Fadugba's Female Formation

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BY Yinka Olatunbosun

The sight at the airy pool side behind Temple Muse, Victoria Island is one that captures the reality of every human’s quest for survival. The painting, done with unusual musky hue, is one in the series of works by Modupeola Fadugba, in her first solo show with the optimistic theme, “Heads Up, Keep Swimming”. At a press preview of the show which opens on November 6, Fadugba introduced her multimedia pieces, relishing the moment after laborious months of painting, fact-checking and preparations for a much anticipated solo exhibition.

Fadugba develops the theme against the backdrop of swimming, a skill she thinks is a rarity amongst women of colour. Hence, she assembles images of women, across several age brackets, to articulate her message of equity, feminism, and social justice. Born and raised by Nigerian diplomat parents, Fadugba had the privilege of multi-cultural childhood, and issues of identity naturally became her preoccupation as soon as she veered into art as a profession. As a child, educated in United Kingdom and United States of America, swimming was an essential life skill she learnt at school.

Every swimmer knows that swimming can be tiring, hence, the need for perseverance, words of encouragement and team spirit. Fadugba inadvertently taught this through her visual narratives comprising of synchronized female swimmers. Inspired by her find in Ibadan, Fadugba’s clusters of female swimmers as subjects of most of her works is no surprise. But while visiting with her parents in Ibadan, she was surprised to discover an international school where young girls learn to swim, even as synchronized swimmers. She, a guest speaker at one of the school’s event, is expecting to host a handful of these brave friends of water with her show in view. At the exhibition opening, her paintings will be showcased alongside a live performance by synchronized female swimmers that speak of togetherness, and if the strength in unity.

Fadugba had just returned from an art residency program in Casablanca, Morocco, perhaps with baggage full of clothes and rich cultural ideas, awaiting “baggage claim”. To identify her works as they roll along the conveyor belt, you must look out for signature style-a technique in burnt paper which generally gives each piece a dated look. Fadugba explained that her use of burnt paper is to hint at the value of the nation’s currency-deteriorating.

Having lived in others parts of the world where coins are considered as part of legal tender, she articulated her thoughts on female heroes by engraving their images in history through her well-thought out paintings. Take for instance, the large burnt paper coin showing the artistic interpretation of the image of Nigeria’s medical heroine, Dr. Stella Adadevoh, who identified the first Ebola victim in 2014, saving Africa’s most populous nation from what could have been a major catastrophe. Fadugba told the art journalists the story behind the making of this phenomenal piece. She recalled that at a point, it became very necessary to meet Adadevoh’s son whose account added more emotional feel to the work. Coupled with artistic liberty, Fadugba played around Adadevoh’s braids, emphasising the right side, splitting the image vertical to give a compelling interpretation to the physical characteristics of this brave woman.

When asked why Fadugba chose to appropriate the coin motif in her work, despite the reality that Nigerians no longer spend coins in every day transactions, the award-winning artist revealed that the coin still represents a piece of memorabilia, while notes can fade or tear with time. Hence, that quality of durability fascinates Fadugba in coins which she made several miniature pieces capable of attracting young art collectors. Born in Togo in 1985, Fadugba had been drawn to coins as a child- which came to play in body of works titled, “Heads or Tails”. She validates her career in art with art commitment to using her art to fight for global access to education, especially for girls as she debuts at Art X Lagos this weekend, with support from SMO Contemporary Art.

This exhibition sponsored by Zircon Marine, Zenith Capital and Veuve Cliquot runs till November 27.