A Show for Earth and Ethos

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Yinka Olatunbosun

Walking through the corridor at the Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, a guest is likely to be enthralled by the captivating metal works and paintings along the aisle that separates the buffet hall from the conference room. These foods-for -the -eyes that are currently showing are the works of two artists, namely, Raqib Bashorun and Chika Idu. Bashorun needs no introduction; he is a contemporary artist or better yet, an environmentalist artist whose works are powerful mechanism for the campaign for preserving the earth, recycling and other environmental issues. Yes, he belongs to the old generation of artists in Nigeria, still, his themes resonate across the generations.

As for Chika Idu, he is regarded as an accomplished portraitist, strong in the use of water colour and like Bashorun, is involved in environmental campaign, which is a recent addition to his portfolio. What is quite interesting about this show titled, “Evolving Currents’’ is the bridging of their perspectives on the theme. While Bashorun articulates his thoughts in these 14 pieces using found materials, metal and wood, Idu’s paintings are platforms for African narratives to be told.

Bashorun created jobs for scavengers when he began to collect soda cans which made an impactful yet aesthetically appealing piece in “Ebb and Flow’’ through the artist’s meticulous arrangement of these found items. At the press preview of the exhibition, the artist stressed the need for recycling at domestic and state levels. He urged women to refine soda cans and make them into wearable art rather than dumping them into sewage tanks or open drainages. His pattern of arrangement of the metal in soda cans on canvas also has the semblance of embroidery on fabrics. Meanwhile, his work “Eastern Dragon’’ illustrates the Nigeria-China bi-lateral relations to foster economic growth.

In his works, Idu interrogates traditional Nigerian ceremonies, musicians and landscapes. What seems to be very intriguing in his latest body of works is his veering into issues of women’s rights. That was actually inspired by a personal encounter with a victim of sexual harassment. Prior to the exhibition, he started creating paintings that reflected the varying temperament of a woman. His subject is a serving youth corp member whose employer had threatened to dismiss if she would not concede to having sexual relations with him. That story is not unique. It is indeed a global narrative for most women with statistics showing that 1 in every 4 women must have been sexually harassed or abused once in a lifetime. Sadly, the figures soar on a daily basis. His monochrome series also speak for women in countries where they are voiceless. For instance in Saudi Arabia, women are prohibited from driving automobiles, mandated to wear head coverings and restricted from public speaking. According to the artist, the use of red lipstick in the monochrome painting, built up with palette knife, is a symbol of the powerful nature of speech.

Idu began reconstructing this story using acrylic on canvas. The works were spotted in his studio at Ikorodu by the curator for the exhibition, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago who demanded that he should show those statement works at the joint-exhibition. His 24 pieces also include the children playing in murky waters around the National Theatre, Iganmu after school. Other pieces show the children praying, reading and swimming. The morale of his visual narratives is to raise awareness about the dangers for children living in coastal slums.
The exhibition which is supported by Wheatbaker and Veuve Clicquot runs till June 16, 2016.