As the world grapples with the Coronavirus pandemic, which is currently ravaging the world, many events have been suspended or cancelled outright. For Valerie Fab Uche, a graduate of Art from Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, COVID 19 is a mixed feeling for her.
The up-and-coming artist was chosen by art aficionados to represent Nigeria at the Stellenbosch Triennial exhibition with the theme “Tomorrow, There Will be More of Us” in Cape Town, South Africa (2020), but the exhibition had to be done virtual (digital) due to the virus. The online exhibition runs till April 13.
In a chat with Daily Sun, Uche, who said, she had been practising since 2015, said, at school, her friends called Danfo. “Because I like the radical nature of the bus, how it finds a way meandering from one place to the other in traffic. It is always moving, and there is no way of stopping the Danfo bus. Regardless of what happens, it must reach its destination,” she explained.
She has been able to imbibe that attitude as an artist and a human being, for she never stops at something but keep going, regardless of obstacles that comes my way. “I am a multidisciplinary artist,” said the artist, “because I have a background in general arts and the things I create, I call them drawings, because they may take the form of paintings or installations, but I refer to them as drawings. Drawing can be said to be marking anything while everything is a form of drawing. For me, it is all about movement, regardless of the shape or form that it takes is drawing.”
Speaking on the gains of his recent trip to of South Africa before the Stellenbosch exhibition, she said, “It’s an exhibition for up-and-coming artists in Africa. Selections were made, and I was recommended by art critics in Nigeria to represent the country. My work, Can a cockroach bring Forth a Butterfly? is an installation of cockroaches and mirrors. It was a statement made before the Rwandan Genocide by Neon Bugesera in 1992.
“I found it interesting, because of the theme, which made me think of cockroaches, because they are insects that you cannot get rid of easily. When you try to kill it, it keeps multiplying. So I decided to experiment with it. It is interesting to note that, once upon a time, people were referred to as cockroaches and, from my observation, human beings do not like cockroaches.
“When it comes in contact with you, the first thing you do is to kill the cockroach. So you can imagine the disgust that these people have for a particular race of people (Hutsi and Tutsi) where they referred to one another as cockroaches.”
“For me to have been recommended serves as a big deal to me. I am happy to interact with other artistes from other countries in Africa. I listen to them, and, saw how they reason and think differently about life situations was interesting to me. Even the cultural differences and similarities are amazing, and I found out that we are all the same human beings,” she said.
However, not being able to travel to South Africa because of COVID 19 for the ongoing exhibition “is a sad thing, because it has set a barrier for artistes. Presently, the exhibition is now digital which serves as a preventive measure to avoid more people from contracting the virus. I am a bit sad not being able to be in South Africa at this time but am also happy that the virus did not stop the exhibition from taking place.”
Her role models include Victor Ehikhamenor, “because he is ingenious in whatever he does.” She came across his works, and found them interesting and exciting. Another is Denrele Sonariwo, founder of Rele Gallery, “because of what she is doing for up-and-coming artists and “she she believes so much in young artistes and has helped them to grow.”
Duration of works
The environment also influences her your works. She said, “Most of the time, I am on social media checking what is happening around me, which, in one way or the other, affects people. For example, COVID 19, when it started some people said it is happening in China, but, now, it has affected so many countries. When I see social happenings in the world, it may not happen to me now. I may have some privileges, which others may not have; and if I have a voice to speak for these people, why can’t I speak for them through my works.”
In future, she intends to have a centre that will be called Danfo Contemporary Art where artistes can come and express themselves without any boundaries. “I observe some galleries dictate to artistes what to do. In my own case, I will not dictate to them what they should do rather they should come and express themselves and show their expertise,” she said.