Kenyan artist Geoffrey Omondi Magina’s five-week experiences in Nigeria unfurled with his 19 works displayed at an exhibition held at the OYASAF Garden in Lagos mainland neighbourhood of Maryland on Thursday, October 19.
Coming to Nigeria, courtesy the OYASAF international artist-in-residence programme, was for the dreadlocks-sporting artist, a much-desired opportunity to have a close-up interaction with fellow Africans of different orientation.
His visit coincides with the period when the OYASAF founder and chairman, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, decided to make his art foundation’s artist-in-residence programmes more Afro-centric. Previously, scholars and artists from the US, Austria and South Africa had been hosted by the foundation in Lagos.
Magina’s five weeks in Nigeria were, therefore, shared between Lagos and Abeokuta. While in Abeokuta, he was availed the OYASAF facility for his work. It was here that he not only produced the works on display, but also taught art to the security guard he met at the premises as well as young children he met around the area. The security man, who had no prior artistic skills, was able to produce a painting using oil and acrylic on canvas.
Shyllon had thought it would be desirable to let the visiting artist work undisturbed in the serene environment of Abeokuta. “I had no intention of seeing the works he produced before the exhibition,” he told the gathering at the event.
Magina, who holds graduated in 2013 from Strathmore University with bachelor’s degree in commerce, is a dab hand at improvisations. Overwhelmed by the visual experiences in this hitherto unknown environment, he had had to make use of available materials to produce the works on display, a few of which he would have wished to make in 3D.
Striking among the exhibits is a painting of an armless Fela, which he titled “St Fela”. His canonisation of the late Afro-beat legend was nourished by a dewy-eyed adulation dating back to his childhood years. What a coincidence therefore that this idol of his hailed from Abeokuta!
Magina’s artistic dexterity leaves much to the viewers’ conjecture. The canvases displayed on easels along the walkway in the OYASAF Garden seethe with his Nigerian experiences some of which he verbally shared with the guests at the evening event.
Two impressions stood out among the lot. One was the predilection for cultural attires among Nigerians. And the other? Mouse traps! He bought several of these among several other items to take back to Kenya. He also returned to his native Kenya with fond memories of his visits to Lagos-based art galleries, such art centres and institutions as the National Museum, Freedom Park and the Universal Studios at Iganmu, among others.