Shuaibu’s Solo Statement on Canvas

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Yinka Olatunbosun
Collectors and aficionados received the works of a new-generation fine artist, Zainab Shuaibu, at her solo exhibition held in Abuja recently. Interestingly too, the Minister of Information, Alh. Lai Mohammed led the voices in appreciation of the show with the theme, “Matters of Heart and Mind’’.

“Zainab’s colours are real and attractive. She responses to issues of the moment through art. She showcases our diverse cultures and uses her talent to raise awareness on issues. This exhibition is a milestone in her artistic endeavour and Nigeria is very proud of her,” said the Minister.

Although young Shuiabu is only 24, she has a sustained experience as an artist having started quite early. At six, she had demonstrated her interest in the art, playing around colours and paintings. It’s in the family DNA; her father does industrial design as well. Still, Zainab’s earliest adventures with forms grabbed the attention of her uncle, Isa Shuaibu. She had made a self-portrait which is still in her uncle’s custody till date. Looking back, the artist had related with the paint and brush for close to two decades, developing a socio-political framework for her latest body of works.

“The main purpose of the exhibition is to deliver social, political and emotional issues that we all face. Of course, it also has some element of humour, so it can be light,’’ said the artist.

“I am deeply interested in national issues because as a nation we need more unity. We lack a lot of that. We don’t work together. There is a massive divide going on and I think we need to come together more as a nation. This is my own way of delivering the little I can.”

Some of the works in which Shuaibu held a dialogue with her fatherland and the world in general are “Oppression”, “Mind of Hostage” and “Resource Course”. While “Oppression” serves as a call for justice and equity, “Mind of Hostage” is about a country waging war against itself.

Prostitution and drug addiction are two vices that constitute global concerns and the artist thinks that the efforts towards reducing these have been insufficient.

In “Hashish’’, the artist’s concern is about the devastating effects of marijuana while in “Harlotry’’, she presents a nude female figure, to provoke conversations on other gender-based topics such as rape.

“There are a lot of issues we sweep under the carpet in this country. I do not think things like prostitution and rape should be ignored. I think the victims exist and not making statements about them or not discussing the topic make them feel worse about the situation. So, I got inspired by what I have seen and heard and from the stories I read in the papers. Around here, people don’t discuss that,” the artist said.

In all, Zainab’s works should speak to art lovers as an embodiment of artistic audacity, stylistic freedom with aesthetic appeal. James Irabor, the curator at the National Gallery of Arts, said at the event that she transcended various genres and techniques. According to Irabor, who was among the NGA team that attended the event, Zainab connects the near and the distant in her stylistic outlook.

“Hers is a combination of different kinds of styles. That is why although this is a solo exhibition, the works on display look as if we have a combination of artists on board. You can see traces of the Zaria school as well as the impressionist from the US or the minimalist from far and near. She is bringing home all available styles to Nigeria,’’ said Irabor.

“This is strength in the sense that she showcases varieties. You know, she is still at the experimental stage. Later, she will fall in love with one or two particular styles and even discover where her strength mostly lies. Then she will do more works in such areas.”