|A section of Amarachi Olafor's installation The Colour of Our Hearts is the. Colour of Our City, showing at CCA, Lagos. Pic; c/o CCS.|
IN the week of many commercial art events opening across Lagos, installation work of Amarachi Okafor looked the other way by bringing a critical appreciation flavour.
Okafor's exhibition titled The Colour of Our Hearts Is the Colour of Our City, 2015-2021, still showing till October this year, at Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Yaba, Lagos, presented enough mirrors for everyone to make a self-probity trip. Okafor who is based in Abuja said the installation was meant to be more than interactive.
"This one-piece exhibition is participatory (with audiences) and performative (by the audience and the artist)," Okafor said of the exhibition, which took off from Abuja in 2020.
Describing the one-piece installation as walking through the. city, Oyindamola Fakeye, Artistic Director at CCA, in a curatorial note wrote: "Reflecting on the past 18 months it’s hard to believe just how much the world has changed. The language we use, the fact we all have to wear face masks, the rising debate between vaxers and anti-vaxers. The hurricane that was the pandemic swept up everyone and everything in its path leaving a trail of devastation and destruction in its aftermath. The early days of the virus pushed governments to impose lockdowns that shut down cities and hid the people behind walls, houses and gated communities. As a relational species we were forced to come to terms with either being alone with one’s self or having to manage a house full of people you might love, but after being locked up with them for 24 hours a day, may or may not be planning how to get rid of them.
"I often found myself mentally screaming “I am a celebrity get me out of here” (The title of a popular show in the UK, I am not a real celebrity), while wondering how the people in the Big Brother house handled their self-imposed lock down. ‘The Colour of our Heart is the Colour of our City’ was first exhibited not too long after the Nigerian lockdown and was, I’m sure for those that attended, a welcome break from the messaging designed to “keep us safe” but instead only serving to induce anxiety.
"Anxiety occurs in response to fear and stress triggers, and for me this often manifests with my mind racing at speeds I can barely keep up with, both anticipating danger and trying to prevent it. To manage my anxious thoughts, I have (attempted to have) a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness helps me ground myself and break out of repetitive fear-based thinking, bringing me into the present moment in a non- judgemental way. Oftentimes this practice leads me to take mindful walks around my neighbourhood noticing the people, the sounds and the colours. I imagine the artist Amarachi Okafor wanting to capture this feeling through the exhibition as guests walk though her installation, stopping to notice the intricacies within her world and work.
‘The Colour of our Heart is the Colour of our City’ invites the audience to move through the space not as a spectator, but as partakers of each moment. Stopping to think through the prompts, picking up the works and placing notes in the pouches for future guests to discover. There is a dialogue between the audience and the resulting work as the spotlight moves from the installation to the individual’s perspective of their place and engagement with the city.
"The first instalment of the exhibition being held in Abuja and this second exhibition in Lagos provides two sites for engagement and exploration of self within the environmental identity of the cities we occupy and inevitably do life, recognising that though we are many, inevitably we are but one. I would therefore like to encourage you to engage fully with the artist's prompts, examining your perspectives and relationships, responding as honestly as you can be with the stranger that will experience just a glimpse of your world."
Amarachi Olafor's Statement:
"In a singular way, I am deeply affected by human actions in the world, and to society (people) in the course of history, more so today; the impact of these activities on people; the nature of this impact, and their long/short term ripple effects. These affect my thought processes and go on to get translated into my work, habitually.
"Concerned about humanity and our role and place in society, it can feel like my work is often lamentations; at times, I preach Hope and Joy– lifting spirits... When shall we have a delightful living on earth, where there will be no injustice, war, and disease? What is the path to Paradise?1
"I have used containment as idea, metaphor and inspiration2- to question and to point to notions- the concept of bag and bagging, even humans as bags, baggers, and baggage.
'I adopted text,3 colour (from any source) and embroidery/stitches as my visual language whilst leaning into the fringes of architecture and construction to try and translate my ideas- even when I paint, I make what I refer to as built or constructed paintings. These have form.
"Words are powerful. I am constantly drawing from this gift of nature and leading others to explore with me this materiality of the written text and the action of writing as an art-making process. I am working also at the crossroads between tactile and ephemeral art forms, looking at the links and relationship between these and triggering situations where words and performativity are tangible materials for making art?
"Hence, I actuate performative relational meetings in public, with ordinary people with(in) communities, where we enjoy some chance ephemeral occurrences (artistic and ordinary) that are quite lasting.
"All of my work is for learning meant to bring me and my audiences to new knowledge as we are led to searching our hearts and discovering alternative ways of living."
Amarachi’s studies in the field of art rewards her with the following degrees: BA (Painting), 2002; MFA (Sculpture), 2006 (both from University of Nigeria Nsukka); and MA in Curatorial Practice, 2012 from Falmouth University, Cornwall, UK.