Tuesday 6 November 2018

Documenting 'Urban Culture...' through Alonge's travelogue-lens

An aerial view of Lagos Central Business District by Bolaji Alonge.
Expanding Nigerian cities, stranded rurals, their nuances and splendour as well as deep acquatic contents come into the focal point of photographer, Bolaji Alonge. The shots, taken from select spots across the country builds up as new body of work for Alonge's second solo exhibition.

Titled Urban Culture - Historical Continuity, the photography exhibition, which builds on Alonge's 'Eyes of A Lagos Boy' brand is showing from Sunday, November 11 - 25, 2018 at One Draw Gallery, 74A, Norman Williams Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. Last year, Alonge made his visual culture entry onto the Lagos art landscape with a debut solo titled Eye of A Lagos Boy', at Freedom Park, Lagos Island.

Largely articulated from socio-economic prism, Alonge's captures of Lagos expose a city struggling through infrastructural  transformation. For example, the controversial ongoing Eko Atlantic City project of Lagos State Government in partnership with foreign developers comes into Alonge's lens. Shot from Tarkwa Bay, an Island off the V.I.- Lagos Central Business District, the shot shows a gradual replication of Dubai in Lagos, being built on reclaimed lands. A shrivelled tree in the foreground of the picture speaks volume of how man's adventure in land reclamation has disturbed nature along Lagos' coastal line.

However, land reclamation is not strange to the Lagos-Victoria Islands coastal line. From an aerial view of the Lagos CBD, taken deep into the Marina-Broad Street axis, Alonge captures part of what was reclaimed from the sea, over 80 years ago -- the Marina section of the city. The photographer's telephoto lens goes as far as across the water, perhaps to what looks like the Apapa Wharf coastal end.

Still on the same aerial view shot, despite the chaotic textures of the urban jungle in disorganised commercial activities and transportation system, the few greenery spots in the  foreground -- among high-rise buildings -- explain preservation of some environmental values. But in contrast, on extreme right of the picture, is a sprawling slum of central Lagos where residential buildings of old structures overlook multi billion naira corporate offices. More interesting, Alonge's lens captures the poetic contrast of odd mix as the slum dissolves into the sky, not too far from its corporate offices neighbour.
In Oriba village, Epe along the Lagos Lagoon, where adults are worried about access being blocked by water hyacinths, children are oblivious of these perils and play happily.

Perhaps, the first time a Nigerian photographer would go as far as deep into the sea, the exhibition include what Alonge calls 'Bubbles of Hope'. Said to have been shot in Lagos as part of his "passion for scuba diving", one of the pictures available for preview in soft copy shows  bubbles-filled frame in close shot, clouding whatever objects or creatures supposedly under the ocean.

In the catalogue of the exhibition is a text that tracks his passion in scuba diving and  underwater photography since 2013. "Bolaji has certification as an advanced scuba diver and explored the Mediterranean, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, The Red Sea and the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lagos", the text explains.

Alonge's travelogue takes his lens to as far as Wikki Warm Spring, at Yankari, Bauchi State, last year. "The Wikki Warm Spring is one of the cleanest waters in the world", enthuses Alonge. More interesting about the pictures of the Warm Spring, he says, is that "they are unedited, still fresh".

In the Eastern part of the country comes his view of the Niger Bridge, captured "this time last year" from a low angle shot.

And also still fresh among his works are heritage spots such as Suzanne Wenger's House in Osogbo, Osun State as well as rarely seen, quiet rural axis in Epe, Lagos State. "The Epe shot titled 'Opolo', he explains, is about the beautiful world of the frog and nature.

Among his works on Lagos are 'Sunday Jump' musical events at the famous Afrika Shrine, Ikeja where Femi Kuti and the Afro beat Queens come into Alonge's shots.

From the human angle comes a child caring for another child somewhere in Makoko, an endangered Lagos riverine community.
 "This exhibition is about how we live", the photographer tells select preview guests at One Draw Gallery. "I always argue that those who know about their history are very proud people".  He notes, for example, that "we have 800 km of water, yet we don't know the contents".

On his career, he recalls how photography was a mere hobby, "but now it's a full-time job". Excerpts from Alonge's bio; Alonge is an artist, photographer, actor and journalist from Lagos, Nigeria. He is also a globetrotter who has travelled the world during the last decade documenting exotic culture and history, pushed forward by a wanderlust instilled in him since childhood.
 Alonge was born in Lagos, as first of five siblings with a father in the Nigerian Air Force, and a loving mother who took care of the family. Bolaji's dad passed on to him a passion in photography, spending time with him taking and developing images as a child. He studied Mass Communication at the University of Lagos in the rowdy 1990s, while exploring his acting skills at the famous Theatre 15 UNILAG. Ever since, he has acted in a range of theatre, TV and movie projects.

This experience and his travels made Bolaji a great storyteller who loves to share his photography and the deeper meaning of the stunning images he presents. “I encourage young Africans to take up the camera and document history – those memories that make up the fabric of existence. In order to move forward we have to know where we come from. I do it by searching for unique shots, that become integrated in the mood boards of our lives”.
 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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