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Zainab Shuiabu’s first solo exhibition excites Abuja art lovers

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With a breath of fresh talent, Abuja-based Zainab Shuaibu’s recent solo exhibition came on stream, when she exhibited 24 works in Abuja. By so doing, she did not only gladden the hearts of her family, government officials and art lovers, but also joined the league of creative minds, giving Abuja a cultural soul other than the usually combustible political life.

Shuaibu, who presented 24 major works and other mini units on the platform of Rainer Art got into Fine Art when she was still a child. Her mother, Mrs. Jummai Shuaibu, who, alongside other family members, expressed fulfillment at Zainab’s success, explained that by the time she was two years old, she had begun to be sensitive to shapes and colours.

While her father, Kabiru Shuaibu, was there for her at the exhibition, her uncle, Mr. Isa Shuaibu was particularly instrumental to her foundation as an artist.

According to Shuaibu, “I remember I did a little portrait of myself and gave it to the uncle of mine then. And he saw it and appreciated it a lot. My parents, siblings, people around me and other artists have also been encouraging me. I cannot be more thankful to my family. They always encourage me and criticise me constructively.”

The works being exhibited have been described as being very sensitive to happenings in Nigeria. One of them, titled ‘Oppression,’ calls for justice and equity. ‘Mind of Hostage’ is about Nigeria’s seeming lust for self-inflicted agonies.

A review of the works says, “With thorny strokes pointing towards the centre, the green background it bears seems to simultaneously suggest that it is about Nigeria, but that there is hope.”

Another painting that attracted the attention of many is the one tagged, ‘Dancing through Complexity,’ which explores the fate of the ambiguous world we all share. Another, yet, is ‘Reparations, Feminism and Reconciliation,’ which seeks to establish how diverse Shuaibu’s mission is as an artist.

Prostitution and drug addiction are two vices giving the world a headache. Shuaibu believes that the issues are not being addressed the way they should. She is particularly concerned about prostitution and rape, which many people shy away from addressing. It is thus not surprising that both syndromes did not escape her acrylic on canvass.

“In ‘Hashish’, the artist’s concern is about the devastating effects that marijuana can cause. She believes that people involved should quit. In ‘Harlotry’, however, she presents a nude female figure, so real that someone might be tempted to think that it may be the first time that a female artist will come down very hard on a fellow ‘female’. Shuaibu’s perspective on this is that harlotry and matters of rape must be discussed because of their effects on society.”

Leading others to salute Shuiabu at Thoughts Pyramids Gallery, Wuse 2, was the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was represented by the Director-General of National Council of Arts and Culture, Mrs. Dayo Keshi. Mohammed described the artist as a bundle of talents that would advance the progress Nigeria had made in the sector.

He said, “Zainab’s colours are real and attractive, she responds to issues of the moment through art. She showcases our diverse cultures and uses her talent to raise awareness on issues. This exhibition is a milestone in her artistic endeavours and Nigeria is very proud of her.”

Mohammed added that the ministry was committed to the development of the sector and uplifting the practitioners. According to him, they have a lot to contribute to the good image of the country and to its economic development, especially in these challenging times. He thus called on the private sector to invest in the area.

One of the representatives of National Arts Gallery at the event, Mr. James Irabor, who is an older artist and critic, identified with the versatile outlook in Shuiabu’s works. He noted that she represents multiple voices and styles.

Irabor said, “Hers is a combination of different kinds of styles. That is why although this is a solo exhibition, the works on display look as if we have a combination of artists on board. You can see traces of the Zaria school, as well as, the impressionists from the U.S. or the minimalist from far and near. She is bringing home all available styles to Nigeria.

“This is strength in the sense that she showcases varieties. You know, she is still at the experimental stage. Later, she will fall in love with one or two particular styles and even discover where her strength mostly lies. Then she will do more works in such areas.”

Among other people at the exhibition were; Alhaji Abdullahi Datti, Sanni Muhammed, Chief Suru Salami and Alhaji Haruna Muhammed and Chief Jide Omikore. While a property developer, Mr. Mustapha Abdusallam, said Shuaibu’s works were fantastic, Barrister John Mommoh commended the artist for the endeavour, saying it was impressive to see a lady of her age working so hard.

Mommoh said; “Even if you are not a core follower of the arts, when you read the notes attached to each work, you will get an impression. Art is about life.”

Shuaibu, who has interest in other areas of arts, said the exhibition focused on socio-political issues because of her interest in her fatherland. She noted, “I am deeply interested in national issues because as a nation we need more unity. We lack a lot of that. We don’t work together. There is a massive divide going on and I think we need to come together more as a nation. This is my own way of delivering the little I can do, with my art skills and my talent, if you want to call it that.”


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