LineGuage: Linear Imagery | Textual Allegories

CCA , Lagos, Nigeria
08 Dec 2018 - 05 Apr 2019

Victor Ekpuk (Detail). Courtesy CCA Lagos

Victor Ekpuk (Detail). Courtesy CCA Lagos

LineGuage explores the co-creation of imagery between African artists and writers, a relationship that has continued into contemporary art in Africa but is seldom discussed. The exhibition aims to capture a binocular perspective of this relationship and inspire a new conversation on the subject. The exhibition explores how artists not only co-create images with authors but engage with the visual intellection processes of illustration that emphasize directness of execution and the economy of form and visual language through linear rendering of subjects in such a way that less is said, and more is yet said. Processes like interpretation, condensation, simplification, distillation are highlighted. The exhibition brings the visual works in conversation with the books which they illustrate or which has inspired them.

Bruce Onobrakpeya, Uche Okeke and Ibrahim El-Salahi deftly condensed the ideas of several writers into prints and lyrical drawings. Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Portfolio of Art and Literature are illustrations or visual interpretations of poems, short stories and folk songs by various African authors mainly of Nigerian descent, as well as some of his writings and translations. El-Salahi’s paintings, drawings and book illustrations draw on a vivid imagination rooted in the traditions of his homeland which he fuses with inventive forms of calligraphy, abstraction and a profound knowledge of art history. In his work El-Salahi established a new artistic vocabulary – uniting Islamic, African and European elements in a unique, surreal style.

In another instance, Chinua Achebe’s books found familiar expressions in the works of Victor Ekpuk and Chijioke Onuora. For over a decade, Onuora has produced series of drawings inspired by the imagery created by Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. His constantly shifting practice has carried this into his current exploration of batik. For instance, his depiction of Igbo wooden drums – “Ikoro”, reference its role in Things fall Apart. Victor Ekpuk’s drawings easily find expressions in the title of Achebe’s books. Except the drawing commissioned for the cover of the compilation of Achebe’s works – “African Trilogy”, all art on the covers are from works that he had already created with titles different from Achebe’s books. These drawing are taken from works created at different times and in different circumstances. For instance, the cover for “No Longer at Ease”, is from a series of ink drawings on paper – “Lagos Suite” created in 2013 by the artists during a residency in Lagos. But perhaps, most remarkable is how the aesthetics of Victor Ekpuk’s work interestingly coincide and complement with Achebe’s themes.

LineGuage further explores the relationship between art and literature by inviting five artists – Amarachi Okafor, Odun Orimolade, Stacey Okparavero, Rahima Gambo and Jess Atieno, whose work engage with the idea of storytelling, to respond to Kintu, a novel by Ugandan author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Kintu gives a snapshot of different periods of Uganda’s history through characters who are dynamic and engaging, with interesting personal stories of their own. The UK Guardian notes that the author, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi does for Ugandan literature what Chinua Achebe did for Nigerian writing. While Makumbi documents the Ugandan story, she also subverts Ugandans’ understanding of who they are as a people, questioning the popular conceptions of gender, religion and mental illness. These issues raised by Makumbi become a departure point for these five artists.

Curator: Iheanyi Onwuegbucha




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