Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ekiti Kete:People and Places

Recently in Ado Ekiti, the capital city of Ekiti State, was the exhibition Ekiti Kete: People and Places. An exhibiting of paintings and photography showcasing the cultural affinity and tourism potential of Ekiti State.

The exhibition which ran from April 28, lasted till May 10, 2010. The exhibition took pace at the reception area of the governor’s office in Ado Ekiti. The exhibition highlighted over 30 experimental works done by New York based Ekiti indigene Olusegun Fayemi.

Fayemi in the last 30 years has focused his energy, on his work as a documentary photographer traveling widely internationally, lecturing and sharing through several of his award winning photography books, images that seek to capture and celebrate Africans in a positive light.

The themes captured in this exhibition spread through the entire gamut of traditional practices, historical landmarks and people, folk and cultural practices

2 works on exhibit, that were of particular interest was that of a black and white work which was a monochrome pigment print on paper. The picture shows the pose of a titled older man, possibly a chief or bale, rendered majestically in a long flowing robe called agbada in western Nigeria. The robe is hand woven and done in the traditional hand made Aso-Oke, a craft native to the Ekiti people and the rest of Yoruba land. The gentleman is sited and can be seen wearing a traditional beaded crown with matching ornamented shoe, depicting royalty. He is also holding a decorated scepter or staff adorned with colorful beads and fly wisk, both indicative of class status or power and authority over a people.

The man who is also royalty and king, in this black and white picture beckons through his highly decorated regalia, the viewer to behold the majesty of Ekitiland. This piece represents a prayer for the preservation of the grandeur of the obaship or other positions of traditional influence and institutions in Ekiti land

The second is the Ikogosi waterfall, another pigment print, done in mild hues of colors. Here we see an attempt by the artist to give us an inner glimpse of the exhilarating pulsation of the victorious water falls of Ikogosi, considered by many, as the pride of all in Ekitiland. The picture represents a metaphor of the undwindling, inimitable, and God given strength, vigour and stamina of the people of Ekitiland.The water fall also speaks of the fervent prayers of the people of Ekiti land to provide leadership in the areas of culture, education, agriculture and industry. A prayer consistent with the aspirations of many parts of Nigeria.

Fayemi’s works given the experimental range of media used, places him in a class of his own among artists who use the photographic medium. He is however part of the elite corp of very passionate Nigerian photographers like Don Baber, Pa Ojekere, Sunmi Smart Cole and Tam Fiofori whose works seek to redress the image of the Nigerian and by extension the African, as a largely disconnected, exotic, and often time, victim, and a creature of the circumstances he finds himself. Fayemi’s images in Ekiti Kete presents with such freshness the image of the African as very much connected with the larger scheme of things, whether spiritual or physical and ultimately, indeed very much a shaper of his of his or her own destiny. We see through Fayemi’s lenses the faces of victorious Africans who are ready to assert and hold their own in today’s world, in a most befitting and dignifying way.

Fayemi’s exhibition titled Ekiti Kete was clearly a joy to behold. The exhibition establishes his mastery of multiple experimental media in photography. It also gives him great credit as a documentary photographer in search of Community, however defined. This exhibition which is the first of its kind in Ekiti land suggests that the people of Ekiti State have such a rich repertoire of artistry and culture, and are willing to share this with the larger world. Every part of Nigeria can take a cue from this.

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