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Kainebi, Bisi & Mufu

October 30, 2009

From October 12 to November 10, CCA, the Centre for Contemporay Art, Lagos hosted Kainaebi Osahenye’s exhibition titled Trash-ing. A few days after the opening Mufu Onifade wrote in The Guardian newspaper a not very positive review. Bisi Silva took a few weeks and finally commented on Mufu’s views. I copy below both articles in case you missed them. I think they are worth reading.
Kainebi

In modern times, creativity goes Trash-ing
By Mufu Onifade, The Guardian, September 29, 2009

CREATIVITY is an expensive enterprise. It is invaluable and priceless. It glorifies its producers and executors. It also elevates its patrons and collectors. But not so with certain products of modern times: modernism has embraced all sorts of trash-able materials so much that the potency of art and creativity has been thoroughly wrestled. It is one of the banes of today’s artist who seems caught between the creed of aesthetics and mundane off-handed triviality. The road to real creativity is often hard and rough.

These and more are some of the posers raised by the art community after the opening ceremony of Osahenye Kainebi’s installation/exhibition titled Trash-ing and held at Bisi Silva’s Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos.

The show came with a flurry of murmuring which even took the shine away from the show. Kainebi, a seasoned painter who works and lives in Lagos and still maintains a studio in Auchi, has been on the art scene for close to eighteen years, especially with his first solo exhibition titled Tears in Our Time held in 1991 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos. He has since been very consistent with one solo exhibition after the other, without even ignoring continual appearances in group exhibitions. He is highly commended for using his creativity to contribute to aesthetic legacies that Nigeria can be proud of. Like every experimental artist, Kainebi grew through thick and thin of creativity and has now probably exhausted his purview.

At the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos where the opening ceremony of Trash-ing took place on Saturday, September 12, 2009, he transformed the cozy art centre into a depository of trash. More like a dust-bin, all objects (a collection of plastic bottles deliberately sliced into halves and some decorated in various tones of colour) were not arranged, but dumped to make a statement of trash. There were also dumped tubes of used pigments. The artist himself did not mince words in accentuating his thoughts and how he arrived at the dumping ground. He has run out of creative ideas, having painted all that was there to paint. He has exhausted his creativity in the purview of aesthetics and so, had to resort to something more degrading: the trash. In his explanation, the show was a kind of protest, a resonance of existing political and economic decay in Nigeria. In other words, he has used his art to chronicle the decay that Nigeria now parades among the comity of nations. Perhaps one should also add that Nigeria is stinking, although the stench was missing from the show.

If Kainebi and his promoter, Bisi Silva had thought their show was registered in the positive side of the viewers, they were mistaken. First and foremost, most people who came to see the show paid more attention to their inter-personal interactions rather than all objects of the show itself. Armed with plastic cups of assorted drinks and accompanying small chops, they hobnobbed, discussed in whispers and giggled aloud ireminiscent of a typical cocktail party. A few known artists in attendance would only turn the venue into an arena of convergence for like minds. They were all so subsumed by their subjects of conversation rather than being consumed by the objects of exhibition. They turned their backs on the works and faced their business of discussion as if everything depended on it. It is understandable. Nigeria is not used to these tenets of modern art, which, to a large extent, debases aesthetics and can be best described as an abuse of creativity.

Like the story of Ali Baba and the angel in the Oxford English book of yester years, the show attracted psychopathic comments as many were forced to disregard their innocence. Ali Baba told a gathering of grown-ups that there was an angel in a dark room. Anyone who sighted the angel was a good man. Whoever failed to see him was a bad one. Of course, everyone who entered the room claimed to have seen the angel. In truth, there was no angel at all, and that was an attestation to the gullibility of man. As for Kainebi’s Trash-ing, those who attended the show with smiles and positive comments were the one who understood and appreciated modern art. Those who think otherwise were backward and should go back to update themselves with happenings in the art of Europe. But this is Nigeria. A country that has produced classical artists who went through the training and had to battle with the seriousness embedded in formal art training and the primitivity of workshop or informal training. According to Oreoluwa Adedeji, a curator and consultant at the International Fine Art, Eagan, Minnesota, United States, “In the age of contemporary (modern) art, it seems as though the ideas of creating abstract and non-objective concepts, have given many artists an excuse to create works that are beautiful, but appear effortless and easily replicable. There is an anecdote about the ambivalence towards creativity and skill in contemporary art”.

Adedeji also told a story of relegation that has become the lot of modern art. Her words: “It is said that there was once an exclusive art auction in New York or London with many paintings auctioned to the highest bidders for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A time came for the last painting to be auctioned off. It was a colourful and simple abstract that mesmerized the ‘highly cultured’ audience. The painting was auctioned off for 1.2 million dollars. In the end, it was revealed that a monkey was the painter!”

That is the level of debasement to which world art has been dragged, but Nigeria, in spite of these modern trends, still maintains a respectable spot in the aspect of art and creativity. That probably accounts for the reason some Nigerian art collectors are more informed and knowledgeable than many artists. Those artists who are aware of these facts are also conscious of the quality of works they turn out.

Kainebi’s show was a combination of installation and exhibition. First, the works exhibited were quite unlike the Kainebi that we all knew. His illustrative prowess gave way to “non-objective concepts”, to borrow from the words of Adedeji. Although those colours applied to the sliced plastics are attractive due to their primary essence. They are applied raw and they stripped the objects of in-depth, analytical chromic infusion. As for the installation, it would be wrong for anyone to think that this aspect of art is alien to this part of the universe. In 1999, an installation workshop organized by the Goethe-Institut (German Cultural Centre), Lagos titled Swimming Calabashes was hosted by the Centre. Initiated by Emeka Udemba, a Nigerian artist based in Germany, the workshop attracted about 20 artists including Kunle Filani, Mike Omoighe, Toyin Alade, Deji Dania, Chuka Nnabuife, Mukaila Ayoade and others. At the workshop, Udemba made a mistake of referring to the workshop as the first in Nigeria. He was instantly corrected by participating artists.

In fact, Kunle Filani who migrated between the workshop and his work schedules at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos took the gathering of artists through a historical path to traditional African Art. In his argument, traditional Africa could boast of installation as part of its artistic and cultural history. Such objects that were used for ritual purposes could be found in shrines (like modern day galleries), crossroads (modern day outdoor erection) and many more. They served beyond aesthetic purposes and maintained a high level of spirituality for all partakers.

In summary, any form of art, whether in classical or modern term, must serve one of two functions: aesthetic or utilitarian. Any art that fails in any of these functions must be re-assessed. In the same vein, if installation is considered for any reason at all, the message must be graphically clear.

In defence of creativity, professionalism in arts writing
By Bisi Silva, The Guardian, October 20, 2009

ONE is compelled to react to Mufu Onifade’s article published in The Guardian of September 29, 2009 under the title In Modern Times, Creativity goes Trash-ing, considering the publicity that the show had generated.

In spite of Onifade’s comment, it is instructive to state that Trash-ing, a solo exhibition of mixed media work and painterly installations by acclaimed artist, Kainebi Osahenye had also highlighted some of the failings of Onifade’s arts writing.

However, it is believed that this rejoinder will further stimulate an informed discussion about painting specifically, exhibition presentation and ultimately the state of contemporary visual art practice in Nigeria.

While Onifade’s opinions of the exhibition are acceptable and valid within his own subjectivity, the irritating aspect of any review is when writers use art historical vocabulary with a total disregard for, or any minimal attempt at, contextualisation.

Onifade’s text is replete with confusions and sweeping generalisations. Besides, there is a plethora of inaccuracies. He talks about modernism without the briefest definition of what or which modernism he is referring to. Is he talking about European modernism? Is it early modernism of the mid 19th century that saw the rise of the avant – garde, when Eduoard Manet, with his painting, Le dejeuner sur l’herbe (1863), began to challenge the realistic representation of life in their work? Or is it the modernism that began with Picasso and the infamous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) with its abstraction of the human figure and reference to African sculptural traditions? Or is it the modernism that saw the birth of the deconstruction of the art object with Marcel Duchamp’s readymade urinal, Fountain (1917)? Not only was Duchamp’s piece one of the most radical works of art of the early 20th century, it also changed the ways in which art was perceived and discussed as the precursor to conceptual art, and contemporary art.

Is Onifade conflating the ‘Modern’ with the ‘Contemporary’? And if so, to what end?

We can also consider Modernism on the homeground. Unlike what the canonisation of Euro-American modernism would want us to believe – that those outside of these ‘privileged’ geographical areas exist outside of history, out of time – the reverse is true. Africa and especially Nigeria was experiencing its own modernism.

A year before Picasso completed Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a pivotal work of 20th century European modernism ironically inspired by the African classical art, which he came across at the Trocadero Museum in Paris (now Le Musee de Quai Branly), Aina Onabolu completed a painting in oil of Lagos socialite, Mrs. Spencer Savage (1906). This, to date, remains the first oil painting apportioned not only to a Nigerian, but also to an African. In the late 40s and 50s, Nigeria’s own quintessential modern artist, Ben Enwonwu, moved away from the realistic portraiture eschewed by Onabolu towards combining African aesthetics and subject matter with European materials, a trend subsequently adopted and taken further in the 60s and 70s by the Zaria rebels such as Yusuf Grillo, Uche Okeke and Bruce Onobrakpeya. The stunning beauty of Enwonwu’s sculptural works, Anyanwu (1955) and Shango (1964) reflects this development.

These are a few examples of experimental, avant-garde practices, which continue today through the work of contemporary artists such as Osahenye and set the background to the rest of this text highlighting the writer’s ‘exhausted purview’.

It is also pertinent to clarify the programming policy of the hosting organisation. Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos has a curatorial and critical imperative that goes beyond hanging ‘things’ on a wall and putting red dots beside them. It aims at encouraging, supporting and providing a platform for the critical engagement with the changing dynamics of artistic practices outside an educational system that is relevant to 21st century realities. A system in which dead white men, of which Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci sit unchallenged on the thrones, are repeatedly hailed – in Africa by Africans – as the hallmark by which all art must be judged. Unlike the ‘stench’ which is said to be missing from the exhibition, I say that the real ‘stench’ that exists is the stifling, putrid regurgitation of the same staid anachronistic paintings and sculptures that are churned out by the army of artisans in the name of art.

However, there are few areas in which the writer and I concur, especially as regards the extent of experimentation that has pushed Osahenye’s work to the forefront of contemporary artistic practice in Nigeria. That with each professional exhibition, his critical acknowledgement of the history of painting is manifest as well as the way his use of material has evolved, attests to his ability to leave behind his colleagues who take refuge in ‘churning out’ a repetitive signature style. His recent outing was a continuation of his experimentation with, and the use of, a myriad of objects and materials ranging from hair, paper, found objects and other ephemera to his current use of paper mache, bottles, cans, and oil paint tubes. What is interesting is that the more he changes, the more he stays the same, and the deeper his idea of painting becomes; yet the reviewer could not see that let alone engage with it. These were some of the characteristics that informed the curatorial decision to work on this project. It is rare for artists to create work that can be read on many levels – formal, aesthetic or contextual – revealing layers of stories, visuality and materiality. Oshayene’s Casualities 2009 installation is a case in point.

As I have written recently and I quote copiously: “Using appropriation as a tool, Osahenye’s most ambitious work to date is the ceiling to floor installation. On sighting the burnt cans near a garbage dump of a hotel in Auchi, Osahenye states that he ‘was instantly confronted with thoughts of war, cruelty, melancholy, pain, displacement, anguish and deformity and I started conceiving ways to install this large scale work to express the force and the power that I felt. Empty containers of bottled water, of Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Star beer, Malta Guinness, Heineken, Power Horse and other global brands of carbonated drinks representing the ‘detritus of urban existence’ are cut, coloured, sliced, squashed, squeezed, burnt has resulted in a large scale poetic installation. Osahenye employs this materiality to comment on the predatory nature of globalisation and the hegemony of consumerist behaviour at the expense of and to the detriment of the environment. In so doing, the result becomes a poetic tableau but also a scathing attack on the culture of Trash-ing.”

Apart from objecting to being called a ‘promoter’, a term more in keeping with a boxing event a la Don King, as a ‘real’ (many so called ‘curators’ abound) professional curator – one of the few with formal postgraduate training and qualification and local and international practice – I do take issue with his description of the presentation. Onifade’s statement reads: ‘like a dust-bin all objects (a collection of plastic bottles deliberately sliced into halves and some decorated in various tones of colour) were not arranged, but dumped to make a statement of trash.’

The 101 rule of curatorial practice is presentation. The way in which exhibitions are installed forms the cornerstone of any curatorial undertaking. However, with no visible curatorial antecedents in the complexity of installing such an exhibition, I am drawn to conclude that such intricacies are above his ‘experiential’ radar.

The presentation of the exhibition was a carefully thought-out and planned undertaking, which resulted in several conversations, studio and gallery visits between myself, the artist and the co-ordinator of the exhibition, Jude Anogwih, over a prolonged period. The placing of the works was not gratuitous but calculated and subsequently immaculately implemented. Casualities in all its deceptive manifestation as the most ‘unarranged’ work is actually the most meticulously arranged with the artist refusing to abrogate that responsibility to anyone else. He alone knows the way in which the work has to be placed for it to be meaningful. To say that the trash was dumped is not only a figment of the writer’s imagination, but demonstrates a lack of imagination.

This is not an Art History nor an Art writing lesson as neither are within my capacity. However, it is an indication that writing without appropriate references, or doing basic research, leads to misinformation. Trash-ing happens to be one of the few contextualised shows currently taking place that veers from the (p)sycophantic babble exhibition catalogues are so known for in this locality. Sylvester Ogbechie, professor of Art History at University of California, Santa Barbara wrote an insightful essay that tracks and contextualises the development and evolution of the artist’s work not only in regards to local and international artistic references and practices, but also through his use of materials and his subject matter. Philosopher/Art Critic Frank Ugiomoh of University of Port Harcourt also did a critique of the themes and issues in Osahenye’s work. Onifade’s review highlights an inability or unwillingness to engage with the work – references to the actual works are scant and derogatory, neither informing nor highlighting a coherent argument. That he was unable to rise to the discursive and aesthetic challenges that Osahenye’s work proffers and the context within which it has been developed and presented, reflects less on the artist but is an indictment of the level and the quality of the text.

Osahenye’s current exhibition also presents a different way to explore painting. Is there anything written somewhere that says that painting must be oil, acrylic, watercolour or pastel? That it must be figurative and literal? That what you see is what you get, leaving little or nothing to the viewer’s imagination. Such rule sank with the Titanic over a century ago. It is obvious that Onifade barely grasps with the idea or the history of the ‘dematerialisation’ of the art object. It is important to note that attempts by powerful critics such as American Clement Greenberg to prescribe the boundaries of art engendered a revolt by artists. And the resolve thereafter was that the emphasis should be on the idea behind the object, not on the object. Critics of visual art exhibitions like Onifade should take note.

Indeed, Osahenye’s work is a complex exhibition that needs to be read on many levels. That an art work or an exhibition allows such multiple readings is rare and real criticism should be about information, about thinking and about creating a platform for learning and debate.

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26 Comments
  1. iwoje wangboje eguavoen permalink

    Very interesting articles. It is good to know that Kinebi’s expression of art has its source originally from our culture. Africa, in my opinion, has always and still remains the centre of art.

  2. wole ayoola permalink

    In my opinion, this is a well deserved rejoinder to Mufu Onifade’s writing. We ve reached a point where by art should not be rated by the media used (whether it is conventional or not) and its figurative nature.

  3. Iria Ojeikere permalink

    Mr. Onifade, seems to have his very fixed idea what art is and should be, unwilling to consider seriously, variations to that view. Art is both image and idea, it is the idea part that Mr Onifade seems to has missed.

  4. i believe creativity has no boundries and our art is a documentation of our experiences to send a message to the viewers to enable them understand the world we live in. The documentations(paintings) of Basquiat,Rothko helps to connect to what these artists saw and how it affected their life and times which is the history that affects our future. Finally ”art is a means of SELF expression”..I guess Mr Mufu Onifade has a knowledge of this

  5. I think that Bisi’s rejoinder to Mufu is very important because art reviews in Nigeria are generally lacking in that important ingredient that makes a brilliant review – objectivity or perhaps subjectivity is a better word.

    The reader is not so much interested in the reviewer’s personal take on the works being reviewed as much as in the reviewer doing a knowledgeable, professional and well-researched review of the artist and his works. We should not be afraid to embrace new ideas because art is not static, neither is the imagination and intellect. To operate in the art world one has to be open to diverse ideas and changing modes of creativity.

    I believe the CCA is contributing immensely to the influx of new ideas, new ways of doing things and most importantly challenging the status quo. The art sector has been static for quite a while in Nigeria, with collectors getting quite bored of seeing the same genre of paintings, sculptures etc.

    Artists need to be challenged intellectually and their ideologies need to be pushed to the limit. Is there an imaginative limit really? I don’t think there should be. I think that is what makes the difference between the older generation of artists and the younger generation of artists. The latter embraced and seized rare opportunities to push boundaries and challenge the status quo.

    We should not be afraid to do the same.

  6. George Edozie permalink

    It is strange that this kind of write up is come from an Artist, I think mr Mufu Onifade should try and widen his knowledge on the happenings in the Art circle globally. He should also try and write with out sentiments.Though am not a big fan of Installation Art,mr Onifade should also know that creativity is all about freedom.

  7. akachukwu benjamin chukwuemeka permalink

    I always believe that an art work is a window to an endless imagination. It is like a drop in the ocean; those that lack strong insight end up with the gigantic splash but, the more imaginative ones follow the object after the splash and there lies the beauty, the appreciation and satisfaction an art work gives. From Onifade’s article, one sees the menopause of imagination that is evident in all sectors of Nigeria resulting sometimes, from pull-down syndrome; from the creative- the political… We seem to believe that whatever we don’t understand or not use to see often is rubbish. New ideas are hard to accept and that’s why we wait for the western and Asian world to tell us what is good about us. If CNN shows that exhibition as the greatest in 2009 for Nigeria art scene, Onifade will not hesitate to cue immediately. Trash-ing is what we have around us, the reckless dumping of policies by politician, the stereotype in the movie industry, the unnecessary repeating of scenes in the art circle shows the ‘break and quench’ progress we are making in the Nigeria creative industry. We must accept new ideas and like Chike Aniakor use to tell us in the University, we must imbibe spirit of experimentation and inventiveness. That way I believe, the Nigeria artist and art scene will stand tall in the international community unlike our politicians. We must learn to synergize our ideas with what is obtainable worldwide and find alternative ways of representation instead of perpetual recycling of village scenes, mother and child, etc etc etc. We must also realize that Bisi Silva and others like her are doing great work in promoting modernity in Nigerian art scene. They must be encouraged for their courage in a country where money is placed above intellectualism and beauty of an art work is seen from the pocket of the buyer.

  8. Thanks for the post Jess I dont think Mufu is in any position to cast disparaging comments on something he knows very little about I saw Kainabi at Isichie’s exhibition and he gave me a catalogue of the Trashing exhibition in my opinion Kainebi has been able to create something wonderful from “trash” he has always been one of the few Nigerian artists that I admire he is a hard working Man and compared to Mufu who seems to have abandoned his paint and brush for spiteful criticism and when I next see him(Mufu) I will tell him what I think

  9. The dialogue on kainebi’s show makes interesting reading and also show a Nigerian art that is evolving. It has always been.This is a very healthy development.
    I have always shared this view with some members of our art community that contemporary Nigerian art is vibrant and dynamic. kainebi’s show has shown this. As an artist and a teacher of art who has fairly travelled around Nigerian art scenes I say this with a level of confidence. What I have always stressed is that alot is happening in the studios of artists that many of us don’t know. It is a sad fact that many of us don’t travel around the country. May I therefore suggest we visit studios more often and spend some quality time with the aritists?

  10. Jerry, the unfortunate thing is that people won’t go to studios because artists are barely interested in other artists work. Few of them go to exhibitions unless it is their friend or it is their exhibition. There is a general sense of disinterest coupled with a good dose of complacency. However one needs to be mindful of the cost of moving around. I would love to move around more than I do because I am sure there are some wonderful things going on. And the few times i do venture to another parts of the country I am pleasantly surprised.

  11. Lanni permalink

    well, it would be nice if Mr Mufu Onifade applied the same stringent rule to his grammar as he does to art.

    • Taye permalink

      i totally agree, he is a static artist and it reflects in his words and work.

  12. Frank Ugiomoh permalink

    When I read Onifade’s review I thought I was dreaming. A review is not an avenue to cast aspersions on worthy labour. Onifade’s review was not critical writing: it was simply journalistic and even at that journalism is about informing. This aspect of informing also failed. Bisi has summed up Onifade’s review as highlighting “an inability or unwillingness to engage with the work – references to the actual works are scant and derogatory, neither informing nor highlighting a coherent argument.”One expects more from a scholar budding critic. Trashing remains a great artistic statement of the time by an artist who is relentless in breaking the limits of the possible: an artist who has never held out his nose for what is in the air but breaks new frontiers.
    Thanks.
    Frank

  13. It is high time Nigerian Artists and critics started embracing the internet as a basic research tool, to enable them widen their scope of thinking, and in learning of happenings around the world… Most of us are still decades behind!

  14. Wow! This is exciting reading!

    Philosophically, one should neither be that concerned with the critical acclaim, or lack off therein, of Mr Onifade’s offering on trash-ing nor should one be that concerned with the rejoiner, or the referential position that it espouses.

    What is more revealing and should be of more concern (philosophically), is the observation that both positions are a “needed pair” (if you will, a complementarity construct) that serve to cement the ontological success of trash-ing.

    Both positions are catalytic signs that “something” has come into being…

    On one level we can suggest that that something is a quality of emergence of being of prescience in the artist (a marker of the spiritual myth maker), and then on another, we can suggest that that being is a quality of emergence of a certain collective consciousness in the minds of the public (a marker of the evolution of the position or debate of modern art in Nigeria).

    Creating the conditions for a debate/exchange of positions between experts is no simple task – how much more when the subject terrain is as illusive as the evolution of culture, values, morality or taste. Viewed from a rather different vantage, one can postulate that the success of trash-ing lies in its ability to demarcate. To be a marker or signal of a turning point where a new syntax for engaging art in Nigeria has come into being.

    Kainibi – well done!!!

  15. Mr Adekola
    Can you now translate into English. Or is it that time of the night when one’s brain is barely functionalitising. 🙂

  16. think about it guys if every nigerian artists collect a kilo of trash from our streets and makes art out of it we will be killing the proverbial two birds with one stone:-)creating an original piece of art and keeping our streets clean:-)

  17. It is such a blessing to see this type of critical and aesthetics dialogue coming to live. I am so loving it! Congratulations to Kainebi for stirring up a debate within the contemporary art landscape in Nigeria.
    Nigerian art community is finally coming of age. Let us hope we are on to something quite electrifying, a healthy conversation of the 21 century contemporary art discuss.
    Thank you Bisi, for your vision and commitments!!!

    Thanks for the post Jess.

  18. Bruce UGIOMOH permalink

    I love this, and is coming at the right moment. Both writers have the inalienable right to express themselves, which is healthy for the development of Art. Nevertheless, when Junkman started this movement so to speak, he attracted the same opprobrium Kainebi is getting for his “Trash-ing”. Perhaps Mr Onifade would have learnt that those who live in glasshouses do not throw stones. Mufu’s review was captured by his first sentence. Creativity is definitely an expensive endeavour and in counting the cost, we must be objective and as much as possible explore the mind the concept of the Artist. In addition, we must breakout of stereotypes and seek genuine interpretation of works dispassionately. From my own perspective, I think Trash-ing is an indictment of our collective incompetence. The burnt cans for instance could have been recycled for new cans because we are unable to reclaim them since we lack the infrastructure to attain it. Thirsty Generation was a clean up of the Artist’s studio! Empty water bottles he used in mixing paints for his works became materials for “Thirsty… Invariably he got a blessing from the mess that the empty bottles constituted in his studio. For those advocating the exclusion of the media in Artistic dissemination, that move will be ill advised and will be a big mistake. The Media is Art and History combined, which also helps to disseminate these works to the ultimate Judges-collectors/buyers. I can assure you that many more installations are in the offing and we had better watch out for the women. I thoroughly enjoyed Thrash-ing and both combatants are very good friends. I hope Mufu will let us continue this discourse LIVE at CCA Lagos. Jess thanx for presenting both sides of the argument.

  19. razak permalink

    i think the nigerian art is virtually of age within the modern contemporary artworld. As an artist in diaspora,i’d always thought of when the nigerian art scene will grow outside its former norms of using traditional media compulsorily. i’d carefully followed bisi’s curatorial expertise between south africa and nigeria to my utmost surprise a gallery like CCA is now available for artist’s to express themselves without glitches on their creativity.
    Gone are the days when nigerian artists are ashame to express themselves regardless of the materials involved and this has caused infringements on many nigeria trained artists to break onto international platform. Hitherto not all conceptual arts are as captivating as the trend made people to believe or think , but creativity should be not be limited.

  20. This exchange is refreshing for Nigerian art criticism and for contemporary art from Nigeria. It used to be (perhaps still is) that if the artist cannot evaluate the salability of his/her art in at an exhibition, then why waste ones time. (and I totally understand why that bottom-line mentality might seem very important)
    This kind of attitude is the result for why Nigerian artworks mostly seem to be identical in style and content. If artist A’s work is a commercial success, then artist B has to try the same style. Or a gallery that is selling artist C’s works would encourage him/her to copy artist A.

    While art reporting is plenty in the country’s media, there is a dearth of art criticism. This scarcity of knowledgeable art critiquing might be detrimental to the art community or the buying and viewing public.

    I have not seen Kainebi’s trash, but the idea of it tickles me. How much more Nigerian can TRASHING be.

    I quite applaud the audacity of CCA for attempting to broaden the imagination of the art public and for encouraging Nigerian artist to prepare themselves for the competition in the global art market. (did I say art market?) I meant to say art scene.

  21. I agree Victor, this dialogue is not only refreshing but encouraging. More Nigerian artist need to stop worrying so much about marketability or how cultural their works are; and start thinking more about what it means to create, to make work using the compelling materials, textures,and processes. Invariably, whatever is created will reflect who we are and where we are coming from as artist.

  22. therese mccann permalink

    interesting banter. bisi, i appreciate your clarification, correction, and contextualization. too often, critiques are indeed subjective and written with a motivated point of view. perhaps mufu sees painting as a 2D practice and would prefer it to remain on “his” canvas or board versus in a 3D environment. “trash-ing” appears to be a critical juxtaposition of what is strange and sad and disgusting (heaps of trash along the roads, etc…) with what is purposeful and representational and beautiful in nigeria. i happen to believe appropriation, in some cases, namely “trash-ing” is a good thing. i remember feeling the same anger when i first encountered a mound of garbage filled with “foreign” branded trash when on my way from lagos to ibadan…angry because the trash was by and large “imported”, angry that there was no system in place for removal, angry at the possibility for disease that comes with heaps of decay and filth, angry, angry, angry. i believe at the time i drew an image in a book…using a pencil and paper (versus osahenye’s installation) to “recycle” the trash, aka…process it. i think it beautiful when such things as garbage are imagined as works of art, and when painters can push the limits of painting (thinking of the late 60’s french artist group support/surface) and have the ability to transform and translate their practice. as i ramble, i will close by saying i only wish i were there to see the show in person.

  23. I agree Victor, this dialogue is not only refreshing but encouraging. More Nigerian artist need to stop worrying so much about marketability or how cultural their works are; and start thinking more about what it means to create, to make work using the compelling materials, textures,and processes. Invariably, whatever is created will reflect who we are and where we are coming from as artist.

  24. Olusegun Ladipo permalink

    Judging from the description of the exhibited piece titled “trash-ing”, it is an installation. One might also read it as Painting/installation or Sculpture/installation whichever one desires. Anyway, the practice of installation art had been in existence in the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world for over few decades ago. I guess, kaneibi’s “Trash-ing” show is the first of it’s kind in a formal (gallery) setting in Lagos, Nigeria. It is a welcome development. Hopefully more of such well thought out and intelligently conceived shows will happen more frequently in Nigeria exhibition circuit.

    Regarding contemporary Nigerian art; you wanna be a universally relevant art critics, artists in the 21st century? Be totally open minded and be informed about global artistic practice and activities via the internet and international prints. By this, one cannot go wrong. It will increase your knowledge and boundaries.

    It is high time Nigerian art shed away the repetitiveness and dormancy that have characterize it for so long. Also, please stop being influenced by marketability in creating art. It only leads to lowly, unimaginative and boring arts. Finally, as artists, we have the utmost freedom and power to influence and make the society yield (at least from a humble level) into appreciating new, radical vibrant, and quality works of art.

    Kudos to Bisi Silva and keep doing your thing.

  25. ezeigwe ikechukwu permalink

    Wow. you know, the most interesting part of this review is the consciousness and acknowledgement of the gradual and consistent progressive metamorphosis of our Nigerian art scene..both practical and more importantly intellectual.

    In my view, this is one of the most engaging and interactive reviews in the history of Nigerian Art criticism. Both parties expressed their thoughts so eloquently with so much precision and exactness in communication. I love it.

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