Tuesday, 10 February 2009

P.A.G.E.S is here

This is to announce to our Supporters(Matrons and Patrons) and fans that Kowry Kreations Media, now has a new project tagged: P.A.G.E.S This project is in Collaboration with Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos.

Jude Dibia @ P.A.G.E.S

We had the first edition of the project at CCA on February 7th, 2009. Jude Dibia read excerpts from his first book "Walking with Shadow," which he had never read from since the time of publication, dated four years. Actually, The author read book which, won him his first national prize and also, the copyright had been bought in South Africa. It was really an interesting experience for the author to see that his book is still relevant to current issues and reposed the hope that it will still be relevant in future.

Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo, a poetess and renowned artist and Jude Dibia, the author of "Working with Shadows" @ CCA

Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo and Jude Dibia during Book Signing.


P.A.G.E.S, is the confluence of literature, art works, comics and photography. This programme is designed to converge fictionist, poets and playwrights at the Centre for Contemporary Art, to give literary interpretation to the works being exhibited at the centre every month.

Art is art. Be it literature, painting, poetry, pottering or sculpturing. This is the reason why Kowry Kreations Media, an African art and culture organization came up with this unifying concept in collaboration with Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA).

The first edition of the programme was held on February 7th at the centre. And Walking with Shadows, Jude Dibia's first novel was the central literature to discuss the exhibition theme: "Like a Virgin." Feminisim (womanism) was the focus of the discussion.

Pictures from the EXHIBITION

Human figure, sexuality in contemporary African art
By Anote Ajeluorou

FOLLOWING the groundbreaking, dramatic work of Eve Enslar, The Vagina Monologue (and Nigeria's adaptation, V-Monologues), a veil seems to have been lifted off the feminine anatomy that has since been shrouded in myth and taboo. Whereas while Africans in pre-colonial era were scantily dressed, they were nevertheless less naked; now with so much modernity around us, Africans are so well dressed up yet they are so naked, especially the women, whose nudity has become a by-product of consumerism. Images of nudity among female folks have come to be regarded as the norm rather than the exception. Whether this is a sign of the times, is still debatable.

However, art and its practitioners have pushed the argument forward in their effort to reflect current temper. In its role of reflecting society, art is beginning to upset the hornet's nest in its uncompromising portrayal of sexual trends that lie potent beneath society's skin, particularly the human body and sexuality in society. Particular mention is the weird and aberrant sexual form known as homosexuality!

How much do we really know about our bodies with regard to the sexual dynamics that govern it? What about our sexual preferences, whether heterosexual or homosexual; do we owe society explanation as to how we like it? How modern can we claim to be regarding homosexuality? Or are we still so conservatively intolerant of it that we would rather legislate against it for the sanity and morality of society? And how confident are these fellows in following through with their 'weird' sexual preference?

These were some of the controversial issues that came up for discussion at an interactive session last Saturday at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, a collaborative project with Kowry Kreations Media. Recent works of three artists set the tone for the heated discussion. They were a photographic exhibition of the works of two female artists titled 'Like A Virgin...'and a novel, Walking with Shadows by Jude Dibia. The show by the two women, Lucy Azubuike of Nigeria and South Africa's Zanele Muholi, depict two different orientation and ways of looking at the female form and her experiences as a 'victim' in a male dominated society.

The two works are disturbing and daring in their visual presentation in using essentially tabooed images to confront the reality of womanhood. In one vein Azubuike creates visually tasking images from women's bloodied pads and blood from her cycle. In another level her works are pristine as she finds in nature forms that are parallel to the female. Azubuike uses these artistic parallels to woman found in nature to highlight certain perceived cultural stereotypes militating against womenfolk in our modern era. Muholi also boldly and unabashedly tackles the issues of lesbianism as something that can be openly talked about with mutual understanding, and without shame. Being gay is an open and common practice in her country; it still wears a taboo tag in Nigeria.

Nevertheless, Dibia's novel, Walking with Shadows from which excerpts were read, is about homosexuality in Nigeria, societal attitude towards it, an attitude that is still less generous even when it is a widely practised sexual preference across all strata of society. The novel explores the gay's confused view of himself against his intolerant society, the rejection and stigma he experiences, the loss of his family, friends and colleagues. The book probes the individual and society's sexual preference and questions why our society accepts every other imported stuff from the West and not homosexuality and those unfortunate enough to practise it.

These three artists, in their different consciousness and media, see the human body as true artistic models worth examining with compassion and love. Muholi's works probe the nude female body as two women fumble with their vital parts; they are women demystifying women in the exploration of their otherwise tabooed anatomies with their own hands.

Azubuike presents another aspect. In her works the viewer is not spared the gory sight of women's bloodied sanitary towels, and her sexuality in its unvarnished form. It is a new way of breaking the taboos and myths surrounding a woman's body. In another level as well, she leads us by the hand to let us see forms of woman's anatomy in nature. Every inverted Y-shape formed in trees stands for a woman's sacred grove - her navel, waist private parts and thighs. So that the viewer is made to see the waist from the junction where the limbs part to reveal her femininity that nature has so subtly but graciously dressed.

Azubuike goes several steps forward to imbue her trees with shocking feminine realism. She strings beads round the waists of some; others she ties lace wrappers to set off a visual feast typical of those found in fables, where animals and trees talked. There's one titled female genital mutilation (FGM); it vividly depicts a circumcised female with an open scar, where her clitoris has been cut off. No live picture of a circumcised female could come close to it! And she stated at the session that though she's not a feminist, she uses her visual images to speak to humanity about the unending plight of women, who are still held down by stereotypes. "I feel for women because of our male-dominated world," she stated simply.

The curator of the show, Bisi Silver, stated that it was the newness and provocative nature of the works that attracted her to the works of the two artists. She further praised the women for daring to work on such bold subjects, which she described as "the visual diary of women talking about themselves in an uninhibited manner meant to shed stereotypes. Muholi's lesbian women and Azubuike dressing trees in women's guise - I find the works fascinating and relevant; the synergy between the two artists comes off very well. They show that we should not be ashamed of our bodies and whatever we do with them is our own business."

One of the discussants, Ken Okolie, and art historian, argued that morality was a private matter and carpeted intolerant societies that would not face up to the reality of homosexuality as Muholi openly depicted. He said art has the capacity to look at tabooed subjects with unusual frankness and deliver refreshing perspectives. "In Africa we show poetry with our sculptures," he argued. "Art is still art used to tell the untold. These women tell us about things around us. It is only artists who can bring out images of lesbians like this; using sanitary pad to produce art by a woman is very interesting. It's innovative and creatively interesting using our bodies to create some avantgard kind of art, which is creating an amalgam from our environment with women's body. These works show that women are pervasive in all things."

From the literary perspective, another panelist Deji Toye, underlined the hypocrisy inherent in Nigerian society with regard to gay people as treated in Walking with Shadows. He argued that legislating against homosexuality as the National Assembly wanted to do was hypocritical and amounted to denial of people's rights and freedom of choice. He said homosexuality was a reality in our society, which no legislation or denial can erase; and that the perceived battle-line between heterosexuals and homosexuals was a mirage and not one that could be won. The hero (or villain?) of the novel, Adrian, finds himself on the wrong side of society's sexual preference by being gay. His wife sues for divorce on discovering her husband's queer sex preference; his family and colleagues reject him. He is left with no option but to relocate outside of the country to a more tolerant clime in his attempts to come to terms with his sexual preference and escape the stigma associated with his weird sexual life.

The panel discussion was moderated by Hansi Momodu.

Culled from THE GUARDIAN of Friday, February 13, 2009