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Shifting the Paradigm, Edozie’s changing face of African art

By Japhet Alakam

The current wind of change blowing across African recorded a major boost in the art sector as one of her contemporary artists, George Edozie took part in a historic exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) with a resounding success. The museum located in the heart of downtown North Miami, Florida offers visitors both temporary exhibitions and exhibitions of its collection.

One of the exhibited works by George Edozie

But, one major issue that has bordered many art lovers, especially followers of African art is the inability of the museum which began in 1981, and has afforded many artists the opportunity of exhibiting their works, has not featured any artists of African descent.

Whether it was deliberate or not, that jinx was broken recently when Nigeria trained painter, George Edozie held the first ever historic African exhibition at the centre.

The show tagged, Shifting the Paradigm which opened on December 2, and ended successfully on February 26th, 2015 was the first time that an African had a full museum show at Art Basel. The exhibition which focused on the culture and art of the Onitsha people was graced by Igwe Alfred Nnaemka Achebe, Agbogodi, The Obi of Onitsha, who presented a lecture. Apart from that over 50 professors gave lectures too.

Creative blockade

The exhibition draws attention to the occurrence of a millennial shift that will open the world to a new way of thinking and being. Through form, color, design consciousness and containment, Edozie’s collage paintings and monumental fabric sculptures unleashed the embodied powers of life to dissolve creative blockade and remake reality.

The show which was designed to tear down aging but still prevalent concepts surrounding the creation, consumption and interpretation of contemporary art lived up to its bidding as Americans were inspired by the creative ingenuity of Edozie.

It featured about 14 works; 7 paintings and 7 sculptures. Through the body of works, Edozie who is basically influenced by Onitsha Ado culture celebrates the rich culture, the traditional dieties and history of the city of Onitsha. One unique aspect of the works is that all the works were titled in Igbo, a good way of identifying with its root and telling the stories by themselves. Some of the works include, The spirit came, a seven piece sculpture representing the seven parts of the Obis in Onitsha. Asanma, a mixed media painting depicting six different ladies with Agbongonma, a maiden spirit like the typical beauty pageant of the present time but the only different was that they are not skinny. Another work is the four faces of Amonyonma, showing the faces of the living and the dead. Obi Igboro, a village in Onitsha that produces many women which attract men to the village.

The works actually portrayed the beauty of Africa, not the horrible things that they hear and see on the screen and it was a delight to all as they wondered at the creative ingenuinity of the artist, unlike what they have been seeing for years.

Speaking about the exhibition, the artist said that it was successful, going there for the first time and emerging as the best show. And to crown it, he is now managed over there and a gallery is representing him. Apart from the exhibition at the museum where one of the works was acquired by MOCA, some of the works were also sold in other galleries.

But despite the success recorded, Edozie is not happy with the way the African press and art writers responded to the show. According to him, while the show was well celebrated by foreign art writers and newspapers, on the home side, apart from few media houses that wrote on it, not much was heard about it as African scholars did not celebrate their own. He therefore called on African writers to celebrate their own by writing about them.

He also enjoined African artists to strive and get themselves into international competitions so that they can compete with them.

The show was curated in Nigeria by Chinwe Uwasie while Prof Nkeiru Nzegwu was in-charge over there. Credits should go to Kelechi Amadi Obi who covered the exhibition .


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