By Tajudeen Sowole
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 00:00
Despite 18 years experiencing civility in self-exile, U.S-based painter and art scholar, dele jegede has stuck to restless thematic expression, which depicts the impertinence of a home country full of despair and paradox.
THIS, the artist continued as his solo art exhibition titled Peregrinations, which opened on Saturday, ending May 12, 2011 at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos drew a feeble line between the artist and the activist.
And quite interesting, jegede’s escape out of the country, and his brief return, coincidentally, shared two crucial periods in the nation’s political evolution: he left in January of the same year the military plunged Nigeria into political impasse caused by “irrevocable annulment” of June 12 1993 presidential election; currently showing his first solo since 30 years, after the international election observers’ verdict of “free and fair,” prevented what could have brought back another political logjam as the voters’ preference during the just concluded presidential election stressed the fragility of a country ethnically balkanised.
jedede’s Peregrinations dripped of everything that has retrogressed Nigeria, just as the potential in social and cultural values were also highlighted. The works were a mixed of the artist’s recent efforts and few on loan from private collections, some of which dates back to over 15 years. However, in the recent works, done in the past two years, jegede peregrinated on the two hearts of Nigeria: Abuja and the troubled Niger Delta. In fact, this much he stressed in series of abstractive as
|dele jegede (left), cartoonist, Josy Ajiboye, Duro oni and Yemisi Shyllon during the show|
Also, the hip-hop musical expression, which has its origin in the U.S., interestingly, attracts the brush strokes of jegede, 66, a supposedly purist in the art and culture parlance.
From Niger Delta: Apocalypse (2011), a scary and nuclear fumes-like image, Niger Delta:Shell Socked, (2010), an oil spillage depiction, to figural such as Niger Delta: Militancy series and abstracts Abuja Charade and Abuja Masquerade, the paradox of affluence in the midst of devastation was beamed. jegede’s rendition of this contrast, instructively, is more relevant as a reflective medium for Nigeria’s wastefulness, particularly, at this period when the country, recklessly, dug her treasury and lost nine innocent corps members just to conduct a general election, an exercise taken for granted, even in lesser developing nations.
And just to remind the people of the torturous era of the Jackboots, State of Anomie (1994) revisited that period in a collage, which depicted the villainy characteristics of the military regimes.
In the accompany narratives of the catalogue, jegede lamented that civilian regimes did not fear better as the nation has continued self-outpacing in retrogression. He argued that the current situations “have made the Shagari era looked like Nigeria’s golden age.”
The artist, currently a Professor of Art History in the Department of Art, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, U.S, is intrinsically, conceptual on issue-based themes. This he had stressed in his last two shows in Nigeria titled Paradise Battered (1986) and Eko Re E: This is Lagos (1991).
|Bruce Onobrakpeya (left) and Mrs Jegede during the opening of Perregrinations|
jegede, few days ahead of the opening of Peregrinations, noted that the solution lies in education and enlightenment. “Of course, I use these notions in their most expanded sense. Possession and exercise of these attributes are essential to the art that an artists produces, just as is the environment within which the artist functions.” He however warned that it is not idealistic to be prescriptive on the content of art. “But we owe it to ourselves to ask our artists to be “selfish” in the way that they produce, and recommend that they default in favor of art that is intense in the way that it engages viewers, and not necessarily in the way that it pleases them.” As a renowned art educationist, whose experience transcends the Nigerian education climate, his view on issue such as challenge in admission into arts departments of higher institutions in Nigeria cannot be dismissed. Art academics here complain of drastic drop in prospective students. This has even led some schools to drop the basic requirements such as background or passion for Fine Art. The argument is that if students who do not have music or theatre background, for example, are given admissions for these disciplines, similar process should be applied in giving admission to students who wish to study to Fine Arts. jegede explained that on the study of the humanities, especially art history, the argument may be made that fine art may not be a sole pre-requisite.
“However, this particular approach is becoming moribund. The point is that educating students is a very serious business, one that is neither left to speculation and emotion, nor left to the whims and caprices of a few enthusiastic individuals who are not qualified in this particular field.”