By Chris Onuoha
With works in various forms, shapes and medium, Nathaniel Hodonu, a visual artist from Badagry, Lagos State, has stepped ahead of time and bound to create an evolving masterpiece of art with waste objects. The artistic installations showcasing ingenuity, mastery of style and materials is Hodonu’s major exhibition after coming a long way as a painter, art instructor, and creative philosopher.
National Museum of Modern art, Onikan, Lagos is the place, and the exhibition is titled, Menu W eh? a Badagry words meaning “who are you?” It is an exhibition of painting, sculpture and assemblage of creative discovery of waste-to-wealth to wealth object ‘Coconut shells’ unveiled on November 11 and running to November 24.
In this rendition, Hodonu’s main focus is environmental degradation within his community and its ecological effects caused by a non-decaying object, coconut shells, hence exploring a better way of creatively putting it into waste-to-wealth’ project.
According to him, “You can see a lot of coconut shells littered around my community because Badagry is full coconut trees. The irony is that these shells hardly decay and it is causing a lot of nuisance around the area while sometimes it is used as firewood.”
In 2006, in the school I was teaching, the PTA chairman came to me with two coconut fruits and asked me to do something with it as art piece. Immediately the old man gave me those shells, it was like a challenge and I started thinking on what I can do with it. Inspiration started coming and I told my students to start picking more shells for me. The first set of experiment I had then was not so good but along the line, it became a progressive experiment that produced what you are seeing today,” Hodonu said.
“In the works, the style and materials used reflects who I am and where I come from. The imageries and the works speak royalty as you can see that most of the works represent palace art. The techniques are by industrial machines, jigsaw, sandpapers, bolt and nuts and glues to achieve. Each work takes a lot of time to come by. Some of the major ones take as long as 6 months to produce. Using the coconut shells to produce artwork is very tedious. The process is strenuous, like picking the shells, making sure they are not cracked, and cutting them into sizes and shapes. It is a whole lot of work done with patience, painstaking and creatively.”
Nathaniel Hodonu is a painter and sculptor. He graduated as a painter from University of Ado Ekiti in 2004 having done his NCE programme in 1994. He went into teaching and has been teaching since then. This is his third and major exhibition with about 60 works on display. As an artist, he is using this to introduce himself into the art scene as the title of the exhibition connotes: Menu Weh which means, ‘who are you’?
Hodonu’s role model is Raquib Bashorun, who inspired him through an encounter. “Raquib Bashorun is a master of woodworks and when you check out his works and what he does with woods, you will be amazed. I became fascinated with his style and perhaps, he also encouraged what you are seeing here today but in a different form – shells, instead of wood. Presently, I can say I am the only one doing this kind of art using coconut shells to produce wonderful art pieces in a two dimension,” Hodonu said.