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Iyase-Odozi set for Uhunmwen Whe Ehinmwen in Benin

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A solo travelling show on Benin iconography and semiotics, Uhunmwen whe ehinmwen, by Princess Theresa Oghogho Iyase-Odozi of GreenHouse Art Empowerment Centre, in collaboration with Crowne Art Gallery will open on October 26 at The Hexagon, Crowne Art Gallery, GRA, Benin City, Edo State.

Special guests at the opening are Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Osaze Osemwengie-Ero and Enogie of Evbubanosa/Abudu, Prof. Gregory I. Akenzua,

The show, which focuses on Benin art, iconography and semiotics, is a follow-up to the interactive session held in June in Lagos. Princess Iyase-Odozi initiated it.

It consists of five main components: mixed-media paintings, art installations, textiles, an empowerment workshop and publication of an art journal. The travelling exhibition will run for four weeks before moving to Lagos and later to Abuja in 2020.

The focus of her presentation and theme of her show are enshrined in the African experience of enslavement, colonialism, neo-colonialism, as well as the brutal desecration of African arts and culture.

Another key objective of the show is to create awareness and publicise appropriations of the rich Benin icons found on artefacts dating as far back as the 16th Century, which is now being deployed by the exhibiting artist in her endeavour to revive the waning culture of Edo batik clothing.

Iyase-Odozi has over the years developed an interest in Benin culture and art history of particular interest to her is the icons found in Benin artefacts. “A key ‘Icon’ found prominently displayed across most artefacts is the ‘Circled Cross’. This particular icon appeared on most of the plaques where the Oba was represented in the 15th Century.

Also of interest in critical context is her appropriation of the ‘Circled Cross’ symbols. Yes, the Benin people had contacts with Europeans, before Nigeria became a country, however, the depth of spirituality that the natives attach to the ‘Circled Cross’, Iyase-Odozi says, goes beyond colonial history.

At the Lagos interaction with culture experts, scholars and journalists, she said the project is inspired by the ‘head’ mythology of the Benin and Yoruba peoples. A person’s head, spiritually, according to the two related cultures, determines his or her destiny.

According to the artist, one of the main objectives of mounting the exhibition is to honour His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Ewuare II, Oba of Benin, in appreciation of his commendable efforts to revitalise Benin cultural heritage and project it to the world at large.

“We are also inspired by His Majesty’s plan to establish an academy for art, culture and tourism to be named the Benin Royal Academy of Performing Arts. Consequently, we would like to use the opportunity offered by this exhibition to honour him on the occasion of his 2019 birthday celebrations,” she says.

During the exhibition, the artist will present some of her findings in visual art appropriations in the creation of her Edo batik clothing line and reveal the myths surrounding the popular Ebe Ewere leaves used during the Benin Igue Festival.

Princess Iyase-Odozi, visual artist, writer, curator, empowerment-expert, a community leader was born into the family of Iyase N’Udo of Udo, Benin City, Edo State. She received her B.A. Degree in Creative Arts (Painting) and M.A. Visual Art Education both from the University of Lagos. She is currently a PhD research student in the Department of Creative Arts at the same university.


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