Stories by Henry Akubuiro
The preoccupation of Alexis Galleries in the ongoing Connecting Africa exhibition at its Victoria Island base, Lagos, is to position itself through platforms that shape and initiate conversation on happenings in our immediate, and by extension, distant environment, Patty Chidiac Mastrogiannis, it’s founder, noted at the preview of the exhibition which started last Saturday, October 14, and runs till Monday, October 24, 2022.
Hope is high, hence, that “Connecting Africa” will instigate an epiphany for the need to chart a new path and direction for the African continent. Hence, a select group of 10 visual artists, drawn from Nigeria and five other African countries, have been invited to participate in this year’s edition of the exhibition that collapses African borders artistically. “Connect Africa” is featuring two Beninios artists —Dominique Zinkpe and Nathanaël Vodouhe; three Nigerians — Orlu Prince Ozangeobuoma, Luke Osaro and King Ereso; three Cameroonians, Moussa Issarou and Itchike Bidias Donald Romaric and Blaise Vernyuy; a Ghanaian, Samuel Tete-Katchan; and a Ugandan, Kansiime Brian Lister.
Speaking at a media chat announcing the exhibition at the gallery, the curator, Mathew Oyedele, said the African population and achievements were growing in leaps and bounds. “If all this is happening, why are African countries still at loggerheads with each other? So there is the need to create a connection between these African countries. The youths are exploring technology and creating a better environment for African people. The essence of this exhibition is to bring artists from different parts of the continent together where we can spark ideas and initiate conversations to think of how we can relate to each other in a friendly manner instead of along phonic lines,” he remarked.
The themes, he said, revolved around consumerism, peace-within, inclusion, social commentary, connectivity and relationship as the growing youthful population demands. These are themes that represent “a dialogue with contemporary demand and agitations across the continent where the youth are finally finding their voice.”
A familiar face at Alexis Galleries, the Ghanaian artist, Samuel Tete-Katchan, aims at using a work on football, featuring superstars, Christiano Ronaldo, Neymah and Lionel Messi, to connect Africa in the lead up to the Fifa World Cup taking place in Qatar in November this year.
“I am not thinking of Africa as the colour of the Blackman. We are all human beings where globalisation matters most, and football unites us most,” he explained. His other work, “Barbers Shop”, echoed a trite in Ghana as you present your hair so will the barber cut it. In essence, the way we present ourselves as Africans is the way we will be accepted.
King Ereso’s paintings come in series, like all his body of works. Focusing on the “Finding Peace ‘’ series for this exhibition, hinged on understanding your value and working with confidence, he said: “All my works reflect my journey and physical expressions by humans. So, in this series, I am trying to speak about how valuable you are and focusing your mind on the positives.” The artist is deploying ankara fabric in this series mixed with foreign clothing brands.
Luke Osaro is a Nigerian sculptor, who is exhibiting four works, including “Vivid”, “Excite” (bronze), “Explore” (also bronze). Explaining one of his works, “Excites”, he said, no matter how bad times Nigerians were having, they still cut the happiest people on earth. “So we still use that one to connect through our art, culture, music and literature,” he noted.
Unlike before, there were no boundaries in Africa until colonialism came, partitioning the continent and creating visas to move from one country to another. That, he said, informed the second work, “Explore”, the need to venture across artificial boundaries.
For Orlu Prince, who is exhibiting two paintings, “The artist’s work tells the art and the artist, as well as experiences and connections. Whether we like it or not, we share similarities as Africans, even cultures. Our art is also similar, which boils down to the fact that we have a connection.”
The exhibition is sponsored by Pepsi, Tiger, Indomie, Milano, The Guardian, AMG Logistics, Haier Thermocool, UPS, Aina Blankson, Lost in a City, Cobranet, Art Cafe, Wazobia TV, Nigeria Info FM, and Rentokil Boecker.