Chinze Ojobo, a 1985 University of Nigeria, Nsukka, graduate of Fine Art has been painting since she left school. But recently she staged a mind-blowing art and installation exhibition tagged “Unfinished Business” where she dwelt on the girl-child. She told Mary Ekah that the exhibition was the eventual manifestation of her thoughts on so many unresolved issues in the nation, especially as they relate to the girl-child
Why is your exhibition titled the ‘Unfinished Business’?
It is titled so because we have so many unfinished businesses in this nation, a good example is the girl child-issue. Every day you open the papers, there is always a report on that and I also teach children and teenagers in the church, when they come for counseling they report the same thing, same abuse and it is kind of difficult to handle. So that is why I have decided to do something and ultimately tilted this exhibition ‘Unfinished Business’. I have two issues to deal with, one on the youths and the other on the girl-child but I could not handle the two together, I am focusing on the girl-child. I am still going to stage Unfinished Business Part 2.
Is this your first exhibition in Nigeria?
No, I have had several other exhibitions but this is my major one recently and it ran for 12 days.
How long have you been painting?
Professionally, I started in 1995 and since then, God has been helping me grow step by step but as a woman, you have lots of drawbacks – like you have to get married and then the children come and all that, so these have been kind of delay for me.
How rewarding is art in Nigeria?
Initially, I thought it was not understood but right now I think a lot of people understand what art is all about. In fact, I am so impressed with Lagosians. They are art lovers. Every day as I held my exhibition here at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, people trooped in here to appreciate my art works. So, I kind of feel that in the future art will be a bigger thing in Nigeria but for now, it’s being appreciated. Now people are buying arts for keeps and maybe sell them later, that means they understand the value of art.
Are you doing art because you studied it at school or because you have a passion for it?
I do art because I have the passion for it even though I have the passion for many other things. I have done businesses and many other things. You know as a mother, I make clothes, furniture, jewelries and other things but art is what really keeps me going.
Your art works appear so feminine. Has that got anything to do with the message you intend to portray?
May be I am trying to represent my message properly.
Or are you a feminist?
No; not at all. If I were a feminist, I won’t get married. The works are representatives of the main theme of this exhibition.
Apart from Nigeria, where else have you exhibited your works?
I have exhibited my works in Bulgaria, China, France, California where I live and New York.
You have done so much and yet we don’t really hear about you in this part of the world. Why have you been so unnoticed?
That is because I do international. I do exhibition only once in while in Nigeria. I had one in Abuja last year and this year I decided to come to Lagos.
What inspires your work?
One, it is God and then the things I see. You know we have photographic nights, during which certain things are recorded in your mind and when you want to play it back, they come out in forms like these.
Your works look quite cosmopolitan. How affordable are they?
They are quite affordable and anybody can afford it, it is not about the money, if you appreciate the works, you can get one.
Do you have artists you train?
Yes, that is the next thing we are going to do. There are lots of parents that have been troubling me to do that so I have made arrangement with the University of Nigeria Nsukka and they are coming over to Abuja to start a training school over there.
It looks like your works are more of jute bags. Why?
That is my beat and that is what I have been working with but a former lecturer saw it and told me that I should stretch the Jute bags and work on them as they were so much I could do with them and that was when I decided to experiment a lot with the jute bags. The other material I am introducing is the plexi glass. My next exhibition will show a lot of works in plexi glass because I have done a lot of experiment with it.
Can you explain the message behind some of your works as they relate to the theme of the whole exhibition?
The girl-child is a child of purpose, not here by accident. The girl-child is a creation with pre-ordained destination but many a times the girl-child is betrayed by those she looks up to; used and abused by those with the responsibility to care for her; ignored and uneducated for reasons not clear. So, under the ‘Unfinished Business’ series we have works that portray the plight of the girl-child, her importance and why she must be protected by all means. For example, my work ‘Save me’, is the voice of the girl-child crying out to the society to save her.
It is more like everybody is trying to do one thing or the other to help the girl-child but everything seemed unfinished. My works also portray the fact that the girl-child needs modern education, gender equality, civic rights, medical care and protection from discriminations. Now if you give the girl-child all these, she becomes beautiful, educated and the best in every thing – as a mother, home keeper and she raises her children in the best way just as it is portrayed in my work, ‘Greater Tomorrow’. In other words, if we fail to take care of the girl-child, it bounces back on the society, because this automatically affects the children she bears and their future.
Another work of mine is ‘Seed of Potential’, which depicts that every girl has a potential, which God has deposited inside of her, and if we nurture that thing it becomes great. There is something unique in you, it is left for you to discover that potential, work on it and use it to the maximum point to better yourself and the society at large and that is also depicted in my work ‘Journey of Life’. Another work is ‘Social Media’, which depicts two people who have gone out for an outing to probably have a drink and talk about themselves but they ended up clinging to their phones and not talking to each other as planned.
While there are physically present, their minds are far away and instead of discussing their issues, they are both chatting with other persons far away and this is what is happening every day with individuals and even with the state of the nation. There are issues we need to sit and discuss and yet we don’t, and even when we try to sit and discuss, we end up not doing that and therefore we leave everything hanging there without discussing anything to a logical conclusion. Even at times it happens to husbands and wives at home, where you spend five hours with each other and yet you don’t talk but you cling to your gadgets and chat away with others around the world and this causes so much physical and emotional drifts for couples because they would not discuss their problems and so they are connected and yet disconnected.