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In Beast Of No Nation, Ezeigwe lampoons political class

By Tajudeen Sowole
05 July 2020   |   3:29 am
The artist Ikechukwu Ezeigwe is one person who derives inspiration for his paintings from the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s music.

Colonialist, 2019, oil on canvas by Ikechukwu Ezeigwe

The artist Ikechukwu Ezeigwe is one person who derives inspiration for his paintings from the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s music.

His virtual show, titled, Beast Of No Nation, which was organised by Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, ended June 29, 2020.

It is of note that the show, which puts leaders across the world on the spot, is his first major solo after winning the grand prize of ‘Next of Kin’ 2019 art competition organised by Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Lagos.

In some of the paintings, the artist’s thoughts on Beast of No Nation is brought to the canvas satirically in a manner that radiates much heat about Africa’s trajectory in the quest for political and economic directions.

The highlight of such paintings, which drives the show’s theme, include the artist’s style and technique in the way he dresses beasts in human clothing, mostly in official paraphernalia.

In one of the works, Colonialists, an unidentified animal is dressed in a military uniform. Of note are the bold application of colour and the failure story of Africa being told. At the background is an inscription Berlin Conf. Indeed, Ezeigwe, in the painting, reminds his audience of how Europe partitioned Africa at the Berlin Conference (1884–1885).

For an artist just stepping into the mainstream art space of Lagos, Ezeigwe appears well prepared, so suggests the creative energy in his strokes.

From one piece of the exhibits to the other, there is the deliberate direction of an artist whose palette, consciously, seeks attention.

Away from the common narrative of blaming Africa’s colonial pasts, the 15 paintings in the show indict failures of the people. Among such paintings is Struggle Against Corruption, Animalism: Vote for me I Go Build Road and Meet your Next President: Vote Blindly. Apart from politicians, businessmen are also listed as failed leaders.

Omenka Gallery stated that the exhibition brings into consideration a nod to ancient Greek mythology and interrogation of colonialism, adding that Ezeigwe singles out the most infamous of rulers. The gallery argued that the show though borrows its title from Fela’s 1986 song, “unlike the Afrobeat maestro, Ezeigwe, however, “takes his audience on an excursion through global history.”

According to the curator of the exhibition, Seidougha Linus Eyimiegha, the concept came about from his frequent visits to the artist’s studio. He said the works of Fela and George Orwell inspired Ezeigwe. “I spent a lot of time with Ezeigwe, always visiting his studio in the course of this project. He talks a great deal about issues of both individual and public interest.”

The curator disclosed his interaction with the artist, which he recalled focused on the lyrics in the songs of Fela and literary work of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, describing the two as Ezeigwe’s “major sources of information.”

The gallery explained that the concept of bodies that combine human and non-human elements is not new.

The gallery noted in its statement announcing the show, said: “The history of art and literature is replete with images of mutated, transformed and in this case, hybridized bodies. Some of the many instances are mermaids, chimeras, griffins, werewolves and centaurs — the actors in Ezeigwe’s oil on canvas Struggle against Corruption (2019). However, the roles these hybrid characters play differ with each artist. Here, Ezeigwe’s unique message is not lost. With technical virtuosity, he seduces the viewer while at the same time, warns of a repulsive existence with permanent negative social behaviours and structures, if left to thrive.”

Ezeigwe studied fine art at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.