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For Adaora, life’s journey pours out in colours of emotion

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Zinno Orara did not have the wealth of Mughali Emperor, Shah Jahan, who built one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Modern World’, The Taj Mahal at Agra, India, in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz. But the Nigerian artist shares similar emotion with the 15th century Mughali ruler: it is the same profound love for a wife and mother, even in death.

For the memory of his late wife, Adaora, a mother of four children, Orara has not built a mausoleum like Emperor Jahan; he stepped out onto the canvas three years after her death with colours of emotion. In a solo art exhibition titled Life’s Journey, which opened at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos last weekend and which ends today, Orara pours out colours of emotions from the brush strokes of his heart.

Throughout the period of the lost battle of Adaora against breast cancer, Orara nearly “shut down” his studio for almost seven years. Died in 2014, Adaora, who left two boys and two girls behind, is being celebrated on the pedestal of lesson of ‘Life’ for others to learn one or two things about the beauty and vanity of earthly sojourn.

Two of the over 30 paintings on display explicitly represent the heavy heart of the artist. For example, a lowered gaze in ‘Thoughts of You’ suggests memory of a life worth sacrificing everything for. The artist actually did sacrifice so much during his wife’s battle against breast cancer.

“Treating her involved N170,000 worth of drugs weekly,” Orara recalled a few days ahead of the exhibition’s opening.

Irrespective of the pains suffered from losing Adaora, there exists something enduring, which she seemed to have left in her husband’s heart. This much the artist reveals in the bold facial portrait titled ‘Eyes of Faith’ and for which he enthused: “Those eyes are exactly hers.”

Picking the pieces of life from where Adaora left clearly brought the burden of taking care of four children. With the two key factors of shade and light in rendition of painting, Orara, in ‘The Storms of Single Parenting,’ a 2017 work, shares his experience while caring for four children without their mother. The painting, a silhouetted figure walking, of an unidentified lady, radiates the dark and bright sides of Life’s Journey. With spotlight from which the figure derives its strength and yet no visible source, this perhaps represents the artist’s means of spiritual strength in taking care of the children left behind by Adaora.

However, there appeared to be something for Orara to be joyful about. “Two of our children have graduated after my wife’s death.”

The family must have gotten its motivation in the lesson of being united against odds. And comes ‘Strength of Unity,’ a bluish rendition with both aesthetics and critical values. Despite his personal travails against faith and destiny, Orara had time to observe his environment and show concern for others. A year after the death of Adaora, he painted “Should be in School,’ a depiction of a girl hawking on the street. She could have been anyone’s daughter or victim of lack of parental care or poverty, the artist says.

With his solo art exhibition titled Boundaries And Bridges, which was shown at Quintessence Gallery, Lagos, in 2010, Orara, used the event to raise funds in supporting medical bills for Adaora. Interestingly, the theme of the exhibition focused on the recurring Jos, Plateau State communal crisis, confirming the artist’s interest in his environment.

Orara’s gradual recovery into studio practice was noticed in May this year, when he made his major group exhibition since the death of his wife. It was the debut edition of The Content art exhibition, curated by Lekan Onabanjo at Adam&Eve, Ikeja, Lagos.


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