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‘State of the Nation’ in retrospect, Ndidi Dike’s perspective

By Chris Onuoha

Ability to provoke engaging debates about the present situation in the country is one inimitable quality in Ndidi Dike’s latest art works and Installations on exhibit at the National Museum Onikan, Lagos.

The solo exhibition tagged, “State of the Nation”, was unveiled on February 3 and ran till February 8, 2016.

It was an endless search for a mode of address that can hold public imagination while retaining the transcendental quality that all great art must command.

Ndidi Dike's solo exhibition "State of the Nation."
Ndidi Dike’s solo exhibition “State of the Nation.”

It is the first in a series of staggered exhibitions planned by Dike in 2016 to examine aspects of our national life with others.

‘State of the Nation’ explores the theme of power with a dedicated focus on the abject political leadership and energy – electricity and other forms of petroleum-derived energy that is supposed to drive the economic situation in Nigeria.

Looking at the four unique art works on display, one could comprehend an immense thought provoking masterpieces.

From ‘National Grid’ to ‘How Much am I Worth’, ‘Untitled 1’ and ‘Untitled 2’ are the breath-taking works and installations on display. More than anything else, the two ideas or dimensions of power shape the existential consciousness of Nigerians. Sadly, both have been largely defined by malfeasance, sleaze, and hopelessness as the four works suggest.

Using a rickety wheel chair, painted gold and surrounded by a blanket of expended bullets stitched together in Untitled 1, Dike presents the tacky and imperious brand of political power in Nigeria which the winner takes all. In addition to interrogating the absence of any real understanding of statesmanship on the part of Nigeria’s political class, she draws attention to unbridled vanity, venality, irresponsibility that have trailed the political landscape especially since the fourth republic.

In the deeply emotive installation How Much Am I Worth, Dike addresses this sorry state of affairs as such; it is hardly surprising that 219 Chibok secondary school girls remain missing nearly two years since they were kidnapped.

Like Untitled 1, Untitled 2 examines the perplexing dynamics of political power in the country. Here Dike uses the cooking stove as a visual trope but also as a metaphor in addressing how the political class is a tightly-knit group with a common agenda to appropriate the nation’s commonwealth for itself. Dike treats the stove as a symbol of corruption, misappropriation, and misplacement of priorities.

Finally she addresses the unsteady power supply that has been sunk in that sector by successive administrations since 1999 in the installation titled National Grid. This installation draws our attention to a dream deferred, what Nigeria can become given its industrious and highly-driven population; an economic giant in the true sense of the word. With these works, Dike addresses the main issues that majority of Nigerians contend with, and amplifies the role of the artist as conscience of society in trying times.

Eminent personalities that graced the opening are: – Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Alfred Nnemeka Achebe (Agbogidi) CFR mni; former Attorney General, Lagos State, Mrs. H. A. Balogun, OON; Frank Okonta; Funke Akinyanju; Josephine Igberease; Director of Drama National Troupe of Nigeria, Toyin Akinosho; Yolande Chirwa; Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Edo State, Aanena Jemitola; Ms. Iyabode Aboaba; Molara Wood; Peju Alatise; Bisi Silva and a host of other members of the discerning arts community.

The guests all appreciated the profound aesthetic values, and dynamism revealed in the four works exhibited.

Over the last three decades, Ndidi Dike, clearly one of the most visible artists on the Nigerian art scene has evolved as an artist, moving across diverse art forms, employing multiple media, and seeking new directions for her work.

She has been consistent since her break out exhibition at the Imo Concorde Hotel in 1986.


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