By LYDIA OBOT
During the just concluded Lagos Book and Art Festival held at the National Theatre , Lagos, five Nigerian contemporary artists, Washington Uba (photo-artist), Soibifaa Dokubo (photo-artist), Jude Anogwih (video artist), Emeka Ogbor (video artist), and Jelili Atiku (video and performance artist) in an exhibition titled; Express Ver-bis ,presented a social and politically motivated issues during the festival’s visual art section.
The show , Expressis Ver-bis, an exhibition of photograph, video and performance takes a deep look into the experiences of Nigerians from colonial to the present democratic era. In an expressive term, as the theme of the exhibition connotes, the artists critically analyse the issues of identity as they connect and disconnect in the evolution of Nigerian experiences.
The six videos, Unstable Stables (01:03Minutes, 2009 by Jude Anogwih) Daily Need (03:00Minutes, 2009 by Jude Anogwih), (Dis)connect (01:58Minutes, 2009 by Emeka Ogbor), Mis-information (01:53Minutes, 2009 by Emeka Ogbor), Here I Am (04:09Minutes, 2010 by Jelili Atiku), Governor General (02:49Minutes, 2010 by Jelili Atiku) broach on disappointment, power, information, identity, mobility and migration. The videos express and respond to collective aspect of Nigerian experiences with the awareness that they are citizens of the country.
The words in Jelili Atiku’s Governor General seem to have summarized the identity of the foregoing. In his video performance, Jelili composed a new anthem for Nigeria by interposing the anthem of America, Britain and Nigeria.The new anthem reads thus:
Arise, O compatriots, God save our gracious Queen,Oh,
say can you see by the dawn’s early light Nigeria’s call obey Long live our noble Queen,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
To serve our fatherland God save The Queen.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
With love and strength and faith Send her victorious,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
The labor of our heroes past Happy and glorious,
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Shall never be in vain Long to reign over us
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
To serve with heart and might
God save The Queen
Oh, say does that Star – Spangled Banner yet wave
One nation bound in freedom, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Peace and unity.
By documenting the destitute in streets and graffiti on commercial buses in Lagos and other important cities in Nigeria; the twenty photographs by Washington Uba and Soibifaa Dokubo bring to fore the psychological effects of socio-economic situations in the country and citizens’ aspiration to overcome these conditions.
Alongside the videos and photographs in this exhibition; Jelili Atiku in his performance titled, NGA Bill…Kill Me the More, makes comments on the demonic NGA bill.
This bill has created a tumultuous atmosphere among Nigerian artists and stakeholders in the art and culture sector. In this enactment, Jelili recalled through his aesthetic performance, the Manifestos of Guerrilla Action Group of 1970, which in part that “Art is being slaughtered. It is being victimized by its own triviality. Art ignores crises and fools itself with the pursuit of irrelevant aesthetics, while the political system oppresses people and destroys human life.
That political system represents group interest instead of serving the needs of people, and therefore has become a lie to true democracy.”
Expressis Ver-bis successfully documented such a question that bothers on the notion of Nigerian sovereignty; even as it renews interest in video, photographic or filmic documentation of reality. Its exhibits “bridge the visible and invisible, image and text, subjective desire and inscriptions of the real, authorship and witnessing, individual and collective memories, imaginaries and experiences.”