Sunday 16 September 2012

In Greece, Ehikhamenor takes on post-colonialism

THOUGH it’s hard to quantify the degree of damage or good western influence has done to the psyche of Nigerian youths, graphic artist, Victor Ehikhamenor, in his forthcoming show will attempt to put a figure via images.

Holding as part of the yearly art and culture festival in Greece, the photography show, which focuses on the post-colonial narrative, is titled Action Field Kodra 2012 Contemporary Art, and runs from September 7 to 18 at Ex-military Camp Kodra, Greece.

Participating artists include Yee I-Lann (Malaysia), Andrea Stultiens (The Netherlands), Julius Muller (The Netherlands), Dow Wasiksiri (Thailand) and
Angki Purbandono (Indonesia).
One of Victor Ehikhamenor's Greece-bound images
CAPTURED in the rural settings of Ehikhamenor’s native Benin, Edo State home, the portrait-format of the works, executed with the artist’s unique graphic and design skills, come out strongly as a satire. The pictures affirm the painful neocolonial mentality that has taken over the African continent.

For example, what has hoods got to do with largely tropical seasons of Africa? He says this and other surprising behaviours caught his attention when he last visited home.
Ehikhamenor says ignorance has contributed to Africans forgetting their rich African values.

Though the artist employs different ankara fabrics to give these portraits African tone, the western influence still manifests… Ankara fabric is actually a Dutch wax.

EHIKHAMENOR’s last major solo show at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos, two years ago, set the artist out as a thorough-bred homeboy who, most often, gets inspirations from visiting his root — Udomi-Uwessan. And this despite the fact that he had lived abroad for over a decade, only returning home a few years ago to super-intend the graphic and production designs of the now defunct NEXT newspapers.

The works for the Greece show, which he tags American Invasion, follows the known patterns of his expressive narration of contemporary political realities. He recalls making the works in 2010 and 2012 in his village, a one-hour drive from Benin, capital of Edo State.

Ehikhamenor notes that his areas of interest are what he calls “cultural shift” in the fashion trend. “Instead of wearing clothes made by local tailors, like what I was used to, youths were wearing used clothes mostly exported from the West, especially the US with American inscriptions,” he remarks.

  On his first shots taken in 2010, the artist says, “I walked round the whole village asking my subjects, usually young male or a few female to strike any pose. By the end of the first day of shooting, I almost felt I was photographing inner city youths in Washington DC where I had lived for years.”

Obviously, the mass media is a major culprit as it aids cultural imperialism. The youths, he explains, are shaped by what they have seen on TV. “Some just want to feel ‘cool,’ aping their American movies idols.” In contrast, the older generation differs in fashion tastes. “I photographed older women and men, who still wore locally made clothes.”

The theme of his works, he says, is to explore globalisation, commercialisation and loss of identity.

For Ehikhamenor, the experience since 2010 was more inviting; “I have gone back twice to do some more shootings.”

THE curator of the Greece show, Alex Supartono, says the gathering is about post-colonial history of photography, exploring the legacy passed to contemporary artists from Asia and Africa.

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