The dual creative prowess of fine art and architecture blossom in the works of  Olayemi Fagbohungbe.

In his solo art exhibition titled Blaque, showing from October 10-17, 2021 at The Art Pantheon, 12D Bosun Adekoya Street

Oniru, Lagos, the artist lifts moulded metal to a new contemporary basement in bronze.

 In Fagbohungbe’s quest to dissect imagination, he draws, and tries to understand the very things that affect hIs  everyday life.. “Growing up in Northern Nigeria, I was exposed to Hausa traditional and modern buildings and this stirred up my interest and led me to study architecture,* Fagbohungbe stated. “Studying architecture, I realized ‘there is no architecture without art’. Upon complety architecture studies, I delved deeper into the arts, and I found sculpture so appealing as it offered great creative freedom in three-Dimension.”

From her curatorial note, Nana Sonoiki of Art Pantheon said;

“I see the man before I see the works. But in seeing the works, I see more and more of the man. The  bronze pieces are arranged in a dimly lit room. They exude the aura of actors behind the curtains ready to come Fagbohun-stage for some deep, slow drama. Each piece is mysterious, pulsing with energy.”

Sonoiki explained how the creative spirit of  Fagbohungbe animates his exhibition Blaque: the desire to inspire a renewed belief in the potential of the black race. She argued that Blaque, through patient artistry, brings to the fore works that deconstructs deeply entrenched stereotypes and inferiority complexes: black as second fiddle, black as the “dark,” black as stuck in the past. Fagbohungbe’s  deconstruction, Sonoiki added, is careful not to be reactive. “Rather it is celebratory, moving away from mere rebuttals to reductive narratives to tell the larger story of African ascendancy and agency.”

 Fagbohungbe  recalled that in the last five years, be has  been working largely on abstract figurative sculpture as a means to explore the emancipation of black people. He explained that  looking through bis art, at the concept of our ‘Blackness’, there’s great wealth/potentials on the black continent.

 “For me, exploring the concept of ‘blackness’ means portraying the wealth and potential of Africa, making all works shown in this exhibition in bronze and carefully designing and constructing elaborate bases are choices deliberately made to picture that. The abstraction of works was a way to express myself in unique ways that captured my thoughts at the given time.

 “There are three installations and a composition titled ‘QUESTIONING I-IV’. To emancipate, (break free from one’s current state and reach higher), we must first start by asking the right questions, the whys, and if we can provide right answers, backing it with dogged action, then we are on the right path to change.”

 Excerpt from Art Pantheon’s Gallery Statement; “Fagbohungbe has not walked alone, though. He counts among his influences Demas Nwoko, Frank Ghery, Le Corbusier, Bunmi Babatunde, and Alberto Giacometti, artists and architects whose vision of the world and of art are larger than their personal situations.

The admiration is not limited to artistic talent or creation alone. There is also, perhaps even more so, an admiration for the continuous pushing against societal expectation and personal indulgence, for complete ease is not necessarily a desirable condition.

 “Two of his thoughts are relevant at this point. The first: I like to deconstruct rigid notions, and automatic assumptions; it is essential that the work makes people re-examine their opinions and assumptions. The second: Life is and would, for all we can tell, remain difficult, we have to embrace that and continue creating within that constraint. These thoughts feed into every piece he sculpts and inform their appreciation.

 “In thinking of “Blaque” as a concept, Fagbohungbe notes the riches it suggests. In its various senses, it suggests fullness, life, pride, dignity, creativity, flair, power, irreducibilty, black.  In a world that undervalues black people and black contribution, it is not a thing of ease to rise above everything—including our own complexes and failure to take charge of our own progress—which seeks to keep black people down. Blaque asserts that we are rich and shouldn’t live lives so poor. If we imbibe such a mindset and work with it, Fagbohungbe seems to be telling us, we would move forward. A máa tẹ síwájú.”

 Olayemi Fagbohungbe is an artist and architect. He was born and raised in Zaria, Nigeria, where he also trained as an architect, obtaining his bachelor’s at Ahmadu Bello University. He then moved on to obtain his master’s, still in architecture, from the University of Lagos. His academic ambitions bear testimony to his drive and spirit: one could always reach higher, far past mediocrity.

 He believes that the boundary of what is achievable can be pushed and should be pushed. “I look at many of the great buildings and architectural designs in Ahmadu Bello University, for example, and they’re all by foreigners, Europeans mostly. It makes me wonder: where are our own great architects?” The thought may seem a little uncharitable, but the sentiment is genuine. The firmament of artists making great work here could do with several more brilliant stars.

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