BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
DISTURBED that Nigerians are not buying into her spiritual advocacy through the art, the painter Stella Awoh has resulted to the use of an emotional theme —the plight of widows — to pursue her cause.
In 2010, Awoh exhibited 15 paintings, prints and equal number of crafts, under the theme Hephzibah and Beulah, her new body of work, which prescribes spirituality for her troubled fatherland.
The Proverbs, 31 Woman.
Currently showing at the Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, the exhibition, which ends in the middle of January 2013, aims to give hope to the widows, and perhaps, by extension, save Nigeria.
And if there seems to be a delay in the potency of her effort to bring her country back to track, the reason, she says, is “God is till angry with Nigeria.”
God’s grievance with the country, she discloses, is “because our widows are being treated badly.” She notes how the two revered holy books — Bible and Quran — frowns at the neglect of widows. In some of her works such as Omolaso Child is Treasure and Destiny, the artist who is a member of Folorunsho Alakija’s Rose of Sharon Foundation stresses the importance of caring for the vulnerable people of the society.
Awoh notes that with the loss of family values, widows are being dehumanised in some states across the country. Hope, she assures, is not lost for them.
DRAWING from the biblical theme of the show, she declares: “Hephzibah is found in the midst of all this. Though our ‘tribes and tongue’ may differ, we must stand in brotherhood and unity. God delights in widows; we are precious in His sight. God’s intent is that we should enjoy His love, grace and faithfulness. We will no longer be called ‘forsaken’ or ‘desolate’, but shall be called Hephzibah and Beulah.”
In the first series Hephzibah and Beulah shown at Omenka Gallery, two years ago, the artist drew from the same argument to declare redemption for Nigeria.
Aside from Awoh’s focus on widowhood, the show affords her opportunity to express what she describes as her new study in printing. The research, she says, is the core of her Ph.D programme in studio practice at the University of Benin (Uniben), Edo State.
APART from learning the art of print making from the master, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Harmattan Workshop in Agbara Otto, Delta State, where she discovered herself in the print idiom, Awoh has been a print artist for the past 12 years. Originally, she was a design artist.
From her experimentation in print comes The Proverbs, 31 Woman, a collage-like work imprinted with boxed images of women facing diverse challenges. And as viewers ponder over Awoh’s experimental pieces in print, the research, she explains may also bring in fashion. This much, she hopes to stress in a fashion show next year, in which visual arts and fashion would be blended.
Beyond promoting the cause of widowhood through advocacy, Awoh in her little way hopes to lift a selected few financially. This, she says, will be achieved during the show. “Sales from the works will be given to the first 10 widows that attend the show,” she assures.
Currently a lecturer at Yaba College of Technology, Awoh, in 2008 had her debut solo art show titled, Hibernation and Rejuvenation.