Thursday, April 21, 2011

The 266th good thing about Lagos: meeting an acclaimed artist

First I'll give an election update:  As expected, Goodluck Jonathan has been declared winner of the Presidential Election.  But some people in the North aren't happy about his win and there has been some after-election violence by supporters of the candidate from the Muslim North.  Here in Lagos, everything is as usual.  We will be out of town for the final elections of the cycle, for State government, rescheduled for the Tuesday after the long Easter weekend.  The Lagos State Governor is quite widely supported here and it's pretty much assured that Fashola will be reelected, so no problems are expected.

When I was in London just over a week ago, I sat and ate a sandwich on a bench in Trafalgar Square just below the "4th Plinth" which has become a showcase for contemporary sculpture.  I admired the Ship in a Bottle and how it complemented the statue of the Admiral Lord Nelson, the great British navy commander.  I noticed the colorful sails, and I knew that the artist had won a competition to have his work displayed on this column, which was vacant of the statuary atop the other columns in the Square.  Little did I know that very soon I would have the opportunity to meet and hear from this artist.  For some reason Blogger won't let me upload pictures to this post right now -- I'll try again later and hopefully will edit this post, but for now I'll just link to some pictures for those that might be  interested.

Yinka Shonibare is one of the best known Nigerian artist that doesn't  live in Nigeria.  He spent some of his childhood here, but went to the UK when he was young to study art and hasn't returned.  He works in London.  About his "Ship in a Bottle" he says:  "For me its a celebration of London’s immense ethnic wealth, giving expression to and honouring the many cultures and ethnicities that are still breathing precious wind into the sails of the United Kingdom. A ship in a bottle is an object of wonder. Adults and children are intrigued by its mystery. How can such towering masts and billowing sails fit inside such a commonplace object? With Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle I want to take this childhood sense of wonder and amplify it to match the monumental scale of Trafalgar Square."  His website says "Tying together historical and global threads, the work considers the legacy of British colonialism and its expansion in trade and Empire, made possible through the freedom of the seas that Nelson’s Victory provided."  I guess it's fitting that a bi-cultural artist would create this work that celebrates the legacy the British colonial empire has given to the world.
Yesterday Yinka spoke at a cultural center here and talked about his art and rambled on about other things.  To explain why he hadn't returned to Nigeria in 30 years, he said that when he was 19 he contracted a virus which attacked his spine and paralyzed him.  He is able to walk now, but is still quite crippled and obviously disabled.  The crowded room of people (though the room didn't fill till an hour after the announced start time and the talk started 1 1/4 hours late -- Africa time can drive a prompt American nuts) was very appreciative of his presence, though some in the Q&A time questioned him what he was doing to support the arts in Nigeria and challenged him to do something more.  He said his art was about revolution, though I didn't see much revolutionary in his work, though he had some pieces that were interesting.  But I really do like his use of Nigerian wax print textiles.  The vibrant fabrics here are one of my favorite things about the visual feast that is West Africa.

The contemporary artist and work I was most enraptured with on my London visit to the Saatchi Gallery has no connection with Nigeria, but her work showed a revolution in the world of insects.  Tessa Farmer's work "Swarm" shows an enclosed clear box filled with insects hanging on nylon lines.  When looking closer, you see tiny crafted skeletons which are riding on or attacking the larger bugs.  The tiny skeletons were made from organic materials -- bug remains and stuff found in the artist's garden.  It was amazing to me the skill and craftsmanship in creating these tiny creatures.  I took a bunch of pictures of them and hopefully sometime I'll be able to upload a few here (even though they have nothing to do with Lagos....).

We're off to Kenya for an Easter get-away.  I wish you all a wonderful Easter and I'm sure I'll soon have a report on our view of the other coast of Africa.  

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Carolee~wish I would have been in town when you were in London:( I don't know if you even know that we live in Kensington now, for over 2 years. Would have been great to catch up. I was in Utah all of April for our daughter Brittany's wedding. Anyway, I enjoy checking out your blog! All the best~Stephanie Bassett