Pleasant eccentric, Rukeme Noserime’s Pluralism
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published Dec 2007)
The size of Nigeria and its resources makes a paradox of the country’s development within the committee of nations. However, another look at this huge country as suggested by the art exhibition, Nigeriannnese, In Visual Pluralism – a body of work said to have spanned a period of 20 years – places the ‘giant’ as a relevant factor to some cultures of the sub Saharan Africa and beyond.
The exhibition, which opened at the Harmattan Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos on December 1, 2007 and is currently on till tomorrow, December 12, 2007 is a solo effort of Rukeme ‘Seun Noserime. It takes a trip to some part of West and North Africa to uncover the dynamism of the Nigerian value, particularly through the emerging genres of the nation’s creative sector.
|Nigerianness, A New Dawn by Rukeme Nosrime
And it is not impossible that Nigeria is more like a fountain to some cultures across the continent. Noserieme explained that this is not coincidence, but heritage.
The works are collections of familiar medium such as thermoplastic engraving, glucoi panel, tenebrisic drawing (pencil) and latent realism. But in what looks like an experiment, he comes out with a new entry into art lexicon. He calls it Nillism.
Noserime supports his cultural view by analysing that it is impossible to ignore over 140 million people in reference to global cultural heritage. "Nigeria holds the key to all artistic and cultural manifestation history in the world," he argued. In his research into the entity called Nigeria, Noserime disagreed that the enviable performance of Nigerians, at home and in the Diaspora, are mere coincidence. The diverse cultural background of the people, he said, plays a greater role in this dynamism. He brought in example from the creative sectors.
"An overview of the recent development in the creative art testifies to my argument. The recent posture, upsurge in our poetry, literature, music and cinema is as a result of the absolute adaptation and inclusive highlights of our norms, values, customs and tradition in those various aesthetic phenomenal fields." However, the contribution of the visual art sub-section of the creative Nigerian community is not a complementary one. Noserime agreed, warning that the visual art practitioners must wake up and join the train.
It goes beyond patriotism – perhaps an uncommon love. "Yes, it is purely a Niger-centric, philosophical experience expressed through the visual sight. It is the reawakening of the Nigerian spiritual urge that tends to re position the essence of the African value systems, culture and belief as a world view phenomena."
In the Fulani and Benin culture, his thermoplastic engraving take some classic approach to expression as such works like Fulani Grandeur and Edo Royal Grandeur, finished on boards, highlight motifs as swell as paraphernalia of traditional royal settings of these two cultures. Still on this experimental engraving, between another work, Nupe Grandeur, (1998), and Magidi Hausa Drummer, Emir Standard Bearers and Nigerian Motherhood (2007), the transition from a take-off to maturity is noticed.
On Nillism, a form of art that the artist explained is related to the Nile, he has a periodic one: combined choice of slightly burn colour and the motifs implored in the work, Reminiscent Form and Motif (The Nile and Fulani) 2007, take one’s thought back several centuries. Here lies the artist’s evidence of his country’s cultural relevance to other cultures: a Fulani milk maid in balance-act sandwiched by Pharaoh-like image and a Nefertiti, hieroglyphics and some Fulani motifs, all seem to have something in common.
Which of the two cultures is the source for the other? Apparently, one may simply agree that the Nile which history places at advantage in this context is older. But the volume of influence each of these two has on their respective and immediate environment could tilt the argument to the advantage of the Fulani, a culture that has wider spread along the West African coast. The Egyptian culture as it appears has limited influence even in the Northern part of the continent where the line between Arabian and Egyptian culture is very thin.
|Ara (charcoal) by Rukeme
And if one has to consider that the Yoruba culture also has some influence in certain parts of West Africa, such as Republic of Benin and Togo, and by extension, Central and South America, Noserime’s position of a rich cultural heritage of Nigeria, beyond its shores, may be correct.
The human resources of the country are also intimidating. The artist, as a matter of choice, gives kudos to some celebrities whose image cut across generations, particularly with reference to the arts and leadership.
In the nation’s first premier, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; courageous poet and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Noserime has found the right leadership quality as pencil medium or tenebrisic drawings explain. For the late premier, it is for "a prime minister’s heart for the art and culture" of his country while the poet’s image gets the Reminiscent Knowledge. The artist, in the same monochrome form captures Tinubu in his ahrami robe during a hajj exercise and titled the piece, Calm Dignity (the Asiwaju of Lagos).
The beauty of the artist’s pencil strokes are better appreciated in other tributes he presented in one of the most celebrated Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde titled Omotola, Pious, Courage and Ever focused. Same for Modupe The Body Ozolua, Aisha Olu, Abuja Super Model and Ara, The Mystery and the Talking Drum.
He also reminds us in the portrait P. B. O., tribute to Pastor Bimbo Odukoya that we should not forget so soon the contribution of the late motivational speaker and prolific writer, in the journey to nation building.
The artist’s knowledge of art history cannot be divorced from the richness of this latest solo effort, Nigeriannnese, In Visual Pluralism. And for the visual art family to be part of a new Nigerian brand, Noserime believes that art history is the key to creativity. However, the art teacher of over 20 years is not happy that most Nigerian artists treat this aspect of art with levity. More worrisome, he added, is that this unhealthy attitude is being imbibed by students is most art schools.
"Most students lack interest in the theoretical aspect of the visual arts. This has gone a long way in affecting the over all articulation of the present day Nigerian artist," he said, noting that the artist is the only one that can re-direct and reposition his profession. A good background of art history and aesthetic cannot be ignored since a lot of views have to be aligned in context with one’s cultural perspective, he said.
Noserime’s perspective of modern Nigerian art plays around the aesthetics as well as socio-economic factors.
The immediate concern of the African artist, he said, is with the cultural relation of the art to other aspects of Society.
"Twentieth Century Nigerian artist in the process of visual interpretation anchors his expressions in projecting his philosophy or ideology in various media. These media reflect his time, economy, social and spiritual pre-occupations."
Artist, he stressed, should see art not as imitation of nature but its transformation by an equally creative process. "These synthetic transformations, often resultant from a specific study of nature and man himself, extend the environment in which he lives."
The Head of Department, Fine Art, Yaba College of Technology (now City University), Yaba, Lagos, this current effort is the artist’s third solo exhibition since 1977 when he made his debut at Federal College Ilorin, Kwara State. He has a credential of over 20 group exhibitions, home and abroad.