By Damiete Braide
French multidisciplinary artist, Prune Nourry, in collaboration with the Department of Fine & Applied Arts of the Obafemi-Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and the families of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria in 2014, have unveiled a major project by exhibiting 108 artworks themed, Statues Also Breathe at Art Twenty One in Lagos, Nigeria.
Inspired by the ancient Ife Terracotta heads entitled Statues Also Breathe, this collaboration aims to raise awareness about the plight of the girls who are still missing while highlighting the global struggle for girls’ education.
After meeting the Chibok families to conceive the project, Nourry was entrusted with portraits of their missing daughters, which she used as inspiration for eight heads sculpted in clay creating portraits of the high school girls imaged in the style of the iconic ancestral Ife head of the region.
From these eight original sculptures then molded, 108 heads were casted in clay sourced from Ile-Ife, by potters from a female potter’s community in the Yoruba town of Ilorin and students of Obafemi-Awolowo University.
On September 30th of 2022, a one-day workshop was held at the university; 108 students sculpted and transformed each head into unique sculptures using portraits of the missing girls. A delegation of mothers of the Chibok girls and girls, who managed to escape Boko Haram captivity, were also in attendance, honouring and remembering their friends and loved ones depicted in the sculptures.
The 108 heads, which were all signed by the respective students, are to be exhibited in Lagos, before travelling around the world to remind of the rich and diverse history and culture of Nigeria, and the present day challenges that we must all address collectively as a global community. Upon completion of the tour, they will return to the permanent collection of a museum in Africa.
Lecturer, Arts History and Aesthetics, Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Obafemi Awlowo University, Dr Michael Olusegun Fatuigbe, who was part of the project from the beginning, said the blend of culture was the most interesting part for him.
Founder of Female In (FIN), Lola Omolola who was also the host of the event said: “The project was able to make the disappearance of the Chibok girls real. The works put a face to it, and we can touch and feel a story that seemed like it happened in a different universe.”
Yakubu Nkeki, Chairman of the Abducted Chibok Girls Parents Association, said, “Presently, my feelings are in a dilemma, because almost half of the girls have been rescued. 219 girls were taken into captivity by Boko Haram, and 198 are still in captivity.
Amina Ali, one of the Chibok girls who escaped from the hands of the terrorists said, eight years ago, stressed the need for their rescue: “We need them, because our parents are happy seeing us, likewise the parents of the remaining girls want to be happy seeing their daughters return”
Okunade Adeyinka, a lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, OAU, said: “The project was a wonderful experience for us in the department; It’s the first time someone would come to collaborate with us, especially in the ceramics section.”