Thursday 16 September 2021

Coastal Epe in 'Greener Pastures' of Alonge, Otori, others

'Herculean Passage' by Bolaji Alonge.

THREE years after Bolaji Alonge had a solo of captivating photography  exhibition titled Urban Culture - Historical Continuity, the photo artist is back, extending his lens deep into rural Lagos.

In the. new exhibition, Alonge, Sola Otori and Friends are showing Greener Pastures in photography, video documentary and painting, from September 16-26, 2021, at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos. Though Alonge has shown in Lagos after Urban Culture..., the  current exhibition seems to continue the photographer's travelogue in documenting  habitation, skylines and landscapes.

Shut out from the central business districts and choice residentials as well as urban slums of Lagos are sprawling rural population of Epe. As one of the five divisions of Lagos, Epe is a coastal town like its other three co-divisions of Lagos Island, Badagry and Ikorodu, except Ikeja. For Greener Pastures, Alonge, Sola Otori and Friends explore the disturbed eco system of Epe, a division of Lagos with more than  "145 villages."

The main focus of Greener Pastures is the environmental situations of the rural Epe villagers, Alonge says..  He notes that  the uncontrollable "race" in expanding  cities into modern structures has left the rural people vulnerable.

Among the pictures for the exhibition are Ọpọlọ, Herculean Passage, Free Shrine and a triptych painting Untitled.  A telephoto shot of frog (Opolo) captured on human fingers that support the water reptile presents the innocence of the environment. The beauty of the vegetation, despite being deliberately blurred by the technique of differential focus,  still blossoms. Enhancing the beauty of the picture is the bright natural light on the fingers and palm, holding the  small animal.

A creative angle shot of Herculean Passage seems to add some aesthetics into the waterways obstruction caused by the notorious  water hyacinth. Indeed, water hyacinth is a common sight in most parts of coastal Lagos, suggesting that the state and federal governments have no solution to stop the resulting obstruction to economic and social activities.

Alonge explains that water hyacinth, in the Epe axis "creates the sensation of endless green fields peppered with brilliant lilac flowers." As delighted as the water hyacinth looks to the pleasure of lens, its  interruption of socio-economic of the waterways  keeps recurring in Lagos. Alonge argues that the people of Epe are worried about access to work and health care,

Alonge's  Herculean Passage actually captures the challenge of  the people in details, so explains two dwellers struggling to sail through the unnavigtable terrain of the waterways. In three dimensional rendition, the composition of the scene frames a part of the water that's  free of hyacinth, against a sprawling horizon that dissolves into the sky.

One of the most complex  captures in photography is high density illumination such as snow, beach or fogged terrain. And in Free Shrine, Alonge flaunts his creative dexterity of generating textured composition by unearthing a spotlight-like image, deep in the horizon.

Alonge, whose work themed Eyes of a Lagos Boy, formally launched his passion for the city in May 2017. On the current exhibition, he boasts that the  documentary "captures never-seen images of these communities and gives a platform to its inhabitants." And in support of the communities, Alonge, who is widely travelled assures that "proceeds from sales of art and photography will contribute to buying books for local schools and other initiatives that address the urgent needs of these communities." 

Other activities for Greener Pastures include Kids Play Art and Photography Workshop on September 25 as well as Public Talk and Finissage, on 26, 2021.

-Tajudeen Sowole is a Lagos-based Art Advisor.

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