Kemi “Lala” Akindoju’s part tearjerker, part comic, mostly introspective and generally uproarious one man piece, NAKED, is the sort of biographical sketch sorely needed for an understanding of what shapes culture production in Nigeria today.
In 90 minutes of talking about herself, the 31 year old stage and movie actor walks her audience through her childhood, the secondary school (Queens College) days, and the early years hustling for jobs and not once does she hint she has arrived.
Of the several telling moments, the most honest is the commentary on the rejection she gets in auditioning for the lead character in a movie.
There is a story going round in film directors’ circles, but its deeply insightful to hear it from the actor herself: ”Look Lala, you are handsome, sorry, you’re are beautiful in some kind of way, but those are not the kind of features we are looking for”, she says to deafening applause.
Lala won the Africa Magic trailbrailzer award for her lead role in the film adaptation of Dazzling Mirage, directed by Tunde Kelani, but while she has since delivered in such high profile movies as Fifty, The CEO, Hibiscus Hotel, she seems consigned to, at best, roles that merely aspire to the lead, and it’s clearly the Nigerian director’s self-inflicted loss.
In what is overall a feel good performance, it is difficult not to single out the weekend-from-secondary school incident with this “Uncle”…”his breadth in my face…”the forced fondling/is it attempted rape moment?, which she delivers with élan.
This is where the play’s title comes from. “I don’t have a language for what this is…I have become a new..”, the performer sighs.
Everywhere is deathly quiet. Moments after a pause, with a faraway look in her eyes, she announces “I walk myself back from that moment..” Attending the University of Lagos ushered her into “a series of destiny defining encounters”.
And let’s not forget the generational thing: any Lagos born male or female in his/her late 50s who assumes that all the fun in the city’s secondary schools ended in those roaring 70s, here’s news for you; those who went to school 20 years after you still experienced the Inter-House Sports as the foundational space for dating: it is so nostalgic to hear updated versions of the story; the more things change the more they stay the same. Thank you Lala. More grease.
Castellote: What’s Modern Art? What’s Contemporary?
In Jess Castellote’s Nigerian Art Market Report 2017, the value of art sold by “Modern artists” at art African art auctions is indicated to be lower than that sold by “Contemporary artists” by a factor of 35 to 65. But who are Mr. Castellote’s Modernists? And who are his Contemporary artists?
Ben Enwonwu, Yussuf Grillo, Abayomi Barber, Uzo Egonu, Erabor Emokpae, are on his list of Modern artists, so are Gani Odutokun, David Dale and Dele Jegede. But Kolade Oshinowo is classified as Contemporary artist, as indeed Olu Amoda, Biodun Olaku and Rom Isichei.
An observer of the Nigerian art scene would be right to ask why Odutokun and Jegede would be on the opposite side of the Modern/Contemporary divide from Oshinowo, when the three are all part of the generation of artists that emerged after the Zaria Rebels.
“It’s a classification made by the auction houses, mostly”, is Castellote’s initial reaction.
He is clearly hoping there won’t be a follow up question on this issue. Pressed for explanation, he mentions the year 1945 as the distinguishing line: “If you are born after that date, your work is classified as contemporary”.
That sounds intriguing, but the Spanish architect who’s keen on documenting Nigerian art isn’t keen on discussing these classifications. He shakes his head vigorously to suggestions that the distinction be interrogated.
He’s upset: “People just like to talk”, he complains, in a manner that suggests that the conversation is a waste of time.
So we ask Chika Okeke-Agulu, a full tenured professor of Art History at Princeton University in the United States (you don’t get more Ivy League than that).
Okeke-Agulu is the author of Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria. Wondering why we have to turn to auction houses to classify what’s modern or contemporary, Okeke-Agulu gives us this full bodied response: “On modernism, my thinking about it revolves around three elements.
First, it involves a belief in the notion of the avant-garde, meaning a generation of artists who see themselves as leaders in defining artistic/cultural and sometimes even political futures of their societies (Senghor/Nwoko); second, it involves conviction about the primacy of formal invention, that is development of new, rigorously expressed pictorial/sculptural styles (Uche Okeke/El Salahi); three, a firm commitment to renegotiating one’s relationship—via a break with or tactical appropriation of—inherited or imagined “tradition” (Belkahia/Boghossian).
I suggested that the contemporary artist (Anatsui/Kentridge/Akomah/Mehretu) is not, for the most part, invested in all three elements.
Sometimes one or even two elements might be important to the contemporary artist, but not all three, and certainly not to the extent that they were crucial to how modernist artists imagined their work”.
Nowhere, in this long speech, does Okeke –Agulu mention DATE.
The classification, it appears, is far more nuanced, than when you were born. But there’s something here, in Okeke-Agulu’s explanation: not even all the members of the Zarianist Revolution could claim to be modernists.
Calendar: Osogbo Art At Fifty, Rauf Thompson Is Unmasked And The Nostalgia
The travelling exhibition, Fifty Years of Osogbo Art, has come to Lagos, after a United States show and one in Abuja. Works of Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh, Adebisi Fabunmi, Rufus Ogundele, and Twins Seven Seven are on view at the Thought Pyramid Gallery in Ikoyi until April 5, 2018.
UNMASKED, by SMO Gallery, featuring the work of seven female artists, continues at the Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi until May 4, 2018.
The show includes paintings, photography, digital art, ceramic by Nengi Omuku, Koromone Koroye, Nyancho NwaNri, Djakou Kassi Nathalie, Queen Nwaneri, Reha Shishodia and Somi Nwandu, all based in Nigeria…..
From April 7 to 14, 2018, Omenka Gallery will present NOSTALGIA: Glimpses from Diaspora, an exhibition of recent work in mixed media, acrylics and oils on canvas by Kunle Adegborioye……
The painter Rauf Thompson will be exhibiting a collection entitled Beyond Drawing and Painting, at the National Council for Art and Culture, National Theatre, from April 27 to April 30.
• Compiled By Staff of Festac News Press Agency
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