MalariaT

Returning to Lagos has been quite enjoyable in many ways. There was the fact of meeting inquisitive and familiar faces that wanted a share of the traveller’s loot, even if it is just about reliving the moments of the sojourn remembered after cold nights. There awaited one a thousand questions and a million undone things from time past. So one soared and fell through the next few weeks- happy in turns and mourning at the shortness of daylight. 

Those things aside- repeated narratives of recent history told to eager ears, there were the noises of the greatest season for the arts in Nigeria. The art fairs with their aspirations, presentations of entertainment, and lengthy conversations; the exhibitions of art and fashion running all week; a biennale even; the opening parties running concurrently in nearby joints all over Lagos- everything happening a rush as though to outdo the horrific Lagos rush hour traffic. 

Between sister’s home, seeing Kim, visiting a few friends and short stays in hotels, one ended each day with either a hangover or a sense of lost time- it is weird how there just seems to be not so much one can achieve. Burdened with more inadequacies, it is easy to lean back and glide with the blistering rush of cars and motorbikes and people. 

There was the event that split the color spectrum apart. There were the hanging and bending of lights. Color meant so much. Champagne also to drinkers. That was a chill show. This is the soothing feeling especially after a longer, exhaustive trip to a nearby venue by sea. Mildew and dim were more criteria there. Again, the teething period excuse. Color unsure.

Tinkles and dings. Fashion and so much foreign accent. Then there was this yellow evening of dancing. Seemed they turned their back to the sun and changed the location by sound. A disconnect in the tropical volume of grey and rainy days, scratching red and malaria itch. Whoring nights and blurry mornings that left nothing much to keep but numbers and silence. 

Of course something to be treasured was on every pedestal, rising or falling away. Art rules a little here, a little there. Books and Amala and gbegiri charmed to palmwine teased on foreign land. That place had promise of entrances to be gained at almost half the minimum monthly wage. Hide it in a book- white, buildings, no, anything, packed. The free choices seemed quite a treat, thank you.

So in every circus there will be that one tent that is meant for the visitor. The economics of spaces turns courtesies on a head. From Yaba to Shrine and Bogobiri or Beer Barn its Eko for show, for you and you and the Lagosian must watch too.

At exactly the center of everything comes that cube of contemplation were things want to be set right, want to stand tall and allow for a dark sky overhead. Point A to Z as eyes can see, it’s a blur only erased by the shortened distance between object and viewer. Champagne lines and ambitious entrée increase exclusivity. There were the ahss and the ooos, naturally. But again as in great advertising- every noise is good noise. So- next show.

In-between were the local festivities. This is definitely a bloated cityscape. Nothing untoward happened. It was drinks, smoking and the pleasures of everything else. There were the meetings, the goodbyes, the memoirs, and people with diaries crossing out to-do lists. Something kept all in check and suspicion. Even in partying, the professional colleague maintains his oga status like a badge of honor.  Superficial mingling and socializing, throaty laughter slurred and shaky. Libraries in memory of the dead or some rebels in cars were pictures. Big or small foot pussy in boots. We know the real loot. So the person pays with own life. They wait; they watch and are on the prowl all ways. Between popping malaria pills, play doctor and fun patient, I am not sure what I meant to say. It’s malaria typeset. Past bedtime and yet lost in resounding electric generating sets. I miss you, hotel. I can’t tell all.

He asked some deep questions.

I enjoy talking. I enjoy the stimuli of intelligent conversation. And I hope to see underlying questions in retrospective. I talk some more when asked a question. I learn from talking. I learn from sharing. Let me share this fantastic interview with Omenka Online, the magazine for the Ben Enwonwu Foundation. Oliver Enwonwu, the son holds the grounds very well. He is also the President of the Society of Nigérian Artists.

Here is the link to my interview- https://www.omenkaonline.com/tony-nsofor-on-language-the-subconscious-and-the-mundane/

About Uche Edochie and Tolu Aliki

I wrote this essay for the catalogue of Uche Edochie and Tolu Aliki’s amazing show HALFWAY THROUGH A THOUSAND MILES. If you saw the exhibition, I hope you find convergent views. If you didn’t, I hope you see some of it through my words. There is colour, there are pure colours and light in the window of art called Nigeria. It is fresh and strong. Read on.

Uche Edochie, Conversations II: School Fees, acrylic on canvas, 2018Tolu Aliki, The Elect and the Electorate, acrylic on canvas, 2018Witness- An account of Two Contemporaries

One can’t talk about the artwork better than the artist himself- his artwork is the first and original statement! It is a more daunting task when the artist also writes about his work. I will start by avoiding descriptions of individual pieces in this exhibition. Tolu Aliki and Uche Edochie share from their souls, presenting telling self-portraits. Let us enjoy the evidence before us- exuberant outbursts of colour celebrating life in its various nuances! Halfway through a Thousand Miles is a visual narrative of the journeys of two artists living in Lagos. History, destinations, aspirations are explored in a probing manner. There is the light humour, and then the melancholic palettes! The journey of life is about halfway gone and both artists share the limelight. There is no faulting the craftsmanship.

Aliki studied Mass Communications and spins titles like Colors of Passion, Intimate Moments, the Good Life, Shades of Love, etc, all thematically situated in sensuality and a heightened enjoyment of the finer things of life. The intention tends towards perfection, his cunning to erase traces of the method of application.

As the curator, Edochie sees ‘an unexpected beauty in the …heroism of (Nigeria’s) citizens’. His paintings are psychedelic flows that surprise in the transitions between two colours, keeping the palette fresh and airy. Edochie’s working experience is in 4 phases- the first two relate to art practice while the last two revolve around sexuality and relationships, topics that receive more hush treatment (unfortunately) than they should in these climes. Both artists compliment each other. On the one hand are the mature dark nuances of colour; on the other, we have the pastel, graphic colour of a dandy! So this combination works. Well. Even before he graduated from Art School, Edochie knew what needed to be done. He started to fill in the gaps in the interpretation of his work, writing at every opportunity. For both artists, Colour is applied as a labour of love. Colour is theme and light creates other illusions. Aliki brings his signature childlike stylization of form and use of pure colour to contrast the extravagant splays of Edochie’s strokes verging towards a dangerous, passionate cadence. Aliki’s work playfully, yet emphatically holds attention in its stylization of form, while Edochie masterfully weaves explosive colours through bodies making them shimmer like beings stepping into celestial lights.Tolu Aliki, Half full or Half empty, acrylic on canvas, 2018Uche Edochie, Dark Places II: Doubt, acrylic on canvas, 2018

The creative person lives with the fear of not communicating, of being misread! Fine art allows such an engagement with the audience. The picture is an open plain. In the pieces in this show, both artists explore the human condition and political narratives, a tendency that logically comes with maturity- the growing awareness of responsibilities, of family, of leadership, of leaving something worthwhile behind. The works presented insist on celebrating the resilience of the Nigerian spirit trying to get ahead despite the bad press, despite the daunting living conditions. The artists spin tales as witnesses of all that is good about Nigerians. In these climes, they find an eager audience willing to grab at anything that will increase the value of living here. The artworks are autobiographical and homemade. The viewer sees forms woven in emotional and emotive poses. Then there are the standalone portraits on flat backgrounds. We trudge through the dismal Nigerian life, with the strange energy of people driven by the baking hot tropical sun, flashing teeth bared in laughter (hopefully).

The connection is immediate. Back then in Nsukka, Edochie delighted in his eye for details, revealing objects as though with bionic vision. Life and its toll happened, and the artist sees all reality in shades of psychedelic, opium colours. The business of life must be taken face-up. Aliki responds with flat planes of pure colour balanced in contrasts that regale in the two-dimensional surface. And yet the brilliant colours insist on making subconscious connections with the viewer. The firmness of his hand is without a doubt.

One has to tread softly through the hall full of impassioned, sometimes raging colour. Life is the fierce performance without beginnings or end, a journey eclipsed by unfettered optimism that charges the space. The journey of a thousand miles must be taken, one step at a time. Or you miss the suggestions. Art flirts flatter and provokes all life. But we live in an age where Time and Space has been transcended in many ways. Halfway through looking at the works, one feels a familiarity. Tolu Aliki and Uche Edochie are our contemporaries. But there is the individuality of experience that should be investigated. There is so much effusive brilliance. There are the dark notes. The audience must speculate on this.

NB: THIS ESSAY IS FEATURED IN THE CATALOGUE FOR UCHE EDOCHIE AND TOLU ALIKI’S EXHIBITION HALFWAY THROUGH A THOUSAND MILES. This exhibition closed on the 14th of October, 2018. Follow Uche Edochie and Tolu Aliki on Instagram for more stories and pictures of their works. Also, the works for this show and other works by Uche Edochie can be found on http://www.ucheedochie.com.