By Chris Onuoha
When Kunle Adegborioye set out to visit his home country, Nigeria from United Kingdom where he’s based, nostalgic feelings propelled him to embark on a research on throwback encounters. And such, is the outcome of what metamorphosed into his recent body of works showing at Omenka Art Gallery, Lagos.
With the theme, “Nostalgia, Glimpses from Diaspora”, the exhibition, opened on April 7 till 14 for public, is Kunle’s solo effort that foray into reminiscence of growing up in Nigeria. It exposes the persistent social ills and impoverishment brought about by the military dictatorship and corrupt politicians in the country for decades. His style is a pop art technique done in screen printing and acrylic on canvas. In it, the main focus is the Nigerian child, his birth and fate of his future in a country that cares less for child’s values.
Kunle who studied painting in Yaba College of Technology, Lagos in the 80s with Master’s Degree in Printmaking in the UK captures the current situation in the country with emphasis on the prevalent vulnerability of Nigerian child and women in the Internally Displaced People’s camp (IDP) and others.
The most astounding impact of the art show is the throng of spectators and collectors who were entranced by the appeal, the message and unique medium Kunle applied in his works.
Oliver Enwonwu, Director, Omenka Gallery in his assessment revealed that Nostalgia, Glimpse from Diaspora describes Kunle’s personal way of dealing with contrasting identities and influences in his life. “Though his work is informed primarily by his experiences in Nigeria, the narrative is not concerned with a search for roots, but about maintaining a presence amidst others who share his world. In all, the works are strongly individual and showcase an artist of sound technical ability and a deep understanding of society” he said.
According to Jess Castellote in his statement, he described Kunle’s works as an amplifier of his thoughts and concerns about the societal problems of his home country and the resilience of Nigerian peoples. “There is an evident melancholy and vulnerability in the children regularly populating his works. A sad mood pervades almost all of them,” Castellote said. He stressed that the use of repetitions in the screen printing technique with the application of acrylic paint on the printed image allows him the freedom to achieve a greater strength and individuality than the one normally associated with silkscreen works.”
George Edozie a budding visual artist in his remark said, “Kunle is a figurative painter and in this outing, he tried to foray into the African child’s plight. Besides, he also talked about how the masses could be liberated from the political vagabonds in power. It’s a brilliant work, and for him to have come home to Nigeria to exhibit his works speaks volume of his intent. He could have done that in UK and make more money but he decided to bring it home to pass a message, especially at this time when the country is passing through difficulties.
For the artist, Kunle Adegborioye he stated, “I live in-between two worlds – UK and Nigeria, and I studied painting in Yaba College of Technology, Nigeria and also, Printmaking in England, UK. I call my medium pop art, a movement that agrees in general principles with popular culture. It is infused with wordings that actually say much about the paintings. In this exhibition, I wanted to do something different. These are the outcome of all the experiences I garnered overtime and it metamorphosed into the body of works you see here today.
“Telling our story, it seems that things have not changed for good in terms of welfare. Children are leaders of tomorrow and as such, should have a proper foundation. In the United Kingdom where I live, government takes care of children from birth. And with that in place, each child does not have any excuse for not been successful. Here in the country, children fend for themselves, begging or hawking on the streets, and as such exposing themselves to danger. My message is simple. It is for government to reform the system.”