|Under utilised Old kobo coin depicted in metal foil by Michael Fashakin|
Toned in social and economic hues, a body of work by artist, Michael Fashakin, shown as Exchange of Change at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos, revisits the lost monetary value of Nigeria’s currency. Exuding quite a documentary value, the wall pieces refresh memory of prudency as the artist employs large-size coins in metal foils, representing old denomination of kobo coins such as, 10, 25, 5 as well asone penny and one naira. Profoundly two periods in modern monetary exchange of Nigerian currency: the pound/penny and naira-kobo eras.
In about 33 pieces spread across seven paintings and mixed media as well as eight pieces of relief coin depiction, the artist takes visitors at the exhibition through history as the assemblage tells one that Herbert Macaulay is one of the most commonly used iconic names on Nigerian currency. Macaulay, currently on 100-naira note, has passed through more than two stages of change in the country's ever changing currencies.
More salient lessons to learn from Fashakin's Exchange of Change is the fact that the works suggest the wide gap in Nigeria's devaluation stages over the periods that the change in currency happened. The exhibition could inspire a museum of currency if financial institutions like Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and others really place value on documentation.
Just when some of the paintings suggest that the artist's strength lies more in mixed media, a standing figure of man in chains titled ‘How Long?’ (mental slavery) proves that Fashakin's brush strokes could be masterly too. Inspired by concerns for dependence on foreign value and things in general, the artist's depiction explains what he considered as "self-imposed slavery and bondage."
On monetary exchange, Fashakin recalled periods that "Nigerians once witnessed a time when the naira was equal to a U.S. dollar, but the story is not the same now." He emphasised what has become almost a national anthem: "We need to look inward for everything required to grow the economy; the nation must go back to the farm!"
Fashakin's Exchange of Change provides windows for followers to track his strength and challenges in the realm of materials' influence on an his artist's form.
"I find metal foil mixed media more comfortable for now," he disclosed. "The foil gives me more time to produce what I like unlike the acrylic which dries faster, making me struggle with time."
A few Nigerian artists have used foil extensively, which gives room to spring surprises, but with oil, nothing exactly to prove as much, the artist seems to be saying.