BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
(First published October 2008)
Home coming for U.S.-based painter Afolake Adedayo promises to add more colour to the emerging visual arts business in Nigeria.
A self-taught artist who acquired the skills of the canvas before he left the country, nearly ten years ago, her U.S. experience, she says, is something that strengthened her sense of cultural value.
She recalls that a solo art exhibition, Fashion Statement Collection at the launch of a U.S.-based HauTe - Fashion Nigeria Magazine International, led to introduce her pet project, which is expected to challenge the western dominance of the fashion world.
Known in the U.S. for her blend of western with African art forms in past group shows such as Real Party, Real Art "Inspire", Night Of A Thousand Drawings as well as the The Black Madonna, this pedigree was enough to take Adedayo's American collectors and audience alike to a fresh level of art appreciation.
Before one begins to think that her idea of fashion across the Atlantic with a level playing field is a hard sell, she has a load of fashion thoughts to support her project.
"Fashion Statement is used as a metaphor for cultural uniqueness" and "cultural relativism which is the principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture."
The definition of fashion, its superiority and criteria, she argues, cannot be confined within a particular dominating culture.
Her works, oil pieces on canvas, to a large extent, capture the beauty in African fashion nativity, using cover designs of known and top fashion magazines in the U.S., including the revered Vogue as background to communicate her thoughts.
These are indeed odd combinations, one wonders. Adedayo, a graduate of Sociology from University of Ilorin, Kwara State, has no apology. "By creating these images in the likeness of the cat
walks, runway poises of Western fashion models, I bring to light my vision for the world."
Superior culture, in Adedayo’s perspective is too obsolete, perhaps abstractive to have a place in her thoughts. A people’s identity, fashion, and other behavioural patterns must not be subjected to some "superior cultures."
She asks: "Who defines which fashion and culture is superior or inferior to another? What are the criteria used to define superiority or inferiority, and why?" And superior argument or answer to these questions, she says lies in a people’s boldness to be themselves.
To this extent, she is "elevating the status of my subjects while at the same time challenging the ways in which African culture, particularly fashion, has been documented in crude, backward and always relegated to the background."
And now that she is home to contribute to the development of art here, she is taking her time to study the situation.
"It’s quite interesting to learn that art is moving forward here. I am still studying the scene here. I am sure I can blend easily because I used to be with the Universal Studios of Art, National Theatre, Lagos before I traveled"
As ambitious as the Fashion Statements project seems, the artist however appears less radical. Adedayo believes that "art is life and life is art" and says that art is an inherent part of her soul in expressing and communicating feelings, thoughts and ideas.
Her choice of project at any given time, she says, is determined by certain unique appeal and the specific emotion evoked at that given time.
That perhaps explains her involvement in the Black Madonna group exhibition, which has been on tour of the U.S. since 2004 and continues till February 2008 at Rosa Parks Museum, Montgomery, Alabama.
Before her relocation to the U.S. in 1998, Adedayo had two solo exhibitions, Facial Expressions at the Universal Studios of Art, National Theatre, Iganmu, in 1995 and The Durbar Man, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
In the U.S., while building her career in art, she
studied Visual Communications at The Katherine Gibbs
Adedayo is an illustrator in book cover and
corporate designs in the U.S.