Friday 2 November 2012

From Zaria, teachers’ Santi identity berths in Abuja

By Tajudeen Sowole
The similarity in art appreciation and delicacy has, once again, pushed four art teachers out of the classrooms to the mainstream gallery scene.

With the theme, Santi, and opening on November 6, 2012 at Thought Pyramid Gallery, Wuse 2, FCT, Abuja, it’s another show in the series for art teachers — Jacob Jari, Muyideen Adio Jaji, Kefas Danjuma and Lasisi Lamidi — all of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Kaduna State.

In 2010, when the artists exhibited under the same theme at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, they brought into the Lagos art space a fresh breath, quietly appreciated though without the usual noise and large attendance expected at such a gathering of artists.

That the Lagos art community could not really digest Santi - a Hausa word for enjoyment or satisfaction - as expected, is no impediment to having another, hence the extension of the same theme to the FCT. Some of the works viewed via soft copies showed the artists’ passion for their subjects; popularizing the dictum: “practise what they teach.”
Jacob Jari’s Farka (fabric, 2008).
Jaji’s stlylised pygmy-height figural sculpture titled Bobajiroro (king’s adviser) depicts the artist as master of the terracotta material. The subject, a depiction of either arrogance or privilege or victim of nationhood challenges and brings to fore the huge expectation of people who are close to a king.

Jaji sees no alternative or hidden place for art outside the traditional core expression, noting that it would be deceptive to say that the future of art appreciation is in the new media.

He warned artists to realise “the fact that, the ship of art is moving towards the rocks by their belief in conceptual art.”

Painter, Danjuma’s oil on canvas, The Council, takes the Jaji’s argument further. With a portraiture of nine traditional leaders, the artist’s attraction to portrait painting is about sharing the moods of his subjects. “I love painting people especially their faces. I share in their joy, sadness, fear, hope and determination.” This much he expresses in another oil on canvas piece, Nomadic Couple.

Inspired by what he described as African music that “transports me to dreamland,” abstract artist, Jari’s work diffuses the representational dominance in Santi. Employing found objects, he seems to be returning to the society, via art, a concern for the depletion of values or prospects of a great nation – depending on which side of the divide you belong.  

Spots-like in outlook, some of Jari’s works such as Farka and Without Colour II done in fabric, may not have immediate appeal in their conservative colours, but they are deep enough in themes to stir dialogue, noting that “Nigeria is either exalted or damned.” The artist argued that sharing happiness or sadness “is a way of life that is taken for granted,” of which his work mimics.

Lamidi’s eclectic expression in painting and sculptures such as Olori and Dance brings what could be described as balance to the gathering. He explained how his sculpture “explores social issues in the traditional African setting, adapting the traditional concept of forward position, mask-like face, distortion and simplifying the human form to capture postures.”
In the exhibition catalogue, curator of Santi, Dr. Duniya Gambo writes that having graduated from the same ABU, the artists will likely evoke a ‘santi.”

Jaji is a Lagos-born sculptor from Ilorin, Kwara State. His second degree was also obtained at ABU. Jaji has several exhibitions to his credit as well as a number of works in public and private homes in Nigeria.

In the bio, it is said of him, “He is a realist and often finds himself distorting and elongating or exaggerating figures to emphasize some concepts. He now dwells more in the discovery of some aesthetic values inherent in compressed and stunted figures, which he explores in elucidating his ideas in sculpture composition”.

Born in 1960; Jari has Master of Fine Arts (Painting) and a Doctoral degree in Art History. He has a wealth of experience such as coordinator, Aftershve International Artists Workshop; curator, Accident and Design; Gani Odutokun and his influence. He has also attended and participated in several national and international exhibitions, workshops, conferences, some of which include but not limited to Wasanii International Artists Workshop, Naivasha, Kenya; Khoj International Artists Workshop, Mysore, India.

Danjuma, also an Art Historian, has his paintings in several private and public collections around the world. He has researched into several painting themes that include synthesis of Form and Space, Faces, Social Commentaries, Durbar in Zaria, and is presently painting the faces and activities of peasants around him.

Lamidi was born in Ghana in 1966. His enlistment as lecturer in the same institution has culminated in a third romance. Since graduating, his exploratory artistic rendition has not been limited to modeling but equally to a progressive exploit with the fluidity or the pliability of metal rod as a medium of sculptural interpretation.

Equally evident of his artistic expedition is his craftsmanship in the way he has generated a new ‘alloy” with metal rods and fabric in some of his canvas-draped metal artworks.

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