Having brought riverine community of Makoko, Yaba, Lagos, into wider public attention through thematic paintings over the decades, artists, in the New Year, would be contributing to the humanitarian needs of the same people. Late last year, six artists showed paintings and sculptures titled Dear Nigeria, Dear Friends, at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, as part of a non-governmental development efforts to assist Makoko.
In the Lagos art parlance, the Makoko theme is still the most focused, such that a section of Nigerian art critics has termed it ‘repetitive’ in apparent derogation of some artists’ artistic expression. But LIFE, an acronym for Literacy, Integration and Formal Education, at Makoko, has now reconnected a familiar theme with the artists to justifying the ‘repetitive’ strokes on canvas over the decades.
This much the paintings and sculptures of Abraham Uyovbisere, Fidelis Odogwu, Alex Nwokolo, Gerry Nnubia, Francis Uduh and George Edozie are focused on at the exhibition. As one of the two sculptors at the gathering, Odogwu brings his metal dexterity in such figural and abstractive pieces as ‘Social Club,’ a display of geles by five women and ‘The Source,’ depicting the essence of living in communal support.
For Uyovbisere, it’s a visit to a theme he probably did several decades ago. In three series titled ‘Downtown GRA’, Uyovbisere brings the sarcastic context of ‘Government Reservation Area’ into the Makoko debacle. In his impressionistic signature, the artist spices the Makoko streetscape with great depth in perspective representation.
“The waterside scene fits better into the subject,” the artist says during the opening. Nwokolo’s landscape of pathways ‘Green Life’, ‘Tree of Life’, and ‘Balogun Market’ series are the four set of painting on the right side at the gallery. With Uduh’s dancing sculptures, Nnubia’s ‘flow’ technique paintings, and stylised figural by Edozie, Dear Nigeria, Dear Friends presents a rich, artistic social responsibility show. For example, from Nnubia’s ‘flow’ technique comes a 360-degree portraiture of different textures.
“I am an experimentalist… I cannot be stagnant,” Nnubia boasts.Organised by Elvira Sellaras-led LIFE Foundation, proceeds of the exhibition would be used for development of education structures at Makoko community this year and beyond, LIFE Foundation announces. The organisers would like a repeat of the show this year, noting, “This is the first (2017) and we hope to make it again next year,” Sellaras enthuses as visitors trickled in for the opening.
Sellaras recalled that ahead of the exhibition, LIFE Foundation had, in the last two years, “executed various projects in Makoko community.” Among such works, she says “are rebuilding a primary school, facilitating two medical missions, organising seasonal parties, equipping a school library and distributing books, teaching aids and 1,000 pairs of sandals to school children.”
LIFE, she disclosed, was incorporated in 2006 to promote the welfare and best interests of orphans and vulnerable children through formal education and social integration. Indeed, the task ahead requires more efforts outside the regular donors.“The needs of the school-aged children of Makoko community are enormous,” Sellaras, president/founder of LIFE alerted visitors to the exhibition. “But I am confident that hope will remain alive and significant progress achieved if we all join hands in support.”
However, the foundation has support in the contribution of Alliance Française, Lagos.“This exhibition by six top-rated Nigerian artists covers an extraordinary diversity of subjects and techniques,” Charles Courdent, Director at the French cultural organisation noted. “Alliance Française, together with the French Institute in Nigeria, as the French cultural and teaching centre in Lagos and nine other centres in all Nigeria, is very proud to be associated with this project.”
He explained that the organisation was promoting “what French language can bring in terms of culture and diversity” and argued in favour of to richness of multi-lingua environment, saying, “French is another language, another culture linking people around the world, more especially in Africa” and commends LIFE for “bringing this wonderful project alive; they do a fabulous work to give hope to children, by giving shining colours to a dark world!”