By Tajudeen Sowole
When painter, Chuka Nnabuife opens his solo art exhibition titled Memoirs of a Generation 2, at Quintessence Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos tomorrow, the works would be explaining the artist’s thoughts on the difficult task of managing his visual arts practice and journalism.
In fact, it’s the second in the series after he showed Memoirs of A Generation at the same venue in 2008.
And by extension, he has deployed his art skill to chronicle the challenges of the people in a changing, perhaps dynamic socio-economic environment.
|My Baby, You Are the Most Beautiful by Nnabuife.
Currently a journalist with The National Compass newspaper, Nnabuife, who has put in over 20 years in the media, is also attempting to use his Memoirs series to highlight the challenges in journalism, a profession he noted is woven with “24-hour chores.”
Four years after the first Memoir, the brushstrokes of Nnabuife – so suggests some of the new works – appear more precise, taking a leap from cautious, perhaps conservative rendition stranded between abstraction and realism into definite visual commentary.
A prolific writer, as the visual arts sub-section of arts journalism demands, Nnabuife, perhaps, would have loved to stress his proficiency at the studio end, as some of the works explain. For example works, such works as Migrant Workers, African Magic, Love Child and My Baby, You Are the Most Beautiful show an artist with instinct for deeper visual narration. Sometimes, it takes another leap into satirical and covert humour as My Baby, You Are the Most Beautiful and Single Fatherhood disclose.
In his Artist Statement, Nnabuife explains how he refused to accept losing art practice to journalism. He states, “I consoled myself (and still console myself) that my mission in journalism is a divine call and a very necessary service, which I must personally render to the arts and humanity.”
In striking a balance, he has had to find a way to be mobile, so he came up with what he describes as “idea of working in materials and formats that are comfortable for a mobile artist and in convenient sizes that I could carry along while commuting to and from work.”
On the Memoirs series as a concept, he explained that he has had to chronicle the challenges of the current generation, within the context of culture, social, economy and politics, saying, “Through the series, I capture – celebrate, spoof or critique – some trends I have spotted in the Nigeria of the past 20 through 25 years.
“Money madness, disenchantment with scholarship, migration, violence, drop in family value, religious craze, showbiz frenzy, abuse of vital traditional heritages such as royalty, religious favuor, general socio-political hypnotism, celebration of brawn against brain and joblessness et al are factors I noticed of the time”.
Although to a large extends, the strokes, light and shades of Nnabuife attempt to equal his depth of writing, but the constrain, mentally, would not let go. And how did he get entangled in the ‘media Vs visual arts’ dilemma? He traces the beginning of his sojourn back to September 1992 when he worked at the Information Department of the Osun State Ministry of Information and Culture.
Other chains of career build up that cannot be divorced with his current experience, he listed having been published or broadcast in Old Anambra Broadcasting Service Television, ABS TV, Enugu; Osun Voice Newspaper, Osogbo; Osun State Broadcasting Corporation Television, OSBC TV, Ibokun.
“Following those early years of 'infatuated' adventure into mass media practice, albeit without any form of payment or employment status, I spotted, to my discomfort, a conspicuous backwardness, if inexistence, of active press projection of the developments in creative industry, especially the core arts and culture. Hence, I noticed a vacant space of socially relevant service for a person of my kind of multidisciplinary endowment in the Nigerian society.
“I therefore craved to work actively in the mainstream of mass media because it also gave me the opportunity of developing my creative, writing passion while also learning more about my society through the investigative reporting faculty of the profession. I also had to be regularly involved in an endeavour I love – reviewing art as well as idealising issues around the artistic industries and cultural sector.
“Given my natural predilection towards the literary and the practice of journalism even as an art school student, particularly, my discovery of a vast, socially dangerous vacuum in the Nigerian (and African) mass media for in-depth reportage of artistic and cultural events, I deliberately committed myself to journalism with stubborn bias for the Arts, Cultural and Tourism beats once I found myself settled fully in the field.
“However, my consciousness of the drawbacks the journalism venture could pose to my art practice brought a wave of worrisome brain cracks.”