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How Okpu’s cluster of figures celebrate family values


‘Rhythm In Red’ (oil on canvas, 4×4.5), by Norbert Okpu

The breakdown of communication in the family and community is focus of Nobert Okpu’s new body of work, Cluster, which interrogates youth restiveness and insecurity inNigeria.

Okpu adds his voice to the debate over the country’s security challenge in the solo show at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, which is his second this year at the same gallery. With his canvas, textured in impasto or embossed with layers of found materials, he looks at the issues affecting communication in the home and community.

Beyond the usual figurative representations of people at roundtable of town hall meetings that most artists have over repeated, Okpu brings some thing more aesthetically engaging. The strength of his message lies in the multiplying effect of the figures, graphically lifting the theme of the show.


In urban design or medical advisory, clustering may not be recommended for healthy habitation of people, but Okpu takes another look at the word and adapts it for visual expression to support his argument about the importance of people bonding, always.

In visual expressiveness, his works such as, Rhythm In Red, Blue Hues and Rhythm in Blue are aesthetically inviting with their sea of figures overlapping one another.Rendered in almost a woven technique, Rhythm In Red reflects human connectivity in a community to form cohesive strength. For Rhythm In Blue and Blue Hues, the artist strengthens his dexterity in optical illusion effect, using sea of figurative images.

“It resonates with my upbringing, growing up with uncles, aunties and family friends just as you even pass the night with neighbours and yet your parents are not scared,” Okpu says, while recalling his childhood days. “But today, people cannot leave their children for neighbours in the community for fear of all kinds of abuses.” He notes, “there is so much fear every where,” adding, “this exhibition is designed to let the world know the essence of living together.”

As much as information age of the 21 century has expanded means of communication, Okpu warns that the modern media platforms are creating gaps in families. “In most homes, phones and other gadgets have made everybody individualistic.” He cited example of spouses that are mentally apart, “yet close to strangers met on social media.”

Okpu’s interrogation of the essence of life is expressed in a 7 x 8ft installation made of fabric and plastic titled, The Family of Man. The installation is structured in levels such as, upper, lower and unoccupied spaces too. “It talks about levels of people: those who are already on earth, others not fortunate to be born, people on earth but not knowing why they are here and those so privileged to be rich and famous.”

Excerpts from Okpu’s Artist Statement: “The inspiration of this exhibition is somewhat related to my childhood and upbringing in the sense that it made me aware of the importance of communal living.

“I was part of a big web or cluster of people: aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends, hangers on etc., making up interpersonal relationships that directed my life into what I am today. They were the good, the bad, and the ugly but without them Norbert Okpu’s story would not be complete. And so, it is with every human being acting as an entity in our universe.

“Man is designed to work in peace and harmony, to share and receive, to give and be given, to love and be loved. Man was not designed to live in isolation. The world today is governed by fear and failure is every man’s Achilles heels, what we are today is not a result of self. We are all from one creator and love never fails.“This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Mr Sammy Olagbaju a benevolent gentleman and friend, who contributed to my career.”


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Nobert Okpu
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