BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
IN the performance art space of Nigeria, Jelili Atiku is arguably a towering name; but his choice medium requires more energy to convince theView blog local audience that there is indeed a difference between conceptual art and theatre or any other genre of performing arts.
Having performed in several places, Atiku thought the next ideal place was the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. It was in form of a performance workshop tagged Journey Of The Body held in partnership with his colleague from the Diaspora, Wura-Natasha Ogunji.
Jelili described the event as inaugural workshop, hoping to serialise it in the future. He noted that in the traditional setting of Egungun masquerade, there existed performance art. The workshop, he added, was therefore a focus on the body as the primary tool for the creation of art.
To get their largely young audience into the realm of performance art proper, past shows, Atiku explained were shown via video.
Such presentation included his popular work, Agbo Rago, in which he portrays a ram at the market, where he addressed communal violence and political subjugation; his recent performance, Araferaku, a tributary enactment in memory of his late father – an unseen mentor.
For Ogunji, it’s about the epic crossing of an Ife head as well as images from the first performance piece in Lagos, Will I Still Carry Water When I Am A Dead Woman?
However, the core of the performance workshop, Atiku disclosed was the participatory value. The participating students, he enthuses also performed in Journey Of The Body.
Describing the young performance artists as brave students, he revealed how they created their own performance works, saying, “the students were encouraged to use the Egungun Method. As a performance artist your creative work should take you into all spaces of society. You can place your body anywhere and you can talk about anything.”
From the perspective of an artist in the Diaspora, Ogunji, who is based in the US, argued that performance art is not exactly unknown in Africa. She notes, “it’s potential to address deep societal issues as a medium that pushes both the artists and the audiences to think about the world in new, imaginative and provocative ways.”
ATIKU hopes Journey Of The Body would go photographic to document all the performances in the workshop and be shown in a show of the same theme to be curated by painter, Odun Orimolade. Ogunji, who is more known in the video installation and performance area, uses her own body to explore movement and for mark-making.
She is a recipient of John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2012); grants from the Idea Fund, Houston (2010); and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2005).
Ogunji holds a first degree in Anthropology from Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, in 1992, and an MFA in Photography from San Jose State University, CA, in 1998.
Atiku’s penchant for using art space to focus on political issues, human rights and justice is well known in Nigeria. He had implored nearly all medium and genres such as drawing, installation sculpture, photography, video and now performance art.
Since 2008, he has been involved in an ongoing performance project, In the Red, which uses red as a symbol of life, suffering, danger and violence. In 2008/2009, his performance video, Victim of Political Assassination was showcased in Video Library section of Rencontres Internationales in Paris, Berlin and Madrid. He also featured in the Geisai 12 Contemporary Art Fair, Tokyo, Japan (2009), 16th Festival International D’Art Video de Casablanca, Morocco (2009), Old News 6, Malmo, Lagos and Copenhagen (2009/2010) and Freedom to Create Prize, Singapore (2009).