|Dr Princess Iyase-Odozi taking some guests through her exhibition at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos...recently.
THREE years on, a solo traveling exhibition by Dr Princess Iyase-Odozi titled Uhunmwen whe Ehinmwen and Master of the Circled Cross in Benin Kingdom continued its show of historical and royal visual contents. In mixed media of paintings, collage as well as textile, the exhibition also featured installations of royal objects.
Inside the gallery of National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, few days after the formal opening, a soft music of traditional Benin genre played in the background, possibly to emphasize the focus of the exhibition. Opened on November 10, the exhibition, which ended, 17, 2022 has amplified the cultural values of Benin just as the people's forgotten batik heritage was also exhumed by the artist.
From centuries old artefacts, appropriated in mixed media to tell story of lost culture of Benin textile, to a set of works dedicated to the Benin royal such as Omuada Oba, Queen Idia N'Iye Esigie II, Ebe Ewere, among others, the exhibition created an ambience of heritage biopic. Nearly all the wall pieces, for example, depicted storytelling from archival windows. The artist's application of scroll technique, in embossed texture of collage radiated strong aura of museum pieces.
Quite a number of artefacts that are iconic such as Benin Royal Hunter, Benin Royal Manila, Ewua, Horn and Gong, Oba and his Guards, were either collaged or matted with paintings by Princess Iyase-Odozi. As an artist who has shown much passion in unearthing the hidden history of Benin batik, Iyase-Odozi spiced the exhibition with dedicated spaces that displayed textiles, pulsating inscriptions that emphasized 'Edo Batik'.
Among the works on display, in thematic specifications, were 45 mixed media such as Contemporary Benin Royal Altar, Totems of different sizes in Edo Batik, Uhunmwun Elao (Commemorative Heads), Beaded Crowns, potted plants representing the Ebe Ewere Leaves used during Igue Festival and Long Ancestral Totems.
"Most of the artefacts and materials were sourced from various books on Benin history," Iyase-Odozi disclosed. Such sources include "Benin Kings and Rituals; Court Arts from Nigeria 2007 edited by Barbara Plankensteiner; and Visions of Africa BENIN, 2010 by Barbara Plankensteiner Great Edo 1 and 2."
Excerpts from that catalogue of the exhibition explains how each mixed media painting encompasses three different canvases as one work. "Canvas materials with Edo Batik designs as under layers and two smaller canvases as the inner icon padded-scrolls, depicting royalty," she explained. "Inserted and printed pictures of each sculptural artefact carries a unique icon in each work. Some of the icons are embossed with fibre, Intricate and fascinating curls Beaded edges of different designs."
Sharing her work experience in different stages of producing the works, Iyase-Odozi said the the Batik process of waxing and dying the canvases in various hues came first. Next was "priming and application of fabric glue, shredding the side-edges of the two inner canvases and the scrolling of the upper and lower edges."
Other processes, she said, include the use of glue at various stages for durability and exposure to the sun and sometimes a hand-dryer, Inserting with glue/bond, the appropriate picture prints of the Benin artefacts on each of the canvases already highlighted with the coherent Icons, and threading the paper-beads of different sizes and designs to suit the particular mixed media work.
The final stage was "painting and highlighting the various sketched icons with the use of typical earth colours associated with the Benin, including carols."
Iyase-Odozi noted that the significance of the exhibition rests on the fact that "these icons found on Benin court arts are unique semiotics, identified with the Benin people as far back as the 16" Century, during the reign of Oba Esigie." She argued that the icons "have both religious and cultural symbolism."
Also, other values of the icons, she explained include being "used to communicate and express specific ideologies and to represent aspects of the culture."