ARTS & MAGAZINE
An intergenerational bond of 40 female artists crystallized at the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art (YSMA) hosted by Pan-Atlantic University, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos with former interior designer, Olufisayo Bakare making her debut as guest curator of the show Les mains invincibles. Yinka Olatunbosun reports.
Before the world went wild by equating the value of women with the size of their breasts and buttocks, cross-country women across cultures and centuries had been judged by the value of their creations – if simplified, one would say “the works of their hands”. In Nigeria, Flora Nwapa, Ladi Kwali, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Sandra Aguebor and many others have engraved their names in history by virtue of the work that their “hands” had accomplished.
But the irony of it all is that the visual arts scene in Nigeria continues to be dominated by male artists. With the infiltration of new galleries in and around Lagos, attention is starting to shift to this imbalance in the visual arts ecosystem. Curators have become more gender sensitive and intentional by showcasing works by women who have demonstrated exceptional skills using a variety of materials and media. To this end, young art connoisseur Olufisayo Bakare has curated a stunning body of work by 40 female artists of all generations and cultures at the Pan-Atlantic University of Lagos.
A cathartic experience for Bakare; an interior designer whose grandmother was an internationally renowned dyer. With a first degree and a master’s degree in interior design, her adventure in art conservation was timely despite the initial pressure of parental control.
From being curious about works of art, she evolved and engaged several artists in conversations, which fueled the idea of this exhibition produced with the support of the Pan-Atlantic University. Anxious to preserve the diverse identities of these artists, some of whom are deceased, 69 works were selected for this exhibition which began on August 28.
“It started from this historic goal of paying homage to women who might have been marginalized and bringing them to the forefront of art,” she explained before the show. Behind her was a collection of brass and bronze pieces that shone through the clear glass compartment that protected them. “We want to bridge the gender gaps in the ecology of art. Through the vehicle of education, art history and culture, we want to start infusing people’s minds with identity and nationality, ”she continued.
The range of artists presented form an intersection of ideas between established and mid-career artists and emerging artists, namely Fati Abubakar, Anne Adams, Peju Alatishe, Ruby Amanze, Lucy Azubuike, Olawunmi Banjo, Nike Davies-Okundaye. , Ndidi Dike, Nathalie Djakou Kassli, Nmadinachi Egwim, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Joy Labinjo, Peju Layiwola, Amuche Nnabueze, Abigail Nnaji, Anthonia Nneji, Rita Doris Ubah, Valerie Fab-Uche, Omoligho Udozenta, Chidinros Nnoli, Natasha Obi, Obi Amarachi Okafor, May Okafor, Nnenna Okore, Ngozi Omeje, Nengi Omoku, Odun Orimolade, Obiageli Otigbo, Opeyemi Owa, Tiwa Sagoe, Damilola Tejuosho, Anthea Epelle, Juliet Ezenwa, Modupeola Fadugba, Ukhorima Yaluha- Winkko Kinha Susanne Wenger. Around the well-ventilated space is an assemblage of paintings, photographs, tapestries and textiles, sculptures and mixed media. While some of these came from the permanent collection of YSMA, others were on temporary loans from artists and collectors. Call it a celebration of women’s contribution to the arts from the pre-colonial era to the more contemporary era, the show also tells a poignant story for every pair of keen and attentive eyes.
“You will notice that the works talk about puberty, menstruation and menopause,” Bakare added. “So we take the historical prism to emulate some of the founding mothers of the arts in Nigeria and celebrate their historical contributions. “
The cross-pollination of the ideas suggested by the arrangement of the works in this exhibition is akin to a mentoring session carried out in absentia. Most artists work in isolation – a situation that often makes it difficult to have this “table talk” between generations of female artists. But with Invincible Hands, the gap is closed; and the pieces are sealed.
“None of these works would be sold and it is only for educational purposes,” Bakare explained, also revealing that classes are being held in the museum to rekindle students’ interest in the history of Nigeria that had long been removed from the school curriculum.
“You would see pieces of sculpture. From this point where Modupe Fadugba’s room is located, I have a red wall that signals puberty and all along the hallway has more intense red constructions due to mimicking the evolution of a wife. And when you get to the end, you see black and white that relates to menopause or the stopping of time. At the end of the show, we bring it back to Peju Olayiwola’s piece “Stamping History”. In a way, we pay homage to history and prepare for the future.
Although most of the artists featured are Nigerians, Djakou Kassli is from Cameroon while Wenger was from Austria, known for her historic role in reinventing the sacred grove of Osun Osogbo to become one of the heritage sites. UNESCO World Cup.
One of the most breathtaking pieces in the exhibition is Natasha Ogunji’s four-piece central painting on the ground floor called “Olori Funmilayo Shyllon Exhibition Gallery”. On its right side hangs the characteristic, larger-than-life painting of Okundaye. Other captivating pieces include Nnaji’s electrifying wire mesh piece titled “Each for Equal,” Tejuosho’s mastery of nails in crafting the pointillist piece titled “Distorted World View,” among others.
“Conversations around identity can be found in the works of Tiwa Sagoe, and the intrinsic nature of basket weaving and how it relates to common practice today. It’s her first show after school. There is a room that is created from a cigarette box and you would see them start there. It was done by Amarachi Okafor and it’s about the community, ” Bakare said as he walked through the exhibition hall.
Among the guests at the opening of the exhibition was the curator’s father, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who marked the exhibition by trying to break down barriers against women artists.
“For a very long time you had a society that thought women were only good for this or that. What we can see today clearly shows that what men can do, women can do and sometimes better, ”he said. Her point of view was reflected by the museum’s main patron, Otunbo Yemisi Shyllon, who said the show offers “the opportunity to harness the great potential of women artists in the growth and development of our country and by putting enhance the positive image of our country. ”
The exhibition which runs until January 18, 2022 is the third exhibition organized at the museum since its opening in 2019. Like the first Making Matter and the second Mirroring Man, the current exhibition is designed as an educational tool for new audiences who will question history through the works.
“The exhibition presents a perfect opportunity for YSMA to gain more visibility and accessibility, to provide more relevant resources on Nigerian art history and to collaborate with artists to engage with the public” said the director of the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic Jess. said Castellote.