By Jekami Adetiloye Oluwatosin
"WHAT is the message of this art? We now celebrate vulgarism and naked bodies in society." That was a comment submitted by a harmless Instagram user upon engaging "The Lorde's Garden of Yemoja" by Adetola Wewe which was posted on Thought Pyramid Art Centre Lagos Instagram page ahead of the opening of Adetola Wewe's first retrospective exhibition.
Sadly, the young man is an emerging visual artist. Sad, because if a young African visual artist who in the future is expected to sustain and exceed the strides of the master artists does not have a basic grasp of Adetola Wewe's theme of womanhood, what clarity is guaranteed about the future of African art? Moreover, how can you (know how to) respect what you do not understand? These same thoughts are some of the questions that must have crossed the author's and artist's mind when this enchiridion/instructional material was conceived.
It is very appropriate to begin this review from the hardcover of the Metamodern Vision Of Tola Wewe.
From the first view, Metamodern Vision Of Tola Wewe provides you a glimpse into the distinctiveness and adventurous courage of Adetola Wewe that has paved the way for him for four decades. It is an original piece that portrays Adetola Wewe just the way he is while clarifying the confusions surrounding the treasuring of his work of art.
Starting from the seemingly erotic artwork titled " House of Yemoja" used as the cover image, we can quickly deduce that this is a conscious publication. It is not one of those art readings produced to be marketable to every Tom, Dick, and Harry of the visual art setting. No! If it was, the cover image would most likely be a non-controversial artwork that has very little touch of stark naked characters.
That said, this publication intends to project the facts about the indigenous heritage of a now global visual art idol: Adetola Wewe. It projects the truths about peculiar themes in his works that are misunderstood by the new generation art writers, artists, enthusiasts, collectors, and curators.
Hence, METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE is a deliberate attempt to welcome inquisitive art patriots within sight of Adetola Wewe's milieu and the creative context that inspired his works.
Furthermore, the cover art proves that Adetola Wewe has never been bothered about the audience who perceives his female subjects on canvas as flagrant. Nonetheless, it stamps his status as an unapologetic honest artist which is a trait we can all agree has contributed to his present legendary reputation.
"With this book, The Metamodern Vision of Tola Wewe, I use metamodernism to explore the work of a single artist. Readers will discover the use of analytic discussive tools, transcending modernist lenses, in the interpretation of Wewe’s work. These include myths, dreams, songs, poetry and a spirituality that explore territories of the mysterious and metaphysical in the creative process and interpretive program of Wewe’s work."- Professor Moyosore B. Okedeji.
The excerpt above gives a concise summary of the METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE which has eight chapters spread across 157 pages. However, I disagree with the author; the renowned Art critic and Historian Professor Moyosore B. Okediji for referring to this (METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE) as a book.
I firmly hold that tagging METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE a book is undermining the volume and quality of information about Yoruba philosophy, the origin of Adetola Wewe, and a little bit of Nigeria's (civil war) history this compelling publication is immersed in from the INTRODUCTION that is a recall of "The Casualties" by John Pepper Clark to the last chapter titled "Departure and Return".
Therefore, if we are not allowed to refer to this paperback as an ordinary book, then what is it?
Well, METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE is an archival documentary of the events, and narratives that shaped the existence and imagination of the iconic grandmaster visual artist: Adetola Wewe. It perfectly provides a foundation into the genesis of METAMODERNISM, and how it relates to the works of Adetola Wewe.
The eight chapters of METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE written by Professor Moyosore B. Okediji come across like episodes of a blockbuster Netflix biopic. One that this publication will inspire one day.
METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE offers the values with which to engage Tola Wewe’s artworks. It exposes the ethics of interrogation necessary to analyze, interpret, and evaluate his paintings. It is a companion to Adetola Wewe's first retrospective exhibition in itself as it offers stimulating insights into all of the works on display and behind-the-scenes revelation into the people, places, and time that necessitated a retrospective exhibition.
In this archive, you will learn and unlearn certain things about the cultural landscape of Nigeria between the early 1980s-1990s. The years after the civil war of 1967-1970 that was the background available to the initial artistic development of Adetola Wewe.
The publication highlights critical devices that are significant to deciphering Adetola Wewe's works. Most especially his representation of female anatomy. It is an arsenal of tools necessary in fathoming Adetola Wewe's musings on canvas.
Without a doubt, Professor Moyosore B. Okediji has taken the painstaking effort of composing this classic piece as a reference forever relevant in guiding art critics, art enthusiasts, art students, journalists, art collectors, visual artists, and art stakeholders in their attempt to appreciate and comprehend Adetola Wewe's dynamic creative logic behind the supposedly scary themes, erotic characters, and ambiguous traditional tales abundant in a large number of his retrospective pieces.
Beyond being a tool for investigating Adetola Wewe's source of creativity and grasping the processes that pushed him to greatness, METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE is an account that settles the debt of history and predisposition that has always surrounded the path of this living legend master artist. It is a directory into the yesterday, today, and tomorrow of Adetola Wewe.
The publication includes a collection of Adetola Wewe's works of art while giving a detailed scrutiny of the hidden realities visible to a handful when they engage the selected artworks.
Basically, the reader is presented with the influences that have refurbished the creative heart of Adetola Wewe. Moyosore did this by interpreting the intentions of Adetola Wewe through his focus. The renowned critic delved deeper into demystifying the mythological impressions that form countless of Wewe's classic artworks. If you have ever questioned what anything is regarding any of the paintings by Adetola Wewe, you must get a copy of METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE.
It is important to add that there wouldn't have been a better author for this manual into the life and art of Adetola Wewe other than the acclaimed Professor Moyosore B. Okediji who has been in a cordial friendship with "AFRICAN PICASSO" from 1949. This year makes it 43 years after the ship sailed from the shores of the University of Ile-Ife.
The fact that most of the works on display today are made from Adetola Wewe's residency at Professor Moyosore B. Okediji's workshop in Austin, Texas, United States of America says a lot about the level of their connection. While it should also give you an expectational overview of what to expect when you create time to consume: METAMODERN VISION OF TOLA WEWE.
For every Millenial visual artists and Gen Z art enthusiasts, this publication supplies sufficient knowledge into the personality of an immortal African artist including his role in the development of African Art and promotion of art made by Africans.