Thursday, 15 September 2011

Archie Goddy Abia

A message from Nkubia trees
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
(First published Deember 2006)
QUITE a lot have been churned out in different genres of the arts about man’s perception of God, especially the perspective of monotheism.
Painter and bone collage artist, Archie Goddy Abia, revisits this issue in his mixed media Nkubia
Trees
. The large size and landscape shape of the piece offers a proper view of the work. Whichever side of the board the viewer chooses to take off the panoramic journey, what, however, attracts interest is the activities of the human figures that appear submissive to the tree.

 Like suspense in a drama, the story of Nkubia takes off, bringing into the frame, three ladies, who
lower their faces onto the ground. One after the other, these characters and two others in the background – suggestively, a female and a male – lead one into the middle of the story. The other half, which completes the story, is made up of just two characters.
 And that only two figures of a man and a tree completes the story in the next interval speaks so much
of the significance of these characters — Man on his knees before a chopped-off tree is perhaps enough to tell a story, with or without the first interval.
What story? "Man communicating with a tree," Abia explains.
   IF you are wondering what kind of communication holds between these people and the tree, a sculptured cross of the Christian faith has an explanation. But that sounds like a mixed-up of
the unusual kind, isn’t it?
The artist must have been waiting for such a reaction as he sharply rises from his seat and take a position in front of the work to share his view with his guest. Ignorance, and not lack of regard or recognition of the supremacy of God, led Africans of the past to worship the way they did, as captured in this piece, Abia argues.
 "The ultimate aim of our forefathers then was to communicate to the same God of Christianity and
Islam, but ignorance made them believed they needed a particular object to do that," Abia says.
Describing such act as idol worshipping is derogatory, he stresses, noting that it is an expression of
the West, which has been forced down the people’s sub-consciousness over time.
THE reference point, Nkubia Tree, used to be a widely accepted belief of the Efik people of
Akwa Ibom State, the artist says, while disclosing that the tree is believed to possess some caring and
loving spiritual power, the potency of which is said to have diminished, while its followership has
shrunk. As imposing as this work is inside Win Arc Gallery, Ikeja, the idea of a cross in that set up could be offensive. On the ‘unholy’ relationship between the cross and the tree, Abia explains that the cross embellished on the tree is his idea, and for the purpose of revealing "the supremacy of God over the deity."
ABIA made his debut exhibition in 1995 at Antick Gallery, Ikeja, followed it up at the Didi Museum, Victoria Island Lagos in 1996 and the last one, Colours of Democracy, a group exhibition in 2003 at Nimbus Gallery, Ikoyi Lagos.

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