|'The Lord's Supper' by Bankole Bako.|
During Bankole Bako's solo art exhibition titled 'Silhouette of Words' at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, it was crystal clear that the self-taught artist does not belong in othe status quo of art stereotype. His works stand away from the parochialism of any established art forms.
In fact, Bako is not bound by the climate of fear for lack of patronage and survival. With his art, he does not see such fear as an issue; from the onset, making almost two decades, he has been working more on experimental art, not minding the saleability
of the works and the lack of private or institutional funding. He has been very consistent with his conceptual epiphany or eruption.
Bankole’s art and aesthetic initiatives, from the generalistic point of view, are neither acclaimed nor particularly noticed in the realm of painting in Nigeria. For all admirable advancement he remains uniquely conservative, not competing for recognition within the clan of established artists in the Nigerian visual art landscape. However, his contributions poise to become the subject of wide-ranging scholarly research.
This exhibition, a collection of attractive life-size seven paper Crucifix – the chronology of Christ’s life– makes no claim to provide any neat finality of the established concept, to conjure up any single cause meant to explain this phenomenon in its manifold ramifications. The landscape of his artistic movement, like all such artistic endeavour, looks complex and multitiered though perhaps to allow for simplistic explanation and extension. According to him: “The beauty of this exhibition lies in its revelation that visual creativity in Nigeria nay Africa is no longer anonymous... In my artistic foray, I have in this exhibition targeted a specific theme in an area where possible enlargement can be created, the crucifix.”
The exhibition offers the willingness that permeates the scriptural directive of the biblical teachings and the visual recording of episcopal commitment. In ‘Silhouette of Words’, there are such works as ‘Angelic Roles’, a 19-inch creation in which the artists brings attention to beliefs, superstition and myth. The cat-like image is about four angels praising God in solemnness. There is also, among others, a 19-inch ‘Iya Ibeji’ about which is the positive role of the missionary, exemplifying culture, tradition and religion. In a framed set of nine (10-year old) drums titled ‘Jesus Testimony About Himself’, the highlights are the real meanings to be given to the personality of Christ, according to the Holy Bible.
The stained glass, wooden and metallic works are his attempts at documenting and visually creating an understanding about the chronology of Christ. His wild new sights and experiences have led him to make paper highlights and create visual descriptions of The Lord’s Supper; his version documents all the accounts of Christ’s last days from the books of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, just as he did in the past exhibitions with images of native people, animals, and plants. His mixed media, with thematic reference from the Holy Bible, is a paper collage painting highlighting the words, prints, and images with Christianity. Shedding light on ‘Mirror and Console’, Bankole believes mirrors are now made more for functionalities than before. According to him, “from the changing rooms of our houses to the studios and stages in public places, there are mirrors that snap or take pictures at events and venues.” Bankoleart’s ‘Mirrors’ are used media of effect of evangelism, having the seeming fruits of the Holy Spirit juxtaposed in the frame. From the smallest size to the largest of his ‘Drums’, there is the message of the ascension of Jesus Christ from the testimonies of Christ Himself to the maps of His journey. Apart from the ‘The Chair’, Canvas comprise a great collection of paintings from the ‘Warriors of God’, ‘Crowns and Thrones’, ‘The Heart’, ‘Martyrdom’, ‘Peace and Beauty’, to drums that talk about God’s teachings and mission.
Going by what appears to be the turn of event, however, a Bako family generation born, raised and well established in the evangelistic norm, the artist makes a new set that has come into creativity with Bankole living and working on varied themes. The artist by this exhibition appears to return to the path of his forbears and elders to work full-time, may be, making art a veritable means through which he propagates the gospel. The earlier generation of the Bakos had a committed existence as preachers in Nigeria, paying rare sacrifices in order of whom Bankole himself has decided to speak through his art about the culture of sincere sacrifice and commitment in the Christendom. The act of preaching is in the family boasting till date a good number of preachers at a very high level. From the linage was Bankole’s father, Rev. Ayo Victor Bala Bako (1940 – 2008). He grew under his parents, Rev. Cannon and Mrs J. A. Bako. His great grandfather, Evangelist Thomas Walter Bako – the Martyr - was shot when he was preaching at Tawari village and died on the 3rd June 1902. In 1943, the son of T. W. Bako, Rev. J. A. Bako, was transferred to St. Paul’s Breadfruit, Lagos as a curate. Also Rt. Rev. George Bako, who later became and retired the Bishop of Lokoja, was a chorister and an active member of St. Paul’s since 1943.
An enormous impact on the seeming continuation of the propagation of the teaching of God’s word in the family has by this exhibition been made by Bankole Bako, as a memorial extension through visual art. This is a dynamic force in the evangelical mission of the family, a professional opportunity to draw attention to the act of evangelism of most of his family members, some of whom stayed to form part of the culture of their Christian religious pursuit. Bankole, while ostensibly retaining this sense of functioning as the transmitter of truths, nonetheless places himself proudly as stylistic creator and interpreter of the message he transmits. In his words: “For me, it is about creating memories, connecting generations by passing on the religious heritage as a rhythm and a seasonality of life.” The visual art exploit of Bankoleart has continued to flourish with the increased experimentation at numerous artist-run spaces in Nigeria, and in spite of poor financial budget which could affect his works, he is still able to make people have access to his works through a number of exhibitions. Unarguably, he is among the new generation of artists to emerge from Africa. The African art scene now sees an artist in Bankole who uses traditional media and new technologies to create works that explore many concerns including environmental conservatism, culture, the preservation of native heritage, ecology, and more.
- Enam Obiosio.