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For social justice, Durodola hits Lagos with performance art

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One of Yusuf Durodola’s recent performances titled, Ohun Etutu, at Sabo, Yaba, Lagos.


Against the tide of fine art’s strong commercial drive, performance artists in Lagos hardly get attention. In fact, the numerical strength of artists from the performance genre in Lagos appears stagnant, as only four or five are involved.

Yusuf Durodola is one of such few artists whose work in conceptual art medium has been increasingly bolder on Lagos art hub. Lagos, at least in the last one decade, has not exactly been strange to performance art. In fact, one of the globally known artists in the genre, Jelili Atiku, set out his dawn of career here in Lagos.

For Durodola, the scale of proliferation is, perhaps, part of the strategy to push his performance work constantly on the conservative Lagos art landscape. Sometimes, he takes his fine art background along, appropriating the themes in paintings.

Mostly exhibited in public spaces, sometimes, along the walkways of Lagos roads, Durodola’s performance — in thematic context — speaks to the root of his environment’s developmental challenges.

For example, his last performance titled, Agbegilere (Carver), interrogates what he described as “the on-going issues between Government and its workers.”This year alone, Durodola has actually been prolific with such works as, Ipa, in September, at the School of Art, Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos; Ohun Etutu, at Sabo, Yaba with five co-performers; and Global Hues at Federal College of Education (Technical) Akoka, Lagos.

“Ipa centres on making marks which are created knowingly or unknowingly, it may be visible or invisible, permanent or temporary and at times out of negligence,” Durodola sai.He noted that in whatever manner such marks occur, the effect is negative or positive.

“Mark serve as an evidence of actions which invariably impart the populace involved,” he explained shortly after the performance. “Therefore, it is pertinent for us to be conscious of the consequences of the mark we choose to make on the sand of time.”

Most of his performances appear to derive some kind of strength in themes woven around native Yoruba idioms, adage or proverbs. The motivation to sustain originality of some of his chosen subjects, he said, inspired the Yoruba themes.He recalled starting with English themes earlier in his last performances, “but the more I think and I engage myself in the performances, the more I discover myself and I try to be sincere as I could.”

And when he chose to feature other artists early this year, he seemed to be spreading his own ‘gospel’ of performance art to younger artists. The work titled, Kíni Ohun Ètùtù, featured Afolabi Atiye Andrew, Ogunkunle Niyi, Adenuga Modupeoluwa, Olukowi Kayode Daniel and Yusuf Omotayo, and held at the high traffic, commercial axis of Sabo on Lagos Mainland.

Heavily costumed with fabrics tied nearly all over his body, including the legs, Durodola generated attentions at the busy Sabo station. In the performance, he distils an analogy of prosperous nation from recurring hopeless situations. The performance explains that if the sacrificial elements to structure a nation are love and trust, the ultimate questions have to be answered: “Who is to provide the elements? Who is to perform the sacrifice? And where is the sacrifice be placed?”

Still on the quest for a virile nation, another performance titled, Eekan, places strong institutions on whatever holds it. “Every enduring edifice is dependent on the strength of the Pillar,” Durodola argued. “No nation can ever experience peace without positive thinkers and progressive mindset.”

The work challenges everyone to bring something onto the table, particularly “from those who represents the societal pillars.”And beyond the leaders’ ability or inaction, every member of a society is also in the ring. “We are all saddled with the responsibility of sustaining the pillar at different levels. What we do with it goes a long way to impart our milieu either positively or negatively,” he said.

Globalisation, perhaps, attracted the artist’s attention when he performed Global Hues. It takes off with analysing the power of education, either formal or informal, in strengthening people’s potentials. As much as man’s power of knowledge empowers them to make contributions to their environment, Durodola asked: “But what manner of contributions?”With Global Hues, he highlights how people connect to others and each side’s “responsibility as human to this world as we continuously change the world with the contents of our character which are constantly reflecting through our fellow being.”

Everyone must own their environment, he advised, noting, “when we put smiles on the faces of others, the world will be at peace and when it is sorrow, it will be in agony and distress.”Performed at Federal College of Education (Technical) Akoka, Lagos as part of the opening ceremony of its 50th anniversary, Global Hues also explains how humans “are the colours of the world!” In fact, the performance states: “We are the change the world is earnestly awaiting.”

Born in 1979, Durodola is a painter, experimentalist and performance artist. His works project issues surrounding human existence, focusing on environmental pollution, echo system, human behaviour and belief, culture and sensitisation. His experimental works imply transformation of disposable items with infusion of pattern formation. His current works are based on road and drainage mapping, using drawing and painting in an abstract form through navigation into the architectural structure of the space.


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Yusuf Durodola
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