Sunday 28 October 2012

Not even Visa denial could stop Atiku

 HAD one told performance artist, Jelili Atiku, who recently returned from Europe on tour of select countries that his planned-journey to Germany in continuation of his activism would meet a brick wall, he would have doubted it.

Lately, Atiku was denied visa, in Lagos, to travel for a joint-performance with a Berlin-based artist, Lan Hungh. But his admirers are not letting the matter lay low, as they put up a protest performance titled, Where is Jelili Atiku?, at Ejigbo, a Lagos suburb, and Berlin, on Sunday, October 7.

Disclosing how art keeps his activism on, Atiku says, “the performance was based on the issue of my visa refusal. And as a collaborative effort, the shows were held simultaneously at 29 Ifoshi Road, Ejigbo, Lagos and Savvy Contemporary Space, Berlin.”

The proposed works for the trip, he says were How Not To Dance Tchaikovsky Symphony, a series from his early show In The Red Performance project.

He recalls, “it was initially performed last July in Tiwani Contemporary, London, U.K. It was done in collaboration with Grace Morgan Pardo.”

He explains the botched show as portraying the consequential effects of the realities – a psychological speculation of actions and reactions. He notes that with symbolic contents, the show makes a metaphorical statement of the creative impulses of mankind.

Perhaps what seems like a political perspective to the show makes it more sensitive. “How Not to Dance Tchaikovsky Symphony is based on the personal life of Adolf Hitler and his love for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s songs. It makes a metaphorical statement and draws attention to the impact of Hitler’s action during the World War II and the ironical impacts of his listening to Tchaikovsky’s symphony. 
Atiku during the protest performance in Ejigbo
“In world history, Tchaikovsky represents peace, love, harmony; Hitler is a symbol of war, destruction, hate, violence and death,” he says.

Atiku asserts that German embassy refusing him visa is political. He argues: “it was deliberate to stop me from enacting the two performances that I had proposed for the Berlin trip.”

For the curator, Márcio Carvalho, the visa refusal to Atiku was unacceptable, noting that after Atiku submitted the required documents with full support of the art project space Savvy Contemporary, Berlin and the travel grant from Prince Claus Funds for Culture and Development - Netherlands,’ the artist was denied.

On carrying on with the show, Atiku says, “ with or without the refusal, we have succeeded at bringing Hungh’s presence to Lagos and my presence felt at Berlin. We took the idea of co-authorship, which happened naturally within the conditions of the co-lab’s programme and dissolved it all together.”

Atiku suspects that one of the reasons he was denied visa was because his performance titled Alaagba. Still a work in progress, the performance, he explains was proposed as a cleansing - ritual of purification. It will borrow ideas and forms from the Egungun ritual of Yoruba religion.  The performance hopes to lay its foundation on the consequences of the Berlin conference from1884 to1885 it ended, which resulted to the scramble for Africa nations and the sharing, division and annexation of the continent by the colonialists.”

Few months ago, in about nine art events spanning a period of three months across Europe and America, Atiku shared his local experience on human dignity. He performed in Sweden and gave lecture at event, which involved participants from the host country as well as Norway, Nigeria and Uganda. He also performed at Tate Modern, London, U.K.
The tour was a follow-up to his ongoing In the Red series. 


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