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Primitivity of ‘Bad Art’ opens in Lagos

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Yesterday, the second edition of Bad Art show, titled, Primitivity, opened at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.

According to Toni Ojisua, the self-styled messenger, maestro, and curator of this X agenda, the idea of Bad Art show was inspired by discrimination existing in the art market globally as “evidenced in racism, blue-chip art versus degenerate art, primitive art versus contemporary art and price differentiation orchestrated by the west.”

He continued, “inspiration also came from past known and unknown creators of artistic works in literature, which I recall sighting, hearing or reading in print and electronic media have influenced manifestations of two or three-dimensional dreams into reality.”

Ojisua decided to brand his art negative because of his anger over “disparity between art creations and antiquities rooted from Africa when compared to the value they command in the rest of the world especially Europe and America.”

He added, “I know art is a universal language; positive or negative arts are one and the same. I can’t understand the double standards in pricing.”

The artist said, “awareness of our African ancestors’ rare genius as enshrined in African philosophy, art and culture was brought to the fore in the first ‘Bad’ art show in 2015.”

Ojisua said, “our African ancestors created recorded history in priceless masterpieces — sculptures in bronze, wood, ivory, ceramics, early man’s cave paintings, adire, aso oke, and many others.”

Primitivity art show is a ritual follow up on this vision aimed at celebrating, “our ancestors, dead but alive, just as is the case for all masterpieces in every field of endeavour. As Black art dealers, our mission is simple: to command a competitive status as the well-priced artworks of the western masters, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent, Von Gogh, and the others.”

He cited the example of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon, originally titled, The Brothel of Avignon), a large oil painting created in 1907 by the Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso. The work portrays five nude female prostitutes in a brothel on Carrer d’Avinyó, a street in Barcelona.

“Each figure is depicted in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none is conventionally feminine. The racial primitivism evoked in these masks, according to Picasso, moved him to liberate an utterly original artistic style of compelling, even savage force.” With this work, Picasso broke a world record of about 500 years.

He says, “with Xenophobia, another world record is broken, because it is not a conventional work of art painted around the normal themes of colour, beauty, harmony, and contrast. Xenophobia is metaphysics being depicted in art.”

This painting depicts the reality of life as evidenced in the dominant traits of all living animals. “We are all territorial creatures as can be observed and seen in Lions living in pride, ancient expansionist tendencies of ancient Kemetic Egypt, the Benin Kingdom civilisations, and more recently, the British Empire with its divide and rule colonial master-styled system of governance.”

According to Ojisua, “you can also see the complimentary duality of life as seen in the inscriptions, Die and Live, Hate and Love. Every reality is created as a reaction to these territorial tendencies — Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and also known by its Arabic language acronym Daesh, South Africa (apartheid era) and in the recent Nigerian experience with Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen.”

The works on show are highly spiritual and convey a message that speaks to humanity. In Orema (the guardian ancestor from the oceans of Olokun in Benin Kingdom mythology), the physical umbilical cord and the corresponding silver cord, which represents human connectedness, is interrogated. “Whatever you do to someone, you do to yourself because we are all connected,” said Ojisua.

Everyone Needs Rest, a mixed media work, talks of the thin line separating the dead from the living, papa from mama, Satan from God, insanity from sanity, Yin from Yang, evil from good, pleasure from pain, and fear from courage. All of life’s contrasts are two sides of the same coin. “This is the inherent nature of life.”

While Veneration to my Ancestors, photographic paper (representation of the late legend, Ben Enwonwu’s bronze work from another perspective), tends to say that when you venerate your ancestors, starting with the dead to all masters that cross your path in your life journey, “life will venerate you, because we are all called to serve humanity and only when we are dead can we be truly legendary based on our track record of service to humanity,” said Ojisua. “Every artist before me in age and performance is my master. I don’t care where he or she is from; I don’t care about his or her personal lifestyle or religion.”

Six artists are exhibiting their works at the show. They are, Lara Boglo, Godwin Ugberebe, Bernard Oguru, Sanusi Adeoye Abdullahi, Oguntimehin Ariyo and Ojisua.

Born in Benin City during the civil war to an Army officer Lt. Reuben A Ojisua, he had his training at the Auchi Polytechnic from 1983 to 1985 before he drifted to economics after a diploma in Painting and General Arts.


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