By Henry Akubuiro
The energies of art and architecture in Olayemi Fagbohungbe celebrate Africanness in being creative.
In the exhibition entitled Blaque, showing from October 10-17, 2021 at The Art Pantheon, 12D Bosun Adekoya Street, Oniru, Lagos, the artist builds moulded metal art on a new contemporary basement in bronze.
Fagbohungbe explained that his quest to dissect on imagination always led him to taking an interest in drawing, giving him better understanding of his day-to-day activities.
“Growing up in Northern Nigeria and being exposed to both Hausa traditional and modern buildings stirred up interest that led me to architecture; in studying architecture, I realised “there’s no architecture without art’, Fagbohungbe stated. “Still in my quest, upon completing a programme in architecture studies I found a thirst to further my curiosity in the arts, and sculpture was so appealing to me because of the creative freedom it offers in three-dimensional expression. In my quest to seek a deeper journey into the world of my imagination to discover the unknown, so I draw, sculpt, and do architecture.”
He noted that the three factors had found free expression in his imaginative field. He recalled that the past five years had got him working more on “abstract figurative sculptures as a means to push on the emancipation of black people (Africa), by looking at the concept of our ‘Blackness’.
In her curatorial note, Nana Sonoiki of Art Pantheon, said:
“I see the man before I see the works. But, in seeing the works, I see more and more of the man. The bronze pieces are arranged in a dimly lit room. They exude the aura of actors behind the curtains ready to come Fagbohun-stage for some deep, slow drama. Each piece is mysterious, pulsing with energy.”
Sonoiki explained how the creative spirit of Fagbohungbe animates his exhibition, Blaque: the desire to inspire a renewed belief in the potential of the black race. She argued that Blaque, through patient artistry, brings to the fore works that deconstructs deeply entrenched stereotypes and inferiority complexes: black as second fiddle, black as the “dark,” black as stuck in the past. Fagbohungbe’s deconstruction, Sonoiki added, is careful not to be reactive. “Rather it is celebratory, moving away from mere rebuttals to reductive narratives to tell the larger story of African ascendancy and agency.”
Olayemi Fagbohungbe was born and raised in Zaria, Nigeria, where he also trained as an architect, obtaining his bachelor’s at Ahmadu Bello University. He then moved on to obtain his master’s, still in architecture, from the University of Lagos. His academic ambitions bear testimony to his drive and spirit: one could always reach higher, far past mediocrity.
He believes that the boundary of what is achievable can be pushed and should be pushed: «I look at many of the great buildings and architectural designs in Ahmadu Bello University, for example, and they›re all by foreigners, Europeans mostly. It makes me wonder: where are our own great architects?” The thought may seem a little uncharitable, but the sentiment is genuine. The firmament of artists making great work here could do with several more brilliant stars.”