Still searching, Bashorun quits classroom with Punctuation
(First punlished June 25, 2008)
By Tajudeen Sowole
LESS than five months after one of Nigeria's leading art schools lost the service of a prominent teacher and administrator, another one takes a bow.
|Art Beat (Metal)|
The new victim of change is the Chief Lecturer / Head of Department, Graphics, School of Art, Design and Printing, SADP, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos and sculptor, Raqib Abolore Bashorun.
In an emotion-filled mood, the artist, during the preview of his next art exhibition, last week, disclosed that he was on his way out of a 22 years academic career in the school.
From this Friday, June 27 to July 5, 2008, at the Yusuf Grillo Block, SADP Gallery, the artist opens a parting gift art exhibition, Punctuation as part of activities marking his exit from an institution of learning that brought him up from the cradle of art.
Last March, painter and art teacher, Kolade Oshinowo called it quit when he retired, "voluntarily" from the same school after 34 years of service.
Among several developments in his entire career, revisited, during the preview, as Bashorun explanied, was his journey to the academia, which he said started when he had job dissatisfaction as an artist working with an advertising agency in Lagos.
But 22 years after, the artist is still in search of satisfaction. He said: “I probably would not have decided to retire from the school if things work out here properly. Even though one is not calling for a perfect atmosphere, I cannot remain in a system such as this.”
Punctuation, he declared, is symbol of a pause in his career. This stage of the journey is expected to allow for an appraisal and move his art forward. “Punctuation is a start to stop, and a stop to start. It’s a fact that change is inevitable and my goal is to pause, look endlessly into the unknown, figure out how far I can take my work and reflect on how far the journey I commenced in the college 22 years ago has taken me. I know that I cannot detach the past from the present, neither can I deny the future of the experiences of both, hence, I must confront my destiny, continue to honor and submit my actions to the forces of creation in glorification of God for that gift.”
Even though change is the only reality of life that one cannot stop, but it often comes with shock and emotion. This much, Bashorun disclosed, has been the reactions of some of his colleagues in the school. “The reaction from some of my colleagues is like ‘eh man, you can’t go, not now." And this, he noted, has been taken to another dimension as “some of them have been avoiding me in apparent protest against my decision to leave the service.”
Still on reactions, the curator of the exit-exhibition, Adeola Balogun actually wore his own protest. As he anchored the preview and broke the news of Bashorun’s disengagement, Balogun, a lecturer in the school and one of Bashorun’s former students said his all black two-piece wears to the preview was part of his protest to his former teacher’s planned exit.
|Dialogue (metal and wood)|
A widely exhibited artist, Bashorun’s choice of the school as venue for the show is natural. He said “It was on the soil of this college that I sowed the seed of my first solo exhibition in 1989, which today has germinated into creative tree that has bore eight successful solos and effective participation in several group shows.”
As Deep Thought, the title of one of the works for the show suggests, the decision to call it quit must have been born out of a long battle with destiny. Even though the school management, as at the time of the preview, was yet to respond or accept the artist’s decision to quit, Bashorun said, “I have to go on with my plans to disengage. There is no going back. It’s been an on going issue for a while-I had wanted to be relieved before now, but the school just would not let me go ”
The collections for the exit show, he added, are works done from 2001 to 2008. Known for his aggressive wood works, however, visitors to the event, this Friday, would be reminded that Bashorun is as exceptional in metal. Largely, the 22 exhibits expected to make the exhibition, he said, are metal works with just a few glass fibres.
As the preview of the show went on, the artist’s thoughts on job dissatisfaction kept recurring. His resting of metal works for close to 10 years, he stressed, was an escape route to diffuse his frustrated efforts at using metal to express himself.
“Irregular supply of electricity forced me to rest metal works. And because I cannot stop the business of creativity, I focused on wood materials which did not confine me to electricity.”
Bashorun, holder of B. Ed. S. in Art Education, University of Missouri, Columbia, U.S., does not look like an artist that can get job satisfaction in the extended sense of it, does he? Most people like him, who are restlessly creative, don’t ever get such satisfaction. But this sculptor whose physique looks more like a timber worker in the jungle than an academician is, at 53, set for a race against time.
As he looks forward to a career outside the academic environment, research into functionality of art blends with aesthetics, he disclosed, is most likely to be his next stop.
Under utilisation of artists, Bashorun argued, is a factor in the people’s quests for technological advancements. Artists, if given the chance would do more to sell functionality of any product through designs that are aesthetically attractive, he stressed.
Having thought 3D-Design at the school since 1995 till date, perhaps working outside the school system, would afford him the opportunity of what he described as “redefining the use of some medium.”
His post retirement ultimate goal, he explained is to set up, either with anyone who shares his dream or a solo effort – a kind of academy or school to help build a design outfit that can help energize the nation’s drive for technological advancement through art.
Perhaps Bashorun’s dissatisfaction, in spite of his commendable input into Nigeria's creative sector, would be better appreciated if one revisits his last two solo exhibitions.
In 2006, at the same venue, he had a rare display of what it means to make a nation technologically independent. It was a show titled Untamed Unframed. The exhibition, among other subjects, unveiled how much a nation could gain from art in quest for technological advancement. For example one of the exhibits, Aroma Chair, though an armless chair – its attraction lied in the aura radiated by the design – so inviting that the need to slough on a chair’s arm was erased. Bolted Chair was another piece that may not be one’s idea of domestic furniture, but the combined wood and metal leading to the legs of the work made for a rare showpiece.
Another fascinating one was this army of arrows he called Arrow Head, a 12 giants size arrows, like rocket-aided grenade lined up on a hanger.
During that show, he said: “The conceptual frame work of the exhibition is reacting to our lack of interest and encouragement in channeling a design culture that will complement the much talked about technological take off for our nation. It is also designed to sensitize and stimulate public awareness of the world made up of art forms”
|Globalisation (mixed media)|
For his last solo show Charged Currents, held in April this year at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, he offered a warning of an accumulated currents that could be too deadly for the nation to handle if not checked.
If the electricity supply is not available, what then informed Bashorun’s theme, Charged Currents?
“These currents exist in the air, a mindset, in the people’s psyches; it has accumulated over a period of decades and could spark any moment,” he warned.
But how far can a nation keep sitting on this high voltage of corruption? Another work, Confederation, which perhaps communicated the whole concept, better had the artist played around with burns, and natural wood hues to arrive at a composite, the theme of which is a thorn in the flesh of those who benefits from the status quo. “I am very much aware of what confederation means to some people. But the reality remains that Nigeria enjoyed its glorious period when we had the regional system of government in place,” he argued.
Bashorun, an M. Ed., Art Education and MFA holder from University of Missouri- Columbia, 1998 and 2002 respectively joined Yabatech as Lecturer I, School of Art, Design and Printing, in 1986.
He was a Visiting Assistant Professor, Fine Arts Department, University of Missouri- Columbia, in 2003.