By Tajudeen Sowole
Less than one year old in public space, a group of artists who go by the name Same Boundary has been making bold statements in documentation of culture and tourism-related contents. Latest of such strides happened with the artists' plein air painting and photography of ancient Ilaro town, Ogun State, South-west.
Interestingly, the artists' choice, Ilaro, is not just a town of ancient history, but also of modern identity. Though currently a border town with neighbouring Republic of Benin, Ilaro had quite a historic role in Trans Atlantic Trade in slave during the obnoxious period of man's inhuman treatment against man. Secondly, in modern context, Ilaro and its people have dumped the name Egbado and adopted Yewa, a move aimed at gaining political autonomy from over a century old influence of the Egba people of Abeokuta, an ancient local powerhouse.
For the artists, the culture and architecture of Yewa was the focus, captured in various themes across styles and techniques. The plein air involved Ariyo Oguntimehin, Nathan Ajibola, Ajibade Akinyemi, Godfrey Afebuame, B.B.Babatunde, Odunmbaku Jabary, Agohor Clement and Lagos-based Reconnect Art Gallery.
"We decided to document our culture, architectural design of ancient buildings, which are almost going into extinction," stated Oguntimehin Ariyo, coordinator of Same Boundary. "In the future most of the stories and myths surrounding our culture, architecture and masquerades may disappear."
For three days, the artists' palette and camera lenses captured places such as Igoro junction, Igbo Aje, Araromi Ajekunle Street, Orita, Dosumu and Oke Ela. Shortly after returning from Yewaland, Oguntimehin stressed the need "to educate the public on the importance of our culture, which should be preserved for the unborn children." He argued that the people's "culture is being relegated almost to the state of endangered, simply because of low encouragement from parents and government.". For example, the artist noted that "some Nigerians cannot speak their dialect."
The artists of Same Boundary, the coordinator also added, worried about the state of art in Nigeria. "How do you encourage art in school when some schools do not even have art teachers?" He disclosed that during the plein air in Ilaro, "some students were seeing artists for the first time, painting and doing photo-documentation."
For the "success" of the plein air, Oguntimehin thanked the monarch, HRM, Oba Kehinde Gbadewole Obigbenlen, King of Yewaland.
Two years ago, three of the artists, Stella Ubigho, Oguntimehin and Okoro Nathan subconsciously started what would later become Same Boundary. The journey started from a gathering of artists in Lambe, Ogun State, where art was rarely patronized.
A year later, the artists Luke Iorah and Chigioke Noga joined the group for a maiden exhibition titled Same Boundary, at Quintessence Gallery, Parkview, ikoyi, Lagos. The theme of the exhibition, according to painter Ubigho, was aimed at "creating awareness about the environment we live in."
During the exhibition, Nathan explained the bond that got the artists together "The African identity binds us together, either in traditional, modern and contemporary artistic expression." In one of his works, Over Crowded Society, Nathan takes a critical perspective into urbanization and argues that the state of over-concentration of people in small spaces in urban slums isn’t exactly African, adding, "Africans inherited urbanization from colonial rule."