This week’s article is inspired by a Nigerian visual artist whom as this article progresses, I would introduce to you.
In recent times, I have written a lot about politics and social issues in Nigeria, especially on solutions to these issues in Nigeria with the hope that you, my friends can learn and contribute to them.
In an article I wrote last year titled ‘Who is Killing Nigeria’, I highlighted a history well known by Nigerians and most parts of the world. A history of looting by past colonial masters that somehow convinced themselves that it was perfectly fine to raid and conquer regions under the pretext of exploration despite the resistance by some of the invaded regions. With the invasion came the looting of resources taken back home to grow European economies and homes miles afar.
It is a history where between 1914 and 1960, we were oblivious to the fact that following our independence from the British colony, we would be plagued by coup upon coup, riots and later on in the years, by unknown gunmen, kidnappers, bandits and thieves in government offices.
However, more often than not, we are quick to point out this history, especially when discussing the instability that blatantly plays out in our country Nigeria. We are quick to talk about foreign causes for our stagnancy and fail to recognise that which rots from the centre of our Nation.
This rot has ravaged many sectors in the country and left us struggling to compete with other African countries who once considered us ‘Giants’ and dominant. Maybe, it is because a lot of Nigerians since independence have struggled with their identity, the concept and feeling of ‘Nigerianness’ and the promise of unity in a nation so diverse in language, culture and thought systems. A conflict arises from the fact that the citizens do not feel cared for or listened to.
This week, I am reminded of all these. I am reminded of the fact that we need to play our own part as citizens in effecting that change, we so want and in the best possible ways that we can and through means even as beautiful, delicate and daring as art. With that, I would like to introduce you to Ijalobomo, an artist exhibiting solo and anonymously at Didi Museum from the 26th of February till the 12th of March, 2022. The remarkable thing about Ijalobomo’s exhibition isn’t just the beautiful watercolours they have put up for display, but also the title and driving force behind this exhibition. I implore us to drop by his exhibition for an enlightening visit.
Ijalobomo’s Art Exhibition titled PHCN (Please, Help Change Nigeria) is a cry for us all to come together to work as “BRAIDERS” not as “RAIDERS”. With over four decades of experience in painting and bringing art to life with watercolours, the artist in question has chosen to stay hidden under the Alias ‘Ijalobomo’ for the exhibition to ensure that people could focus on the subject matter of the exhibition as it is. The art exhibition, PHCN is a protest of sorts calling for a change in Nigeria and for Unity despite the various individualistic characteristics that each ethnic, social or religious group possesses. The artist categorises people in Nigeria in two. The Braiders and Raiders. The braiders are typical to the African beauty hair braiders who bring strands of hair together, weaving all, sometimes with accessories to create a whole new look.
The raiders on the other hand are good for nothing people who when given an opportunity to lead or put together resources for the benefit of the whole nation, loot (raid) these resources and destroy the nation for their selfish gains. The artist also notes that ‘being in government has been seen as a shortcut to wealth. People come into the office to loot and in some cases, empty state treasuries, and go on to flaunt the loot to the envy of the commoners. The stars of the exhibition are portraits of two girls with braided hair and bullet shells for adornment on their heads. These paintings are significant to the crisis in the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria where terrorism and unknown gunmen have dominated for the past decade. It also highlights the abduction of the Chibok Girls in Bornu state by armed gunmen a few years ago and the broken state these little girls had been in at the time.
I like to think that a lot of Braiders manifested during the last protest organised by the Nigerian youths in 2020, demanding an end to the devastating trail of injustice and murder that the SARS officials had laid while also calling for good governance in Nigeria. I like to think that a lot of braiders in Nigeria are on the roads and streets. They are the random person who returned a phone you lost while on your way to work, the teachers in classrooms teaching students though the wages are low, the polite staff at the shopping mall, the diligent office worker at the federal government office and so on.
The past decade has seen the emergence of agents of change, standing up once more in spite of the dire situation in the country to take charge of their lives and positions in society to ensure that this nation does not turn into a burial ground for the stars that it has birthed. Even though some braiders from the older generation had been silenced in their youth, it is laudable to see younger people use their talents and voices to challenge the negativity that has swallowed this country and also commendable, that older artists like Ijalobomo can still use art like Fela, to speak up about the ills in society regardless of the social group, tribe and economic standing.
Therefore, I encourage you my friends to be braiders, the in-betweeners that will put the talent, resources, culture and people of Nigeria together and for good use and the prosperity of the younger and future generation.