Sunday, 29 September 2019

Hues, shades of Layiwola's adire installation goes to new Shyllon Museum

Stamping History’ installation by Prof Peju Layiwola, acquired for Shyllon Museum, Pan Atlantic University, Ajah, Lagos.

From her extensive scholarly works on ancient Benin art, to the current exhibition about indigenous fabric adire, Prof Peju Layiwola’s mastery of native African contents keep soaring. Across the world, Layiwola’s works, mostly in critical visual context of appropriating native subjects, have brought freshness into 21st art appreciation.


Layiwola’s mastery of native visual cultural contents continues as her tour art exhibition Indigo Reimagined makes a stopover from 5-13, October, 2019, at Thought Pyramid, Ikoyi, Lagos. Also of significant interest, is that one of the works from the tour exhibition has been acquired for the new Shyllon Museum at Pan Atlantic University, Ajah, Lagos.

In 2010, Layiwola, a grand daughter of Benin monarch, Oba Akenzua II (1933-1979), showed Benin 1897.com, a solo exhibition held at Main Auditorium Gallery of the University of Lagos, (UNILAG), Yaba, Lagos. The exhibition, among other works, included sculptural assemblage of terracotta pieces cut in square and titled Theatre of War.  The exhibition, which featured many archival photographs and accompanied by a book recaptured the infamous Benin Punitive Expedition of 1897.

Nine years after, Layiwola brought into the Nigerian art appreciation landscape, another trajectory of native contents. The exhibition, which took off in June at J.K Ade Ajayi Auditorium Gallery and Lagoon Gallery, Creative Arts, University of Lagos, is a celebration of adire, the iconic native dyed fabrics, indigenous to south-western Nigeria.

Designs peculiar to adire, particularly when they are in shades and hues of blues are commonly used across generations of indigenous textile artists. For Indigo Reimagined, appropriating adire into functional objects, wall pieces and installations expands the scope in appreciation of the ancient hand-made clothing design.
 In thematic contexts, quite a number of the exhibits delve into metaphor of Yoruba idiom such as ‘Atewo lara; owo eni kii tan ni je’, while other series highlight cultural value like ‘aso ibora’. Also, the artist’s love for Oja Oje, in Ibadan, ¬¬– one of the oldest fabric markets in south west – gets quite a number of attention in some of the works for display. 

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. An iconic name in native textile sales, Oje Market, which is also known as a centre for selling of aso-oke, gets an expansive space as installation titled Oje Market Day. In fabric patchwork, the installation celebrates diverse designs and aesthetics of adire.

The analogy of strength in protective spiritual realm comes in Aso-Ibora Series of polyester resin materials. The Yoruba believe that a man’s strength lies in his non-visible power of which ‘aso-ibora’ (protective clothing) represents, perhaps, in spiritual realm.

Also of great depth in critical appreciation is Stamping History, an installation with sea of motifs in ‘foam templates of variable sizes’ stretched with cubic style top. When the newly built Shyllon Museum opens in October, Stamping History, most likely will be among the exhibits on display, along hundreds of works donation by the founder of the museum. Prince Yemisi Shyllon, collector and founder of the new museum, according to Layiwola has "acquired Standing History." Director at Shyllon Museum, Jess Castellote, during a chat, confirmed the acquisition of Stamping History by Prince Shyllon. Details of the opening of the museum and possibly, featuring of Layiwola’s installation during the museum’s October opening, Castellote said, "are still being worked out."

With more than 2,000 polyester, the installation celebrates what the artist describes as over 30 years of adire design history. Highlighting social change, Stamping History also explains how "new materials and motifs" over the decades have become part of the adire trajectory, even in contemporary production.

The artist and the collector are no strangers in collaboration at promoting art production and appreciation. From 2011, Omoba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) supported several editions of the Layiwola-led Unilag Art Entrepreneurship Workshop at Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos. Facilitators included resource persons within and outside Nigeria such as African-American artist Brett Cook, Sam Ovraiti, Ibe Ananaba, Ato Arinze, and Ariyo Oguntimehin and wife of an American diplomat in Nigeria Kathleen Stafford.

A concept deeply rooted in tradition as Stamping History, justifiably, has found the right  artist in Layiwola whose family lineage cuts across two cultures. Layiwola notes that the choice of materials has link with history just as her “art is inspired by my dual heritage.” Being of Yoruba and Edo, Layiwola boasts of “sitting on the shoulders of one culture and peeping into the other.” However, she also places value on the future by surrendering to “ordinary and simple things that continue to inspire.”

 Apart from the value in art appreciation that gets popular attention, the installations, she explains also bring attention to the critical areas of process in creating art. “Instead, they redirect our gaze at the very process of ‘art as art’ in their own right; in a sense, the process, methodology and labour of making art is itself conceived of as art,” excerpts from the catalogue of the exhibition states. “This conceptual, yet tactical, engagement with cloth compels the viewer to look at the often neglected but important aspects involved in the process of this long-standing tradition of indigo dyeing.”

Layiwola, a Professor of Art History is the Head of the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos is President-elect and Vice President of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA), USA; and member of various distinguished associations; Board of the Lagos Studies Association; Art Powa Publishing Network (ARTPOWA), South Africa; International Committee of Museums; College Arts Association (CAA); and Nigerian Field Society, Ibadan Branch (NFS) and other organisations.
 - Tajudeen Sowole.


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