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Badru’s journey into unknown destination

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Dr Kenny Badru, leading guests through display of works during the opening of Exploration and Experimentation

When the artist, Dr. Kenny Badru, stepped from the known norms into the wilderness of adventurism, the journey of self-task leads to a destination of creative dexterity.
 
With unconventional art materials, Badru embarked on creative mining, in which he founds some new tunnels that led into vast deposits of visual culture.

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In his last solo show, titled Exploration and Experimentation, which opened on August 4, and ended on September 30, 2020, at Aduke Maina Hall, Federal College of Education, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Badru brought the future into contemporary expression.
 
He describes works on display as “multimedia,” a phrase commonly linked with contemporaneity.

Yes, the epithet, which refers to work of art made from materials as ‘multimedia’, no doubt, originated from the Info-Tech field.

However, the real impact of the meaning is felt in the art such as the future adventurism of Badru, among that of other artists who leap into the experimental realm.

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In hybrid textures, Badru’s works for the exhibition were made, mostly, from recyclable materials such as domestic and industrial wastes like drink cans, fabric, and electrical appliances.

Artists like Badru, who, consciously or not, keep blurring the line between art and design, are the reason why the scope of contemporary art gets more exciting. Among the exhibits were Pendulum Series I and II, which, as well displays, seem to derive their identities from a component of pre-Victorian era clock.

Analogously, the series, remind one of the resilience of the clock, which was still in vogue for the greater part of the last century, swinging its pendulum across generations and cultures.

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One of the most resilient cultural virtue of the Yoruba in family ties known as Olori Ebi takes figurative expressionism in Badru’s concept. It’s an oval face made of the plate with bold protruding eyeballs, mounted on what looks like a garment, which captures the larger than life image of Olori Ebi (Head of Family).

Traditionally, Olori Ebi’s opinions or authority is taken as sacrosanct in the Yoruba extended family setting. However, the burden of authority and virtue of being Olori Ebi in most families is represented by Badru’s creating sea of images in diverse shades and colours, swarming around the figure. The strength of the work is boosted by its multiple textures that radiate the feel of painterly, pointillism, and impressionism tones combined.

In fairness, the Olori Ebi culture has stabilized more families to the advantage of the larger society than the blackmail being thrown against it by the young generation of people with western nuclear family mentality.

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Whenever zoologists and researchers need visual impressions of the 344-year-old tortoise that died last year, Badru’s Legendary Tortoise Series could give colorful representation. The artist’s impressions, in each of the two series, are taken from frontal and side views, suggesting the royal animal’s motions of different directions. But the motifs and signs in the oval designs, over the tortoise’s crawling image, enrich the visual contents of each of the series.
 
Badru’s visual documentary of the tortoise predates the much-publicised death of the royal animal. He recalls a visit to the palace as part of his doctoral studies at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso. “I visited the palace during my doctoral studies at LAUTECH,” which he notes “motivated” him to “read three textbooks about tortoise folklore in Yoruba mythology.”
 
The tortoise, known as ‘Alagba’ (Elder) and said to possess ‘healing’ power, lived in the palace of the monarch, Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi Ajagungbade. The royal tortoise died on October 4, 2019, outliving many kings of the ancient Yoruba town of Ogbomoso, in southwest Nigeria. 

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There are several other pieces in the exhibition about traditional leadership setting such as Royalty, an abstraction in representation form; Royal Emissaries, a symbol of the message, which the artist sculpts in the ballistic image; and two others in similar themes. Whatever inspired Badru’s attention to African royal settings appears more cultural first and foremost, before the artistic contents. ”Royalty is held with very high esteem in Yorubaland and maybe other traditional kingdoms too,” the artist explains and puzzles over certain Yoruba proverbs that support the absoluteness of the monarchy.
 
Modern and contemporary behavioral patterns of people energized by democratic mentality are no doubt in conflicts with some Yoruba proverbs and adages. The artist wonders how, for example, a phrase like The king needs your attention and you’re consulting oracles; whatever the oracle says should not stop you from answering the King’s call, has been so resilient.

He however agrees on the preservation of traditional virtue, particularly with monarchs whose integrity is well respected. “I admire traditional rulers that know their onions and also believe that our traditional institutions must be held sacred.“

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The diversity of the exhibition is further expanded in a sculpture titled Mother Of All Keys, pastel and charcoal Looking Beyond Lockdown. The two pieces also assert the artist’s skills across the conventional medium of visual culture.   

“Exploration and experimentation is the creative approach of using unconventional materials for creative expression,” Badru states during a chat. “I have sincerely sought to express myself beyond the accepted canons of creative expression.” He recalls how he has threaded “where there is no path in order to leave a worthy trail for other creative minds in their quest for self actualization.”

Between the period of Badru’s academic entry into studio practice and his current state of the art, quite a number of colleagues have been tracking the artist’s trajectory. “Dr Kehinde Badaru is not the regular artist with the expected convivial formal depictions of forms, rather, he is a designer with a great propensity for solving visual problems,” writes Dr Kunle Filani, former Provost, Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta. “He often bridges the delicate balance between visual forms and engineering techniques. Filani, an artist of profound mixed media culture describes Badru as “A polymath of some sort,” who “is ever so restless in his creative search for design order.”

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Sculptor and one of the most vibrant professionals in the contemporary design space, Raqib Bashorun notes the exhibits as “interesting and well-articulated, artistically.” The former lecturer at Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) wishes he could visit the exhibition “to dialogue with the works and experience their contents.”
Chuka Nnabuife, Editor-in-Chief, National Light Newspaper, sees Badru as a ‘wonderful’ artist and the exhibits “richly executed beautiful pieces.”

Nnabuife, an artist and critic, wonders ‘how and when did’ the artist “get the time and energy for all the works” for the exhibition.

“This aesthetic delicacy is served already, without mincing words; we are going to savour this ‘brunch,” artist and lecturer at YABATECH, Deola Balogun writes.

Currently, a Chief Lecturer at Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta, Badru got his MFA from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and Ph.D. at LAUTECH.

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