Orry Shenjobi Redefines Beauty in Debut Solo Exhibition

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Free spirit, inner bliss and sheer resilience mark the newly-found beauty in less privileged communities, as discovered by the lens of a young forward-looking photographer, OrryShenjobi. Yinka Olatunbosun reports

The whirlwind of festivities may have blown over but the new discovery in photography, Orry Shenjobi leaves a sweet taste to savour. The unassuming artist, who co-founded “Women in Art’’ a digital arts platform with focus on women, was waiting at the Ikoyi-bound gallery, ‘Angels and Muse’ where journalists had a brief moment with her last December on her debut show titled, “Beauty Within The Struggle.’’ Clad in t-shirt and jeans, she recounted how she started this journey in visual storytelling without much professional experience.

“My art journey started when I was really young. I noticed that I could draw but I didn’t take it seriously till the end of secondary school,’’ she began.

The self-taught artist had studied Product design from the University of Leeds before moving back to Nigeria in 2019 for the mandatory National Youth Service programme.

“I had always wanted to have an exhibition of my works. So, I took these photos three years ago and I thought I could use the service year to develop more ideas to complete this collection,’’ she continued.

Meanwhile, her attention fell on Makoko- a community of less privileged where she found a new voice to express humanity.

“Usually, when we hear about places like Makoko in Lagos, we also thought it is a poverty-stricken area. We never think of something good about the place. But when I went there, I was half- expecting that maybe people won’t be too friendly. So, I got a local school teacher to be my tour guide. But people were kind and they wanted to share their stories. The people are happy and resilient, despite the condition, the people are very contented. I came to the conclusion that you don’t need material things to be happy. I was very pleased with the results I got from that experience,’’ she recounted.

To create that visual conversation, Shenjobi took over 50 shots out of which 16 were selected for the show. From landscape to immersive portraits, Shenjobi tells the story of a people in their daily struggles.

“I want people to feel like they are eye witness to that experience. I want them to feel as though they are there. That’s why I texturize my work to give that three-dimensional feel. You can almost smell the water. I wanted to show different sides. I think that frames that distract from the images. Some of the works were taken with phone-camera. I usually don’t shoot in areas like market,’’ she said. In all, the shooting for the exhibition took three years.

Inspired by hip-hop artist Jay Cole and master conceptual artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Shenjobi draws her creative energy frommultiple art expressions.