Udechukwu: The Power of the Line
The critic Chika Okeke -Agulu has been studying the drawings of Obiora Udechukwu over two decades and has been working on a book for the past two years. In Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text, a monograph featuring over 500 drawings of this influential Nigerian artist, he argues that Udechukwu “has eliminated the boundaries between image, text, literary and visual poetry and the results are drawings of tremendous lyrical power”. Okeke-Agulu, a Professor of Art History at Princeton, is a major authority on contemporary art in Nigeria, so it pays to listen to him, even if there is the likelihood he could be biased about Udechukwu, under whom he studied painting at Nsukka. “The radical fusion of lyrical formalism and socio political critique in Udechukwu’s drawings is a direct outcome of his lifelong commitment to the graphic, pictorial and rhetorical properties of line”, Okeke-Agulu argues. His monograph, published by Skira Editore and to be presented to the public at the African Artists Foundation in Lagos on March 21, 2017, includes drawings made as back as the late 1960s when the subject was a young man in Biafra during the Nigerian civil war, as well as his abstract compositions of the past two decades, which Okeke-Agulu regards as quite sophisticated. Udechukwu studied and taught at Nsukka, championing the Uli mode of artistic expression, advocated by his own teacher, Uche Okeke.
To his credit is the emergence of some of the members of the selected tenth of contemporary art scholarship, including Olu Oguibe, Sylvester Ogbechie, Okeke-Agulu himself and Krydz Ikwuemesi. Okeke-Agulu’s book adds to the growing list of published monographs on the works of contemporary artists from Nigeria. “I hope it sets some standard in terms of what a quality art book/monograph on a contemporary Nigerian artist can be”, the author said on the telephone from Princeton in New Jersey, United States. Udechuku, who is also currently living in the United States, will be at the presentation with his poet -artist wife, Adaobi. The Obi of Onitsha will be special guest of honour; Abdulaziz Ude will be Chairman. Ozioma Onuzulike will review the book. Femi Akinsanya will be a guest of honour, “and I am hoping that Yusuf Grillo will be able to come as a special guest of honour too”, the author explains. The blurb says that the book “provides an unprecedented account of drawing as an ideational tool and powerful vehicle for the expression of poetic power”.
Tears of Guilt Shed at Mama Africa
Tears were freely shed at the Artscape Theatre in early February, as Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical, was presented to a South African audience for the second time. Some of those who showed their emotions most were elderly white South African ladies, who themselves were privy to some of the worst excesses of apartheid rule in that country. One such lady, debriefed by our correspondent after one of the 11 performances, indicated that she was not aware that Mariam went through so much pain, especially in the period when she worked as a maid to a white couple, and she was framed up as a thief and had to go to prison, deprived of mothering her girl child. Mariam’s mother and siblings went through various harassments from the police; constant raiding of the shebeen (beer parlour) where the mum worked at some point.
There was a hint of serial raping of workers in the shebeen in those days. The play, written by the Nigerian playwright Niyi Coker, features loads of subtle reflection on the evils of apartheid regime and the South African cast eloquently delivered the very sensitive narrative, especially the emotional scenes, such as when Miriam returned and discovered her mother had died while she was in exile, the death of her only daughter, who she abandoned at the age of 9 when she fled to exile. She managed to smuggle the girl out later, but she had become wayward by then and became a sexual object for the bandboys, who she later got pregnant for. The baby died while she was given birth. Coker’s deeply researched, intimate portrait tells a story in which both apartheid and the exile that resulted from it wreaked violence on the life of this prominent African star. The musical will be performed in Lagos in May 2017.
Blackass: Barrett Inserts Himself Into Own Novel
Igoni Barrett’s Blackass is a very inventive novel, about a young Nigerian man who wakes up finding out he was no longer black, but white. Not an albino, not a fair complexioned Nigerian, nor brown coloured, as the mixed race Barrack Obama describes himself in Dreams from My Father, his coming of age autobiography, but white, as in pink coloured. As he grapples with the challenges and triumphs of his new “identity”, the hero, Furo Wariboko, runs into an author named Igoni in a shopping mall, who then proceeds to write a chapter on how he “found” out about Furo, “a white man with a strong Nigerian accent, stranded in Lagos without a place to stay”. Barrett ensures, with his deft, writerly description of the sights and smells of Lagos, that this far-fetched, hilarious narrative is compelling enough for you to want to recommend it.
The French Flood Lagos With Activity
The Alliance Francaise in Lagos says that March is a major month on its calendar. It lists a tribute to the late Novelist Buchi Emecheta, which will be moderated by Bisi Silva at the Centre for Contemporary Art on March 2, a film screening Aya de Youpougon, on Friday March 10, with “e-presence” of Marguerite Abouet, the author on whose book the film is based. The Centre also announces a panel discussion for Saturday March 11, titled Women in the move, in Nigeria and beyond: feminism or feminisms at Terra Kulture. It will feature Molara Wood, author of the collection of short stories Indigo, Ngozi Iwere and Georgina Duke . It will be moderated by Sara Panata.
Compiled by staff of Festac News Press Limited