Saturday 25 August 2018

Edozie's 'Conjectures' as rescue from 21st Century slavery

A painting titled 'Sojourner-I' (mixed media, 244 x 151 cm. 2018), by George Edozie.

Appeasement to the souls of Africans sold into slavery, particularly, during the transatlantic slave trade, may be a spiritual solution to recurring development challenges of the continent, so suggests, artist, George Edozie's paintings and sculptures.  

Edozie's body of visual narrative is inspired by the 21st century tragic transit of African emigrants through the deserts and Mediterrenean, which keeps attracting global attentions. Edozie traces the origin of human trafficking in Africa and calls for ancestral forgiveness to rescue affected countries from further denigration. Using the 'failed'  leadership situation in Nigeria as the scale from which he samples Africa's irresponsibility, the artist indicts the continent's leaders over the needless deaths of greener pasture seekers along the inglorious routes.

Over a month ago, Director-General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dame Julie Okah-Donli disclosed that 10,500 emigrants from Nigeria were rescued in Libya. The figure, she explained, included the 3,500 so far rescued by the Federal Government and over 7,000 by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Edozie, an artist whose work was more known for his stylised figurative paintings untill few years ago when he started producing large scale and aggressive sculptures, implores bold, visual narratives to pierce the heart of issues with no holds barred imageries. In his current body of work, showing as New Nigerian Conjectures, from September 5 -14, 2018 at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, Edozie hangs the woes of the youths on the neck of their African leaders, at both national and community levels.


Among his works that highlight the deadly sojourn of African emigrants is titled 'The Last Consignment To Lampedusa', a painting compartmented into 30 pieces. In large size of 620 cm x  231 cm, and architectured to three rows, the painting  reverberates the dehumanising treatment allegedly pounded on the asylum seekers at Lampedusa, an Island, south of Italy. With the artist's signature of loud primary colours lavished on the paintings, the agonies and lamentations of the victims -- who are mostly women -- could be heard through the canvas.

From a total of seven paintings and three sculptures for the exhibition comes 'Sojourner-I', in which Edozie takes viewers direct and bold into the painting, just as the composite explains how the fragile travellers are herded through the cloud of uncertainty. Again, dashed hopes and wailings of the victims are well captured by the artist, with his strokes of mixed cubism and freestyles.

 The exhibition, New Nigerian Conjectures, which also focuses on recurring deficit of  infrastructures in the artist's country, is his sixth solo show. "From trans Sahara to transatlantic, and now Trans Meditarranean, trading in slaves of Africans is about selve-enslavement", Edozie argues during preview of the exhibition. He says the exhibition is not just about highlighting the travails of the travellers, "but looking at the reasons that always make people leave their own country," in such desperate manner.

'Last Consignment To Lampedusa' ( 620 x 231 cm) by Edozie.

It worries the artist that "more than 50 percent of youths" leaving Nigeria through such routes are from southern part of the country. Edozie takes the blame to what he describes as "enormous power of African leaders". The youths, he insists, do not fit into the power structure of most African society. 

Strangely, the wisdom in the elderly as cherished by most African values appears to have lost its potency, according to Edozie. "When the leaders are too old to lead, youths leave for greener pastures".

Ironically, religious worship centres, he notes, encourage youths to take such brazen and undignified ways out of socio-economic challenges. He depicts such in a sculpture titled 'Ikpokuchi' (calling on God), as it captures intending "migrants who patronise spiritual and worship centres before traveling out of the country". He traces the problem back to the Slave Trade era. "It was self-slavery for selling ourselves from then till now".

However, Edozie also leans towards spiritual solutions to resolve the issue of 21 century slavery confronting black Africans. "The solutions is to say 'sorry' to those sold out as slaves" during the era of transatlantic slave trade.

Scheduled to have a prominent monarch, the Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Nnemeka Achebe as Special Guest of Honour, the exhibition's opening, perhaps will offer a royal inputs into solution of Nigeria's leadership quest. For the artist, the monarch represents a true role model of what leaders should be.

"The Obi of Onitsha is the Special Guest of Honour being a father to me". Edochie recalled how the monarch "went with me to Miami, U.S when I had my exhibition in 2014."

Edozie agrees that leadership across political and communal levels have failed the people. He explains this much in quite a number of sculptures. Among such is a huge size titled 'Obinka', which recalls his childhood days in eastern Nigeria. He notes that human relations across ethnic divides, which he grew up with, has been lost over the decades. "Obinka, about a taylor known as Ade, a Yoruba man we all loved as a child in the East". He recalls that any tayloring by Ade "makes one happy" even though the "designs were always Yoruba, we wore them with pride"

Based in Lagos, Edozie's last solo exhibition titled ‘Shifting the Paradigm’, was hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Florida. The exhibition, "was listed among the four best shows at the Art Basel Miami 2014".
 -Tajudeen Sowole. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Tajdeen for enlightening us and bringing us to the heart of the Nigerian Art. I am particularly happy that Artists now use their paintings to write the history of our country Nigeria. Since these paintings are there forever it will also be enliven the memory ofthe country's misguided leaders rules through the ages.
    However,Edozie will not complete the history without mentioning the unpatriotic attitude of the citizens. The cowardness of the youths to stand up to defend their rights as citizens. The youths are driven to accept cheap and lazy ways to achieve stardom and chose to remain indignant in what the leaders are doing that affects their socioeconomic lives. The leaders continued to loot the countries resources in the way that jeopadises the development of the youths but with no one asking them to stop it.
    Who replaced Tai Solarin and Gani Fawehinmi and Wole Soyinka in his younger days?. Those were the peopl who used to put government to task when they were derailing. We need such people now more than ever before. And youths should stop hiding under the cloak of a bad government. They should act bravely to fight for their future by concerning themselves about the governance so that they will be able to stand against the individual or group or policy of the govt that does not take care of their future. That is what youths in other countries do because they know it is their country and they have no other countries to claim as their own. Every country has it's own problem. Other countries youths stay in their countries to solve their problems Our own youths too should stop looking for greener pastures. They should stay in the country to solve Nugeria's problems. They should get involved in governance and uphold the Constitution of the country to castigate any obnoxious rule, law and policies of the government without using religious or ethnic sentiments.