By Osa Mbonu
Feminists may have a bone to pick with Agemo’s work titled “The Lucky Woman”, saying it is gender bias. But Agemo is a kind of historian on canvass.
His paintings are mostly metaphorical narrations of fragmental histories and societal discussions, political issues, ancestral rites and abandoned beliefs. Vanguard’s Arts & Reviews cornered him at the just concluded Alexis Galleries’ artists-in-residence program on Victoria Island Lagos. The Badagry-born artist spoke about his works:
“Most times I tell stories on my canvass about abandoned beliefs, culture and tradition of my people. But because of the residency tagged ‘Naija’ we try to restructure the topic to suit my own theme.
“This work is talking about a man. I believe everyman in his own home is a king. It is not only when you are being crowned that you are a king. So the man here has two wives. The first wife is not able to give the man a male child he is looking for. You can see her children here – all girls.
“The man is now looking for another wife that can give him the male children he needs. Here, he finds the woman. Though she is ugly and deformed (she has only one eye), she is able to give the man the male child he is looking for.
“So the message in this work is that physical appearance – ugliness and deformity – don’t really count when it comes to productivity and achievements. Those things are not hindrances to success in life. There is an inner beauty, and that is what counts. One may look ugly in appearance but the character or product of that person may be what is desirable.
“So here, the ugly and deformed woman is the one who is able to produce the male child; hence she becomes the lucky woman, which is where the title of the work was derived from.
There is also a third wife. She too has her own child but the child is also a girl. Apart from humans in the painting, there are signs and different symbols which have their own meanings.
“You know the world is very small. You can also see the foreground in the work where they are stepping on. You can see a cross showing that the background may be smooth or rough, which is a reality of life; everyday as we go out, we may meet good or bad. Good and bad all work together,” says Agemo.
Most of his figures are drawn from status in Badagry artifacts and cultural products – the shrines, etc. which the artist uses to create his own concept.
Agemo Francis Sewanu, a mixed media Nigerian Artist, was born in Badagry, Lagos in 1986. He studied Fine Arts at the Delta State University Abraka from where he graduated in 2008.