By Japhet Alakam
Art scholar and painter, Professor dele jegede is one of the great names that made tremendous impact in the art industry during his stay in Nigeria and one of Nigeria’s leading artists on the international scene.
But since almost 20 years when he held his last solo exhibition in Nigeria much has not been heard about him in terms of exhibitions as he has been busy teaching and promoting art in United States of America base. However, due to popular demands by his numerous fans in Nigeria, the renowned US based artist is back home to satisfy the urge of his numerous admirers with a solo outing titled ; PEREGRINATIONS, an exhibition of Paintings and Drawings.
The exhibition which opens on April 30th and runs till May 12th at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki,. Lagos will afford art enthusiasts and patrons another opportunity to viewing the visual art productions of the 1973 First Class graduate of Fine Art from the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who is currently Professor of Art at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.
The exhibition promises to showcase all the works Dele has done in the last 20 years that come with clear cut messages for the art industry and Nigerians at large.
According to him, the idea of having this solo exhibition in Nigeria was hatched in 2009, when he began to contemplate the cause of his silence, but seemingly recurrent distress. “This exhibition, “Peregrinations,” speaks to my status as an émigré with very strong roots to my homeland. The body of work in this exhibition represents a snapshot of my state of mind at different times over the last two decades.”
Continuing, he added that the art works fall into three distinct but not necessarily equal categories. The first category, he said, consists of pieces that were done soon after moving to the United States and are termed a celebration of Africanism. This category of works deals with the state of the African Diaspora through cultural and spiritual cosmology. They include State of Anomie, a 1994 collage on paper piece from the Joe Obiago Collection, which recalls the artist’s illustrious career as Art Editor of the now defunct, Daily Times.
The work is one of the two pieces that participated at the Sesta Biennale d’Arte Sacra in San Gabriele, Italy, in 1994.And the other piece is Crossroads.
The second category consist of paintings that explore Jegede’s fascination with hip-hop culture. According to him, “this phase of my work is in tandem with my interest in Africanism in that the paintings represent a visual artist’s de-construction of a performative genre in American popular culture.
For some one who reasons that “ My art is my voice; I strive to assert it.” The third phase of the work which started in 2009 consists of works that speak about reflections on self_exile and the things that happened in the country during such period. They include the Abuja Masquerade, Abuja Charade and Abuja ER.
Others are a series on the militancy of Niger Delta. (Militancy; Militancy ii, and Militancy iii) works executed in latex on canvas, collage and mixed media among others. In these works jegede re-focused his gaze on the homeland: Nigeria. “ My work has become a platform for parsing the anguish that is a concomitant of the aborted dreams that Nigeria emblematises,” He said.
In a release made available to the press ahead of the exhibition, jegede stated that “From the Niger_Delta imbroglio and the government’s shocking tepidity in responding to the massive environmental degradation that has become a perennial issue, to the political charade in which political actors out_compete themselves in plundering the collective wealth, Nigeria has become_or should become_the politically sensitive artist’s canvas.”
Though tied to his administrative and academic commitments which ordinarily occupy his mind most of the time, jegede still makes out time to attend to studio practice. He has participated in many group and solo exhibitions outside the country. Among them were, the 2009 Bicentennial Faculty Exhibition in Oxford, Ohio, Solo exhibition at Coleman Centre for Arts and Culture in York, Alabama. He has also delivered several academic papers and keynote addresses at local and international levels.