It is almost 25 years since Ndidi Dike graduated from Nsukka Art School and started her professional career as an artist. Looking at the works on display at her current exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos one cannot but remark her consistency and continuity over the years.
Her recent wood panels –unfortunately there are only three in show- continue her familiar exploration of the use of motifs on (and in) a base of timber planks and panels. But these works are less “decorative” than similar panels in the past. There is a greater depth of meaning. As she matures as an artist, her works are more and more about the appropriation of meaning and less and less about the formal qualities of patterns and motifs. It is a gradual movement from tradition to post-modernity, all the way keeping her characteristic identity as an artist.
I asked her why for the panels she uses “pine”, a wood not native to these lands. This is her answer sent by SMS: “The planks are from harbor pallets. The type of wood is important. Slaves were taken away in wooden ships and canoes. Their homes and cabins in the new world also made out of wood. They gazed out of the wooden windows contemplating their freedom…”
Ndidi didn’t say it, but this is also a formal device: the smoothness and whiteness of the pine planks act as a counterbalance to the roughness and blackness of the charred areas and the rusty irons. The tactile qualities of the found objects, the mirrors, the old coins, the wire mesh, sit well on the plainness of the wood.
At the exhibition there is also an “excursion” into a less familiar territory for her: installations. The two canoes (blood and sugar) hang powerfully from the ceiling, just hovering above the ground full of subtle allusions to the “transatlantic passage”