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After Homme Libre, Uwagboe returns with Obituary

By Omiko Awa
18 November 2018   |   4:20 am
Seven years after his last solo show, Bob-Nosa Uwagboe is set to return to the art scene with series of mind-blowing works. Uwagboe, whose works fall on the radical side of expressionism...

One of the works Uwagboe is showing

Seven years after his last solo show, Bob-Nosa Uwagboe is set to return to the art scene with series of mind-blowing works. Uwagboe, whose works fall on the radical side of expressionism, in his new show, continues with his ‘Protest Art Mission.’

From November 24 to Dec 2, he will be at the Signature Beyond Gallery, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, showcase his paintings with the title, Obituary.

Speaking on the title, which talks of death during a studio visit, the artist says Obituary is his reflective mood; a reminder to the living that there will be a time in human lives when all what we cherish will cease to exist.

According to him, the title is not meant to be offensive, but to evoke the consciences, as well as remind people that they should all work to bequeath a better legacy to their children.

In 2011, Uwagboe had his debut solo exhibition titled, Homme Libre, at African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), Ikoyi, Lagos. His paintings of mixed media and, sometimes with, collage textures draw attention to the sliding values that most African countries particularly, Nigeria, place on human lives. In specific context, the artist is using the body of works in the exhibition to mourn Africa’s dying values — cultural, social and others — and even fading human dignity. He is worried that humanity has lost its essence, and needs to be mourned and in the process awaken the people’s inner mind to going back to doing things right.

Uwagboe’s works for the exhibition are sectionalised into: Obituary, Yeyeman and Human Merchandise series.

He depicts the irony of life between the living and the dead in a painting titled, The Mourners, which according to him, is a tribute to the victims of Benue killings and other communities troubled by the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria.

Uwagboe, whose recent experience informed the title, notes that mourning is an irony: “Those mourning will some day be mourned. He advises the living to always do their best to lead a better life, put in their best in whatever they do to make the society better than they found it. Recalling the deaths of Ben Osaghae, an artist, and that of his parents, though happened at different dates and events last year, he reveals that the pains and sorrow he felt changed his attitude to life.

Observing that people do not always want to talk about death, the artist urges professionals, particularly those in creative sector to keep this reality of life in people’s mind, as this will spur them to behave better in the society and impact of the wider society for good.

Uwagboe’s concern for human lives takes him to the tragic story of African immigrants trapped in Libya. He expresses this in Human Merchandise, a series that include, paintings and drawings. Among the series is Tortured Youth. He reveals that the painting links him to what he describes as ‘disturbing images’ he saw online during the Libya immigration crisis.

Still on the migrant crisis, Uwagboe in another painting titled, Walking Away indicts poor leadership in Nigeria and other African countries as main reason people leave their countries in pursuit of better life, especially in Europe and the Americas. Satirising Nigerian and African poor leadership in works including, Legless Leader and Dying In Power series, he says the deformed images stand for our clueless leaders and those Africans who lost their lives in Libya, while crossing over to Europe. Arguing that had the government of the various African countries been responsible and responsive to their citizens the ugly incident would not have happened, he notes: “I am mourning these poor people through my art. The exhibition is about mourning the death of humanity.”

Still using his ‘Protest Art’ to express himself, Uwagboe for the exhibition toned down some of his works. This he did with the bright application of colours in quite a number of spots in select canvases. However, he insists that he could not find a better title than Obituary for the exhibition to adequately express his thought.”

The exhibition will also show works in his Police Series. It is a set of works, though in small sizes, that focuses on the crucial roles of the police to the society. One of the series, Purging, is a critique of the nation’s current situation.

Uwagboe notes that he finds it difficult to comprehend the current generation’s ‘growing quick-fix mentality.’

Despite being critical about young people’s impatience, he in another painting, Punching series urges the youth to fight for what belongs to them, saying he is already doing so through his art. “We must not give up, even within the art profession,” he intones.

Notwithstanding that some of his works come with nudity, the artist explains there is a link between one’s dress sense and protest. According to him, being nude is part of a protest culture, particularly among the Benin people in Nigeria, where he comes from.

On mentorship, Uwagboe discloses that he likes mentorship, but detests discipleship, stressing that every artist should simply ‘be himself or herself’. He, however, notes that to be one’s true self could be tough; as such stand many a time leaves the person on a lonely lane.

“When I chose to pick my kind of identity, collectors were not comfortable, but I stuck to my belief. Today, I’m happier. Though, I have not wide acceptance, I’m okay with what I’m doing.”

His curator, Ekiko Inang, notes: “Uwagboe works challenge global political structures. The exhibition signifies Uwagboe’s dispositions towards irresponsible behaviours and the global socio-economic situations we now find ourselves.”