By Olamide Babatunde
SIX Nigerians with strong roots in Germany and Nigeria are currently having their group exhibition entitled Wanderlust at Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos. The exhibition, supported by Deutsche Bank, Still Earth Holding, the German Consulate of Lagos, ELALAN, and Louis Guntrum Wines, runs till September 15, 2017.
Wanderlust explores the “why” behind cross cultural, cross border, mental and physical journey. 36 works of art in paintings, drawings, photographs and mixed media works are exhibited by Chidi Kwubiri, Dilomprizulike (popularly called Junkman of Africa), Emeka Udemba, Numero Unoma, Yetunde Ayeni- Babaeko and Jimmy Nwanne. These internationally celebrated artists explore the concept of “wander”, a term of Germanic origin, drawing on our collective desire to travel and explore. Responding to a frequently polarised and fragmented world, these artists explore the internal and external aspects of Wanderlust vis-a-vis the modern reality and ancient roots of exploration inspired by the quest for safety, economic prosperity, education, and conquest, or simply for recreation, refreshment, and enrichment.
Award-winning artist, Chidi Kwubiri’s 3-meter wide painting Transitions, in which a human form sits cross-legged with arms outstretched, touches on the very essence of Wanderlust, highlight- ing the need to “open up” emotionally, spiritually, and physically when embark- ing on life journeys.
Better known for her fashion photography, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko presents multi-layered photographs which reflect nuanced historical African migration narratives while pushing the boundary of stylised studio images.
Writer cum photographer Numero Unoma’s witty, tongue-in-cheek, pop-art paintings and poetry touch on the irony of travel, teasing out deep-seated cultural sensibilities from differing African and European viewpoints. Known for his installation and performance art, Emeka Udemba presents stark portraits of society’s marginalised wanderers reflecting the emotional and physical “up-rooted- ness” of (imi) migrants and (emi)grants.
Junkman of Africa, who is known
for sculptural installations of recycled objects, presents a new body of fragile paper works, expressing the “transitional realities” of wanders through human and animal forms migrating through abstract colour landscapes.
Emeka Udemba explained, “I am interested in so many areas of artworks which could be appreciated in both spiritual and physical level. The works apply both in Germany and Nigeria. For example, in Europe, there are lots of Africans trying to move to Europe and they encounter
a lot of difficulties. My works focus on things happening in the society. It is about dreaming about some things new and my portraits showcase young people dreaming of something.”
And, finally, Jimmy Nwanne’s soulful portraits of men and women haunted by memories of fading histories are a powerful reaction to European socio-political realities. “I see myself as a a citizen of the world. I think about what happens in Germany, Nigeria and other places in the world,” he said.
“Wanderlust stimulates cross-fertilisation of ideas centered on issues
of identity, migration, and belonging between African Artists who define their practices on the continent and those in the Diaspora,” said Oliver Enwonwu, the President of the Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA.
“I think it is important that art helps us question, reinforce or realign our core values which shape our individual and community evolving histories,” explained Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, adding, “Wanderlust exhibition will bring us to a deeper understanding of the emotional and physical effects of migration and hopefully increase our empathy for the world’s displaced people.