Personal blog of Bisi Silva on contemporary visual art and culture in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, and on life in Lagos and Nigeria.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Spectacular Eyo Festival in Lagos
Eyo Masquerade Parade at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos
After all the travelling and non-stop deadlines, I was happy to relax and have fun at the much publicised Eyo Festival which took place in Lagos Island yesterday. I remember with nostalgia eyo festivals during my childhood. My cousins and I would all congregate for the weekend at my grandmother's house right in the heart of 'old' Lagos Itafaji. In those days the eyos paraded in the streets and moved freely within old lagos. We used to be terrified of them of course - and it seems i still am - as we never knew if it was a friendly eyo approaching you or not. Some eyos are know to tap you with their stick a little bit harder than you would like. On this occasion I watched it with my sisters and friends from the comfort and distance of seat.
Although it is said that the eyo festival dates back to ancient times, the earliest recorded performance is known to have been held in the 19th century. Also know as the Adamu Orisha Play, it is said to have been inherited from Ibefun, Ogun State where according to folklore the then Oba (King) of Lagos, Oba Akinsemoyin set out to appease the eyo diety so that his younger sister Erelu Kuti could bear a child. She is reported to have borne two children whose lineages to date determine the ascension to the throne of Lagos. Another story says that the orisha of the eyo was a gift to the oba of Lagos when he married an ijebu princess. Lagosians loved the display of paegantry, grace and beauty and quickly adopted the festival which has been modified since then. Apparently the early masquerades wore print ankara cloth but today that has been replaced by 3 piece white garment and a coloured cap identifying the eyo with a particular ruling family.
The eyo is usually called out in honour of an Oba who has died or an important personality in the community. Chief T.O.S Benson, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a former minister of information in the first republic and the Baba ba of Lagos who died last year was being honoured yesterday. The Lagos state government is also using the opportunity to launch the Eyo Festival as a yearly tourism event in fulfillment of their objective to attract visitors to the city.
Eyo Masquerade from the Etti family of Lagos. As the eyo from the different ruling houses came out, drumming, dancing and performing acrobatics the teeming crowd welcomed them with songs, clapping and dance. It was one of the most spectacular and joyful sights I have witnessed in a longtime. There were murmurs of how beautiful, how fantastic the eyo looked from everyone. It seemed as if all of Lagos was there and we all sat, stood, clapped and sang proudly as we watched the unparalled display of our culture unfold before our eyes.
Since coming into power nearly two years ago, Governor Fashola has done Lagosians proud, he is slowly and steadily showing that it is possible to turn this chaotic urban conurbation into a functional megacity we can all be proud of. He is carrying the people along and already the people are saying instead of him going for a second term as governor he should just make that quantum leap and gun for presidency. By making Lagos a showcase for what is possible, there is no saying where that may lead but one thing is for sure, he is likely to have the vote of nearly 15million Lagosians. I look forward to next year's festival and hope all of you will join us. Eko o ni baje! HRH, The Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu I arrives. Eyo masquerade parade Unprecedented crowds at the Eyo Festival Eyo Masquerade
The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA,Lagos) in collaboration with Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai is pleased to present to a Mumbai audience its special projects initiative. “Chance Encounters, Seven Contemporary Artists from Africa” is an exhibition organised by Nigerian curator, Bisi Silva consisting of works by acclaimed artists; Berry Bickle (Zimbabwe), Safaa Erraus (Morocco), J.D. Okhai Ojeikere (Nigeria), Myriam Mihindou (Gabon), Nnenna Okore (Nigeria), El Anatsui (Ghana) and Uche Iroha (Nigeria).
Whilst exhibitions of contemporary art in Africa have proliferated in Europe and America few, if any have been presented in India. Initiated by Sakshi Gallery, this project will hopefully engender a continuous journey of interaction and collaboration. “Chance Encounters” plays on the idea of discovering, meeting, interacting and exchange within a loosely prescribed curatorial framework. It highlights the way in which individual concerns, medium and interests coalesce into a fluid but coherent articulation of some of the important issues that affect and reflect our contemporary societies. Through different media including sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media, the artists touch on subjects of the body, memory, culture, history, colonialism, mobility, consumerism and the environment in diverse and captivating ways.
Safa Erraus reduces space to its simplest form of expression through her monochromatic wall drawings, paintings, installations. Her beautiful, silent presentations are powerful artistic vehicles that use seemingly everyday objects such as needles, pins, razor, thread and silk. However, their deceptive simplicity invoke complex emotions such as pain and pleasure, injury and healing and reference issues of history, tradition and gender. As Erraus states, ‘White is not as neutral as it appears. Every colour conceals a message.’ For example the use of gauze in her work is deeply symbolic material in her work – this thin, light almost transparent material is an important tool used in healing and in protecting from wounds and infection which Erraus uses it effectively as a metaphor for the positive, the pure against the blood red of a wound.
The methodological use of white combines the emotions of purity, pain and seduction. What the artist calls ‘Le faux doux’ (false softness), in the perennial search for an equilibrum between good and bad, right and wrong which sometimes results in missing or avoiding the possibilities in-between.
Erraus was born in 1976 in Tetouan, Morrocco. She studied at the National Institute of Fine Arts, Tetouan.
Uche Iroha fuses the documentation of everyday reality as witnessed in his critically acclaimed work ‘Fire, Blood and Flesh’, producing images that reflect the dynamic forces of urban Nigeria verve in all its diversity.The series captures the reality of an abattoir, bringint to the fore the ‘hidden’ aspect of the city whilst also symbolically, posing a mental inquiry on our society today.
Iroha was born in 1972 in Enugu, Nigeria. He graduated with a B.A, Sculpture from the University of Port Harcourt.He is a founding member of the internationally acclaimed photographic collective, Depth of Field (DoF). In 2008, he was a Prince Claus Fund laureate.
Nnenna Okore twists, weaves, flattens, ropes and braids mostly found newspapers, jute material, burlap and clay to create intricate sculptural installations which reference everyday Nigerian practices and cultural objects. She attempts to change the function, meaning, and historical or social context of the materials. By transforming ordinary materials from their original state through repetitive processes and varying textures, by employing deconstructive and reconstructive techniques, the materials inevitably assume new purposes and cultural significance .
Okore was born in 1975 in Australia. She graduated with a B.A (1st Class) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and an MFA from the University of Iowa, USA.
Berry Bickle belongs to a generation of African artists who emerged in the early 1990s when theoretical discourses about post-colonialism, cross-cultural identities and globalizations began to question the western artistic monopoly. In her work, Bickle dissects the memory of mobility and how it impacts societies. Her work often incorporates script of different kinds, recollected fragments from the colonizers written documentations.
She is most fascinated by the insignificant remains that she finds among old official documents as well as personal everyday notes such as scrapbooks, cookbooks, almanacs and diary's from life under colonial rule.The question implicit in Bickle's work is whether human beings are a community of nomadic aliens who gather personal stories to build history.
Bickle was born in 1959 in Zimbabwe. She studied at the Durban Institute of Technology and Rhodes University, South Africa.
Myriam Mihindou places the body, mobility and history at the centre of her diverse artistic practice in photography, video, sculpture and performance. Her photographic series Dechoucaj explores the link between the social and political situation in Haiti and the African continent, what the artists calls, ‘the transfer of a reality between history spectre and the index’.By presenting her images in negative black and white Mihindou wants to establish a connection between the African continent’s ties with contemporary history and the future of this chaotic territory which is Haiti.
Mihindou was born in 1964 in Libreville, Gabon. She graduated in Fine Art from the School of Fine Art in Bordeaux, France.
J.D. Okhai Ojeikere can be likened to a griot, a harbinger of history, culture and tradition.A self-taught photographer who began his career in the 1950s, the broad spectrum of Ojeikere’s work represents the richness and diversity of Nigerian and African cultural life.With a career spanning over fifty years he has documented the changing realities of a young nation from the pre-independence period throughout the early euphoric post-independence period until the present.
Ojeikere is, however, known internationally for his extensive photographic repository of collective hairstyle memory. (shown at Documenta XII 2007) The central premise of his work involves documenting an eroding inherited tradition and transmitting them into the present. Ojeikere’s works orchestrate the cultural signification of the African hairstyle which is marked by its outstanding sculptural form.
Ojeikere was born in Ovbiomu-Emai, South-Western Nigeria in 1933. He started his career in 1953 as a darkroom assistant with the British Colonial Goverment. In the early 1970s, he opened his own studio foto ojeikere in Lagos.
El Anatsui presents three sculptural works specially created for “Chance Encounters”.Internationally acclaimed for his luxuriant, monumental sculptural installations, the works reference on the one hand a rich tradition of weaving, whilst also dovetailing into a contemporaneous consciousness about our relentless consumer society and the way in which it impacts on our environment.Through his works, the object of our desire, the beauty that is so captivating, becomes on closer inspection, remnants of thousands of bottle tops of local drinks. A powerful symbolic reminder not only of the historical effects of global commerce and conquest, but also of the indelible characteristic of the 21st consumer society.
Anatsui was born in 1944 in Ghana. He is professor of Sculpture at the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Bisi Silva is the director/founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos and an independent curator. Among her projects includes co-curator, Dak’Art Biennale (2006), “Democrazy:Three solo exhibitions and a publication”,(2008). Like a Virgin… Lucy Azubuike & Zanele Muholi, (2009). She is a curator of the 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Greece in May 2009.
Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos is a Visual Art organisation founded in 2007, which aims to be a platform for the development, presentation and discussion of Nigerian contemporary visual art and culture. It seeks to create a new audience, and prioritise media such as photography, animation, film, video, performance and installation art, which have been under-presented in Nigeria. CCA,Lagos supports the intellectual and critical development of different art and culture practitioners through talks, workshops, seminars and exhibitions. In addition, they promote the professionalization of production and curatorship in Nigeria and West Africa collaborating with artists, curators, writers, theorists and national and international organizations.
Cecil Skotnes, supreme South African artist whose pioneering African modernism inspired many of this country's leading artists, died after a short illness at the age of 82.
He gained honorary degrees from Rhodes University, the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town. He exhibited prolifically both locally and internationally, including representing South Africa many times at the prestigious Venice and São Paulo Biennales. His countless awards for art include the Order of Ikhamanga (Gold).
As a young man he saw service in the South African Army's Italian Campaign. He ended up in Florence where he remained after the Allies' victory to study painting under Heinrich Steiner. On returning to South Africa he completed a BA Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand.
His experience of war and subsequent exposure to the magnificence of Italian Renaissance art must have forever shaped his passions for beauty, justice, good wine, generosity of spirit and hospitality. These values guided a full life that touched many.
His prolific multi-media output includes prints, paintings, incised painted woodblocks, sgraffito murals and commissioned works in seminaries and churches.
It is safe to say that no single artist influenced late twentieth century South African art as profoundly as he. Besides being active as an artist, it was as an educator that he freed the creative spirit of many oppressed during the height of apartheid.
He is survived by his wife Thelma, son John and daughter Pippa.
A memorial service will be held at Iziko South African National Gallery in the Gardens, Cape Town at 2.30 for 3.00 on Tuesday 14 April. Parking will be available at Cape Town High School (entrance in Hatfield Street).