Sunday 2 July 2017

We Are the North from the lens of Chechet

The venue is not strange to art appreciation on the Lagos Island hub. But the exhibits, a body of digitally reproduced monochrome photography pieces and the artist, Williams Chechet are clearly on an unfamiliar terrain.
Digitally reproduced picture titled Bello by Williams Chechet
 Two men with native wind musical instrument known as Kakaki - captured in Minna last year; portrait of a lady in odd mix of costume and for such a wearer, among other exhibits at the lobby of Moorhouse, Ikoyi, Lagos on a quite evening point to the thematic direction of Chechet’s exhibition. Titled We Are The North, the photography exhibition organsed in partnership with Alliance Francaise brings contemporary contents of digital world into the same medium
with nativity of a people who are, perhaps,  more proudly African than most tribes on the continent.

 And just like Chechet, a graphic artist and his unfamiliar kind of works, the visitors to We Are The North who trickle in during the opening also look like strangers to the Lagos art space. The exhibition adds to the unfolding entrance of new artists and fresh ideas onto the Lagos art landscape. Just few weeks earlier, a group of new artists showed It's Not Furniture at Omenka Gallery, few minutes drive from Moorehouse.

 Apart from its pop art flavour, the digitally collaged images by Chechet, no doubt bring fresh breath into the contemporary photography scene in Nigeria. Despite the fact that some of the original photography works were done by "a friend, Khaleel Yakub," the conceptual strength of the exhibiting artist being an illustrator is not missing in the body of work.

"It's illustration inspired by traditional images from the north and Nigeria," Chechet explains to a guest during the exhibition. "As a graphic designer, I use graphically modified digital image a lot in my general practice, which inspired this exhibition."

 For example, one of the pieces titled HAM, he discloses, was generated having "the glasses and the background digitally infused." HAM, he says, is a local hero "who rides camel in Minna." But Chechet’s illustration of the “famous” rider, brings in more visible tools as he costumes the subject in what looks lke welding or diving glasses. In fact, Ham as reimaged by the artist,  looks like someone heading for underwater.

  Still on the people’s tradition, another work titled Martians, interestingly, is about an old tradition of desert navigators that the artist believes still persists till date. “They guide travellers through the deserts. But the astrological contents, he adds also makes it “futuristic... they are from the Mars hence The Martians."

  Among other captures in digital forms are Ife Head and terra cotta  Nok Head

  As monochromatic as the body of work is, the beauty of digital processing of image is seen in quite some colourful pieces such as Ni Ma, a natively dressed old woman composited with greenish swimming glasses.

 “I like the mix of photography and popular culture,” Essé Dabla, the curator states.  “We started talking earlier this year to have the exhibition.”
Excerprs from the artist’s bio: Chechet is a designer, illustrator and muralist with a string of globally acclaimed contemporary art pieces to his name. Born and raised in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, Williams studied Industrial Design at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. His Northern heritage is very evident in his recent works.

 His latest art project, We Are The North, is a series of beautiful illustrations from Northern Nigeria, influenced by pop art – an art movement which involves imagery from popular culture being visually removed from its known context, isolated, and/or combined with unrelated material. This series was recently shown in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise, Lagos to much acclaim.

 His art has the power to heal, inspire and bring people together and gives back to the community by inspiring younger designers to master their craft and pursue their passions in art.

-Tajudeen Sowole

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