Archives for category: Sights

As I eased into the sweet lyrics of ” Jesus Na You Be Oga, the atmosphere was electric as the luxurious bus fizzed  with  that un-matchable  vibe. That vibe  which makes you smile at nothing in particular as you join  a bus full of strangers gyrating and singing loudly to the same  Nigerian gospel song; and let me tell you, “Jesus Na You Be Oga” is up there with the best of the best.

Undeniably, in Nigeria, music, song and dance does it all the time.  Nothing I know works quite as quickly and as miraculously, morphing total strangers into laughing cronies in the time it takes to wriggle in your seat and join the melee of voices. Nothing except perhaps  the familiar phenomenon of ”

Nothing except perhaps  the familiar phenomenon of “The Forum.”

 The forum is a social construct only possible under very specific conditions: naturally gregarious people; a shared state of fermenting frustration  with  everything political and  time to kill.

And, just as we are highly attuned to  group recitals of  popular gospel songs, Nigerians have mastered the art of striking up discussion forums quite seamlessly anywhere and at anytime.

I mean you would not believe it but just a few  hours earlier, as they made their way to Yaba to catch the Cross-country bus to Accra this group of shrill debaters  were complete strangers.

Now, voices rang out in animated tones as men and women spoke in varying degrees of volume and brash eloquence. Each  voice determined to contribute to the heated conversations on the continuing quandary that is the Nigerian State and of course who rules it come …. sometime in 2015!

 And as eyes brightened and voices mellowed with laughter, I could sense my camaraderie with these voices.  Regardless of where we all started our individual journeys, we are Nigerians-we are  connected by that wistful expectation of a different future and the forum is necessary wherever it might spring up.

It provides a social outlet blanketed  in anonymity and  the proverbial “safety in numbers” as we spew and proffer about our vision of a different Nigeria which continues to sit perfectly polished in our minds.

And as dates are moved and agendas rearranged,  many voices  are jostling to be heard; eager voices cloistered in different places in Nigeria and around the world, connected  powerfully  by the uniformity of our displeasure and uneasiness with the politics of Nigeria and the disjointed narrative which permeates it.

Like millions of Nigerians, I  want to see a  Nigeria dragged out of the doldrums; but like many I am struck by the tense juxtaposition of disparate ideologies, wishy-washy dialogue, monotonous  charades and what sometimes feels like the theatre of the absurd.

So I ask- as we watch the next few weeks unfold- Naija which way forward now?

Despite the soothing green spaces, the powdery blue sky and the softly lit horizon,  I was completely unprepared for the flood of conviction which took shape in my mind.

Eking  out a living in Nigeria requires far more mental  and physical stamina than any other place I have had the opportunity to experience first hand. As I observe the world outside slowly merge with mine,  faces blur into a mist of life and the scope of  human enterprise is both energizing and challenging.

I am warmed by the ready smiles of the  roadside  hawkers, eager to sell their freshly farmed produce of corn, yams, tomatoes, peppers, garri, palm oil, plantain and a myriad of organically grown vegetables.

JAKES WEDDING 1979

 

The visual collage intensifies vividly as we pass through the iconic city of Ibadan; famously described by John Pepper Clark as: “scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun”. In this metropolis of over 3 million Nigerians,  Ibadan is teeming with wide parades of people  seemingly on the move-engaged in an endless number of human activity.

All around me, in mobile stalls balanced on their heads, young boys, girls, men and women  have most of what you might need  on a hot humid afternoon and commuters stop here and there to stock up.

Lone bystanders look on intently, buried in their own universe of things to do and places to get to ; waiting for the next bus or vehicle to carry them along to someplace else;  moving or standing, humanity here is indeed in motion- man go chop-the hustle moves on.

ibadan 4

Despite  what for many  might seem like difficult odds and uncertain times, like anywhere else in the world, ordinary Nigerians continue to see to their established routines of work, family and enterprise.

Isn`t it  these immediate experiences and the  relentless energy to keep it moving which gives individual lives meaning and adds value to everyday stories?

 

 

 

Bashorun Gaa; the tragic hero of Yoruba mythology and one of the most formidable kings of the  old Oyo Empire conveyed in many ways, my childhood fascination for the mythical, almost unbelievable ancestry of the Yorubas.

Television heightened the hyperbole through superb productions of epic folkloric stories of a 14th century Yoruba kingdom which became so powerful that its tentacles stretched right across West Africa.  Words like Alaafin,  Ilari, Bashorun,  Eso, the powerful Oyo Mesi and the mysterious Ogboni took up immense amounts of space in my theatrical imagination.

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Today,  Oyo Atiba in  Southwestern Nigeria is the historical and cultural representation of the old Oyo empire  destroyed by Fulani conquerors in the 1800s. Truly one of the Yoruba heartlands, this is a  town seeped in  symbolism; both ancient and cultural. Yet, it is also a city alive with a dynamic identity of its own.

One of  its historical icons is the  Alaafin of Oyo, the traditional ruler and monarch of Oyo.  Even today, the Alaafin paints a flamboyant picture echoing the status, ceremonial  and cultural significance inherent in  the institution of monarchy among the Yoruba people.

The royal monarch of Oyo- The Alaafin-  with his wives and court  on ceremonial duties in Oyo town.

The royal monarch of Oyo- The Alaafin- with his wives and court on ceremonial duties in Oyo town.

Another icon is the bustling  Akesan market or Oja Oba (the king`s market) located only a few minutes away from the Aalafin`s palace.

Juxtaposing the old and new side by side, Akesan market embraces the visitor in an  atmosphere which is traditionally  energised and authentic yet  reminiscent of today`s society.

A mobile herberlist selling a whole collection of different potions and powerful concoctions.

Akesan Market Oyo – A mobile herbalist selling a whole collection of different potions and powerful concoctions.

Everything you need for your herbal remedies in this stall selling barks, roots and much more.

Akesan Market Oyo-Everything you need for your herbal remedies in this stall selling barks, roots and much more.

Oyo is also an important urban centre for the production of Garri, one of the cheapest staples in the Nigerian diet.

Garri- making industries in Oyo are vital both to the local farming economy and also in terms of the skilled and unskilled jobs provided for local people and Akesan market provides a lively trading outlet for local farmers in and around Oyo township.

Fresh Cssava tubers to be processed into Garri -n Oyo town

Fresh Cassava tubers to be processed into Garri -n Oyo town

Cottage Industry making Garri in Oyo town- small industries like this feed millions of Nigerians.

Cottage Industry making Garri in Oyo town- small industries like this feed millions of Nigerians.

His gallery was alive with colour, ethnic motifs and imagery rich in African themes delicately expressed in a collection of different artistic styles.

Gbolade Omidiran in his gallery showing me  his online gallery

Gbolade Omidiran  on his IPAD  showing me his online gallery

This was such  an awesome place to be.Here I was in Gbolade Omidiran`s art gallery, 5 mins from my home in Ile- Ife, Osun State Nigeria.

As my eyes darted in glee, adjusting to this fairground of colour and creativity, I literally didn’t know where to begin my visual feast. Every piece was unique, every piece drew me in and excited both the aesthetic  eye and the imaginative spirit.

Wall to wall colour- beautiful paintings by Gbolade Omidiran

Wall to wall colour- beautiful paintings by Gbolade Omidiran

Being a teacher, I am always so enthused when I get the chance to see young people engaged in learning and I can tell when young people are enjoying their learning.

All around me Gbolade`s students were clearly having a blast.

One of Gbolade`s many students avidly explaining the difference in styles between the variety of paintings.

One of Gbolade`s many students avidly explaining the difference in styles between the variety of paintings.

The bouncy ambiance and learning chatter  in the working studio which adjoined his gallery was vibrant.

Students (mostly undergraduates from the local university) were in various states of learning and experimentation; sharing and discussing ideas, actively discovering the balance between raw talent and self-discipline.

JAKES WEDDING 1642

Gbolade himself wistfully recalled his apprenticeship with the great teachers – Agbo Folarin and Baba Lamidi Fakeye of Obafemi Awolowo University.

The iconic mural outside the Department of Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University where Gbolade  completed his first degree in Fine Arts.

The iconic mural outside the Department of Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University where Gbolade completed his first degree in Fine Arts.

All in all, it was a great afternoon.

To have spent an afternoon inspired by this soft-spoken gentleman was truly satisfying and an eye-opener.

Despite what else may need fixing in Nigeria, people like Gbolade Omidiran and his contemporary Ibukun Ayoola were using their skills,  passions and individual agency to make their dreams a reality and inspire a future generation of artists.

It made me imagine how much more they could accomplish with support from the state government, you never know!

With Gbolade and his students at the end of a fabulous day.

With Gbolade and his students at the end of a fabulous day.

See more pictures of Gbolade here Gbolade Omidiran in Pictures

Click here to contact Gbolade and see more of his exquisite pieces of art online.

Spending an afternoon with the artist and teacher Gbolade Omidiran was rare treat.

I was truly inspired and my spirit soared as I toured his studio and gallery, chatting with Gbolade and his students. Here are more pictures from the visit. Enjoy.

A cross section of Gbolade`s gallery- filled with awesome art

A cross section of Gbolade`s gallery- filled with awesome art

A selection of Gbolade`s multimedia paintings done in a variety of artistic styles.

A beautifully framed piece celebrating african women

A beautifully framed piece celebrating african women

Quite colourful with  the striking blues and yellow. Again the elegant African woman motif.

Quite colourful with the striking blues and yellow. Again the elegant African woman motif.

One of Gbolade`s strengths is definitely his versatile style. This abstract piece draws the eye in with the mellow brown background.

One of Gbolade`s strengths is definitely his versatile style. This abstract piece draws the eye in with the lively brown background.

The colour and vitality of this painting really blew me away. Striking African masks

The colour and vitality of this painting really blew me away. Striking African masks

Apart from his own original paintings, Gbolade`s gallery is teeming with many pieces of African art personally picked out to showcase the depth of local talent available. These include: amazing sculptures in fine wood, pottery and metal work.

Apart from his own original paintings, Gbolade`s gallery is teeming with many pieces of African art personally picked out to showcase the depth of local talent available.
These include: amazing sculptures in fine wood, pottery and metal work.

Gbolade Omidiran and his students- like one big family.

Gbolade Omidiran and his students- like one big family.

Gbolade Omidiran`s beautiful home where I spent a wonderful few hours.

Gbolade Omidiran`s beautiful home where I spent a wonderful few hours.

Read more about Gbolade here An Afternoon With Gbolade Omidiran

Click here to contact Gbolade and to see more of his fine art work.

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