federal Government Assisted Mass Transit, which revisits a more chaotic state of commuting during the 1980s through 1990s. To drive the message faster, the artist brings in a rough surface of mixed media. Other unwanted but necessary mode of transit, which Adeyemi's palette capture include tricycles Marwa in a "fascinating” queue, at park; and the mini passenger buses or danfo he titled Yellow Yellow.
With the coming of the LAMATA and LAGbus BRT buses during the tenure of the then Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and strengthened by the last administration of Babatunde Fashola, some kind of relief started appearing in the horizon as regards decent and efficient management of public transport. However, the challenge of sustenance attracts Adeyemi's attention as expressed in line up of empty red BRT buses. The artist is worried that sometimes, "the BRT buses operate without passengers."
Not exactly attempting to make cubism out of the theme, but the lines on the surface of the canvas exude slight texture of the 20th century art movement incubated in Europe.
Adeyemi's Between The Lines is not targeted at providing scientific and technological solution to the challenge of effective management of public transport in Lagos. But his colleague Dotun Alabi, who is Chairman, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Lagos State Chapter sees the works on display in a broader perspective.
"Festus’ paintings unravel a welcome relief to a society that has suffered immensely from the return of long fuel queues and lack of mobility created by the overdependence on road transport over the years," Alabi writes as his contribution to the catalogue of the exhibition.
"His works will further unpicked fresh rethinking regards solution to the much needed and necessary changes. Really, this is needed in our country’s transportation and navigation clues that is expected to usher us into a needed promise land of effectiveness."