Adaptations…a mirror on Nigeria
By THERESA ONWUGHALU
Thursday, January 26, 2012

With his eyes set on nation building, John Oyewole Adenle who teaches art at the Federal College of Education, Osiele Abeokuta, recently showcased 35 plastic sculptural pieces tagged Adaptations. Though his first solo exhibition, Adenle has participated in several group exhibitions over the years. He is currently a doctoral student for his PhD. in Art Therapy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He explained how he was inspired by Igbaro and Raqib Basorun’s works.

Expectedly, the exhibition held at Yusuf Grillo Art Gallery, Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Yaba, Lagos, attracted other notable artists and art lovers. Some of the works include Ori-yeye-ni-mogun, Unequally-yoked, Kokoro to n jefo, Hydra-headed and Reverse. Ori-yeye-ni-mogun, which is made of plastics and fibre glass, is the first work carried out by Adenle in the progression of his experimentation with plastics. It depicts the plight of the downtrodden in society. The work literarily shows how hundreds of innocent masses suffer for offences not committed by them.

The mixed media work, National Cake, is symbolic of the reckless way the revenue of the country is being shared at the centre especially by the National Assembly. Apart from legislating outrageous increases of their salaries and wages, they share and eat allocations meant for their constituencies without giving back to the electorates. They have not only caused political decadency but have also made democracy to be expensive at the expense of economic development.

The artwork reveals the scrambling at the centre for national cake and the hunger and starvation represented by the dry bones at the four corners of the work. The thirty-six assembled bottles symbolize the lawmakers from the thirty-six states of the federation and they are united in their unwholesome politics of eating the nation to the bone marrow.

The piece, Unequally-yoked, is a fabricated plastics which depicts how Nigeria exists only as a geographical entity. It is now clear that Nigeria, a nation so complex in nature and culture ought not to have been amalgamated together as one. This fact has also led to civil war and in recently, led to fight for resource control, sectional militancy and tribalism. The plastic arrangement of the artwork outlines the map of Nigeria showing jumbled components that are forcefully joined in a marriage of inconvenience. The colours of the component plastics are in sharp contrast against one another. The black background also signified uncertainty that has already enveloped the nation and how it challenges national unity. The spotted red plastic at the Delta area of the country may as well translate to the fact that our oil may be our time bomb if no discussion is facilitated at a national conference table.

Kokoro to n jefo is made of both wood and plastics. It is a prefix of a Yoruba proverb that translates as: ‘The insect that infests a vegetable resides in its stems’. The insects or cankerworms that milk the national resources are not ghosts, they reside among the people. The work shows a design replicating the effects of ants’ infestation on wood. These people are the politicians and leaders who are merely interested in what they can benefit from. One may also be surprised that the corruption at the surface may be a child’s play compared to the internal invasion already caused by the ‘pests’. This work warns of the imminent explosion if the system is not fumigated with truth, probity and uprightness.

Hydra-headed is a plastic work that depicts the nature of Nigeria’s multiple problems. Each national problem is hydra-headed as the works reveals. This means each big problem has smaller ones. The work is a monster-like figure with multiple heads. Each head can be interpreted as representing each problem including insecurity, power failure, corruption, religious conflict, tribal war and sectional militancy among others. Reverse, another plastic work, explains the paradox of our growth and development, which is a mirage says the artist “We think we are moving forward yet in the reverse. We move one step forward and two steps backwards.” As much as the artist wishes to see Nigeria moving forward, he keeps seeing an inverted image that is bemused by roughness, coarseness and stone-heartedness.

Adeola M. Balogun, curator of the exhibition said the exploration of plastics both in two and three dimensional formats reveal a passionate experimentalist and environmentali0st in Adenle, while Dr. Kunle Filani, the Provost, Federal College of Education, Abeokuta, , described Adenle as creatively curious, versatile and experimentally restless. Also Odubiyi James Abiodun, Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Federal College of Education, Osiele Abeokuta, said “Form this collection, we are brought into the world of Adenle as a passionate sculpture who expresses his talent through works of art. Apart from his duty as an academic, he has established himself as a frontline artist whose works and wealth of experience would inspire younger artists.”

Mr. Kehinde Adepegba, Art and Industrial Design Department, Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu, noted that Adenle is one of those artists who are deeply touched by the new spectacle of socio-political debacle in Nigeria after 51 years of independence.
“Through Adaptations, Adenle has expressed his innermost contemplation about the socio-political state of the nation. He does not only projects the problems for all to see but also offers solution in works titled: Angelic Visit and Voyage,” Adepegba said.
Meanwhile, Kenny Badary, Chairman, Society of Nigerian Artists, (SOVA) Ogun State Chapter said the initiative by John Oyewole Adenle is highly commendable as has reduced disposable needs and costs.

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