The Arts

September 22, 2021

With ‘Greener Pastures’, Alonge, Otori capture abandoned Lagos villages

With ‘Greener Pastures’, Alonge, Otori capture abandoned Lagos villages

By Prisca Sam-Duru

‘Greener Pastures’, is title of an ongoing exhibition by iconic photographer, actor and artist, Bolaji Alonge and, Sola Otori and Friends, at the prestigious, Didi Museum, Lagos.

Alonge captures succinctly the theme of the exhibition which explores the challenges affecting remote areas of Lagos State and its dwellers; in particular, villages in Epe Lagos.

The exhibition which opened Saturday, September 18, runs till September 26, 2021. A workshop is scheduled to take place on September 25, with a public debate to wrap up the show on 26.

Featuring a pot-pouri of art genres; photography, video documentary and painting, the show will highlight major challenges undermining people living in villages along the Lagos lagoon such as Epe.

The exhibition initiated by Alonge alongside Sola Otori, was inspired by some other artists; Claude Monet and his water lilies, Venice and its water ambulances, and parallels between the water shrines and the Itsukushima Shrine in Japan.

Proceeds from sales of art and photography will contribute to buying books for local schools and other initiatives that address the urgent needs of these communities.

A graduate of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Nigeria, with more than two decades of experience in documenting history, looking for beauty where it is least expected,  Alonge shows his beloved Lagos from unexpected angles, a city that inspires and captivates imagination, while compelling viewers to reconsider what they’ve seen with their eyes, through the ‘Eyes of a Lagos Boy’.

‘Greener Pastures’ is realized in collaboration with Sola Otori, a multidisciplinary artist exploring cultural diversity in Africa and the issues of religion and spiritualism, politics and power as they affect marginalized communities.

Otori works in photography, painting and film. His work shows both the beauty of his land and culture as well as the need for social positive change.

As part of what inspired the body of works, Alonge explained during a press preview of the exhibition at Didi Museum, Lagos, that, “Deep inside Epe, along the Lagos lagoon, more than 145 villages are tucked away far from the bustling city life.

They have been left behind and are now held hostage by the consequences of a race to modernity”. “Although they are very close to the beating heart of the Nigerian economy, they lack access to health, water and education. Water hyacinth, a beautiful disaster, has taken over the lagoon and severely limits mobility and trade”, Alonge added.

The women as narrated by the dwellers in the documentary, give birth depending on nature and whenever there’s complication, die in the process due to lack of accessible roads to the hospital in town. Their children are not being educated while basic sanitation is completely absent because the source of drinking water, the lagoon, also serves as conduit for waste disposal. At a time when cholera is taking lives at an alarming speed, the relevant authorities in Lagos state will need to urgently come to the aide of these communities in Epe.

The screening of the documentary also entitled ‘Greener Pastures’, now available on YouTube, according to Alonge, who is also the director, ‘Eyes of a Lagos Boy’, “This project started in January 2018 and is the result of a collective desire to contribute to a better future for these communities.” “The documentary aims to further amplify the challenges of affected areas with a view to changing the narrative”, he added.

The photographs and beautiful paintings by Otori, narrate stories of a people abandoned by their government who are in dire need of basic amenities to keep living.  “The challenges faced by locals are universal while being compounded by external factors,” Alonge stated, adding that, “The documentary captures never-seen images of these settlements and gives a platform to its inhabitants. The beauty of the artworks is in sharp contrast with the stark reality of these villagers, invisible as a result of predatory seaweed and lack of political will. It is a call for help, an alarm signal that cannot be ignored.”