Sunday 23 December 2018

Documenting Yoruba heritage in Abanikonda-Adeyeye's art

Airat Olaide Abanikonda-Adeyeye's painting of 'Oranmiyan'

Deep into cultural values of Yoruba, artist Airat Olaide Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s works of paintings, being presented alongside archival photographs expand documentation of the people's fading heritage.

 Though lacking in contemporary presentation of visual contents, Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s solo art exhibition titled Yoruba Arts, Tradition and Cultural Heritage, currently showing at National Musueum, Onikan, Lagos enriches and expands narratives of native values. Trained at Goldsmiths, University of London, U.K Abanikonda-Adeyeye, 75, had 33-year-career in industrial design and printing before becoming a full time studio artist.

In visual contents of paintings and cut-out from archival photographs, Abanikonda-Adeyeye's art revisits the connection between yoyal Yoruba  values and the people's traditional art and heritage. Mounted on simple black frames, the paintings depict Yoruba teaditional rituals, sites and festivals or iconic names in the people's heritage.

Presented in typical old fashion, which perhaps appropriate the traditional visual context of the exhibition, among the works is the artist's painting representation of a festival in honour of the monarch, Obalufon Alaiyemore. Alaiyemore is described by the artist as "the son of the 5th Ooni (4th-5th century).

 Other works in combined photographs of artefacts, sites, festival and rituals bring to the space documentation of old and subsisting yearly festivals.  Among such works are 'Pictorial History of Yoruba Race', 'Creation of Human: Obatala', 'Olojo Festival (Ojo ti olojo da ojo), a tribute to the current Ooni, Oba Ogunwusi, among others.

During the opening of Yoruba Arts, Tradition and Cultural Heritage at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos... Saturday.

 In pictoriaI are 'Aje Ogunluso Festival Procession', 'Aje Festival In Procession with Yoruba Actors', ' 'Osun Osogbo  Festival', 'Odun Ifa Festival', 'Great Lisabi Sports and Entertainment', 'Ojude Oba Festival (The Regberegbes), 'Alagemo in Procesion', 'Egungun Festival', 'Eyo Adamu Orisa' and 'Oke'Badan Festival'.

An artist whose brush strokes populate her canvas with crowds of figures, Abanikonda-Adeyeye is quite a distant away from the mainstream art circuit'a presentation of visual contents. However, whatever the presentations of some of the festival pictures lack in graphical details in the  cluster og images, her paintings make up for that in quite a number works in crowded figuratives.

 Ever wonder what the progenitor, Oduduwa looked like? Abanikonda-Adeyeye has an answer in her painting titled 'Oduduwa', which depicts a figure with feminine physique covered by white robe of no specific design.

 The guest of honour for the exhibition's opening, Prince Yemisi Shyllon echoed the value of traditional settings in leadership. "Our Obas are not thieves and our culture not fetish". Shyllon, a well-known patron of art and culture was more emphatic in Yoruba language. "E ye pe asa wa ni ebo (our culture is not fetish). Shyllon also clarified that "our culture is not religion; Ifa is not a religion; it is philosophy". The religious aspect, he explained, "is only a part of our culture"

  For the exhibiting artist whose exhibition marks her 75th birthday, Shyllon argued that "this is the way to celebrate birthday". He told the artist: "You are a good representation of Yoruba race".

 The exhibition, Abanikonda-Adeyeye said is strictly a celebration of her collection in Yoruba arts and heritage. But exactly what would she do with the works, particularly her paintings. "They are not for sale, but to ramain in my collection", she said. However, she hoped that some of the paintings might be among the collection for the new Shyllon Museum being built at Pan-Atlantic University, Ajah, Lagos.

  The artist's profile describes her as the first Nigerian woman artist to design postage stamp. 

Her 33-year career include working at Nigerian Security Printing and Minting, Lagos; De La Rue and company, Basingstoke, among others.

 Adeyeye was the first Nigerian woman artist to design postage stamp.  t, history must preserve and revere this woman of substance whose career spanned over several decades, seeing her as a finisher; at Times Press Apapa, a designer and window display Lady, at Leventis Stores Marina, Trade and Industry as a typist and royal borough of Kessinton and Chelsea, London, Nigerian Security Printing and Minting, Lagos through De La Rue and company, Basingstoke, where she rose to the post of Assistant General Manager, security Document and retired as Management Staff, Assistant General Manager, in the same organisation.

 She had her first art exhibition titled Miss Nigeria, in1975 at Royal Gallery, parliament Square, London.

 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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