History is an eternal storytelling art. It is an inherited heritage. A people without a history cannot be taken seriously. Nigeria is blessed with a rich history, and every state and ethnic group boasts of its unique heritage. It is, however, disheartening to observe that as a result of global trends and technological advancement, some of these histories have become distorted and are gradually going into extinction. Few have clamoured for a feasible way to preserve these priceless values, but little successes have been recorded.
Kehinde Sanwo, a studio artist with over three decades, has decided to take the bull by the horn, by engaging in a painting spree to preserve the historical legacy of Lagos State. With his forthcoming exhibition titled, Lines and Legacy, Sanwo aims at educating the masses on the need to maintain the ancient edifice, culture, heritage and value passed to them by their progenitors.
The two weeks show, scheduled to open today at the One Draw Gallery, will feature a number of works from Sanwo that depict the cultures of the Island and Mainland areas of Lagos State. Some of his works include, Ori-owo Patewo (Prosperity-Applaud), Ewa dunni-ojo n’peti (Beauty to behold), Iconic Pose, Kings College, Darocha legacy, The Lord’s Patrimony (Olaiya House), Early Gathering (Olaiya House), Ebun House (Petesi Andrew) among others.
Speaking on what inspired the idea, Sanwo said the demolition of ‘ Olaiya House’ and other historical buildings provoked the documentation in art form.“This exhibition has been inspired by two situations: the destruction of Ilojo Bar (Olaiya House at Tinubu Square) and an encounter with my daughter’s home assignment,” Sanwo stated.
“I was shocked when the Olaiya house, which is over a century old, was pulled down over two years ago. More surprising was that such dastardly act happened when Lagos was celebrating 50 years. Portuguese and other colonial designs architecture in Lagos are among features that define the city’s history and heritage.”
According to him: “I have over the years done a lot of works that document the old Lagos architecture. That is something I stumbled on in 1995 and I found it then as a unique opportunity for me to take on the responsibility to do this. I found out that our architectures are not in good state and this shows that the government is not really interested in preserving them. The desire to continue in that direction was what made me feel like I have been given an assignment to quickly document these things, because at the rate at which those buildings were being pulled down was quite alarming. In as much as the state government wishes to make Lagos a mega city, it should remember to preserve its history so that when the state reaches the desired expectations, we can trace back to the history, because they speak values, represent the lifestyles of the people in the early days.”
The artist, who has exhibited his work in shows across the world, also spoke on reason for his choice of charcoal in expressing his theme rather that his trademark painting medium.“I have done similar shows on the same theme on canvas and paper, but this time, I decided to go with the charcoal medium so as to bring the aura of freshness into the execution of the project and because it gives you that black and white feeling, handing you the right tool to fully bring out the nostalgic feeling that comes with admiration of the works. From 2016, I started compiling the works, particularly using lines with limited hues.
“Apart from the works on architecture, I’m also showing figurative drawings (about women’s fashion) that tell stories of how females wear their native hair style,” Sanwo explained.Also speaking, the Director of One Draw Gallery, Olusegun Adejumo, expressed optimism about the show, which he revealed would be their first solo exhibition.
As a specialised gallery, One Draw, in the past one year, has exhibited quite a number of drawings by many artists, director and founder, Olusegun Adejumo said. “And now that we decided to have a solo a exhibition, Kehinde Sanwo fits the draw, as he has the quality that enhances the reputation we are establishing as a specialised gallery.”
Adejumo is hopeful that the exhibition would be a wonderful experience for visitors, as it brings to mind almost forgotten histories. Adejumo assured that the 30 works of Sanwo that have been carefully selected from the artist’s studio are strong enough to promote the theme of the exhibition. Lines, he argued, is fundamental to art and comes into focus as Sanwo shows what it takes to be a fantastic draughtsman.