THE energies of art and architecture in Olayemi Fagbohungbe celebrates Africanness in being creative. In an exhibition titled ‘Blaque’ showing today till October 17 at The Art Pantheon, 12D Bosun Adekoya Street, Oniru, Lagos, the artist builds moulded metal art in bronze on a new contemporary basement.
Fagbohungbe explained that his quest to dissect imagination always leads him to take an interest in drawing, giving him a better understanding of his daily activities.
He said, “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’. Upon completing a programme in architecture studies, I found a thirst to further my curiosity in the arts and sculpture 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 while the past five years have got him working more on “abstracted figurative sculptures as a means to push on the emancipation of black people (Africa), by looking at the concept of our ‘Blackness’.”
Curator 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, and they exude the aura of actors behind the curtains, ready to come to Fagbohun-stage for some deep, slow drama. Each piece is mysterious, pulsing with energy.”
Sonoiki explained how the creative spirit of Fagbohungbe animates ‘Blaque’: the desire to inspire a renewed belief in the potential of the black race.
She said that through patient artistry, ‘Blaque’ brings to the fore works that deconstruct 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.”
Speaking further on the concept of blackness, the artist said, “’Blaque’ brings conscious awareness to who we are as black people; it celebrates the ‘Afrocentric spirit’. It is moving forward by learning from the errors of the past and being profoundly proud of our identity. The sculptures in this exhibition, all produced in bronze, each with a carefully designed base for each work, seek to show the reality of Africa’s wealth, beauty, strength, life, endurance, and power. Still, they also pose the question, “Why are we so rich with so little to show”.
“It is my opinion that over six decades of independence from colonial rule over, we ought to rethink the narrative blaming the past and take responsibility for our present to forge ahead into a future that we own and should define.”
Fagbohungbe was born and raised in Zaria, gaining his first degree in architecture at Ahmadu Bello University. He then obtained his master’s, still in architecture, from the University of Lagos.
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 great architects?” The thought may seem a little uncharitable, but the sentiment is genuine. The firmament of artists doing great work here could do with several more brilliant stars.”
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