Realm of Freedom in Bashorun’s oeuvre

An exhibition of body of work by one of the leading voices in contemporary Nigerian art scene, Raqib Bashorun, opened on March 18 at Omenka Gallery, Lagos.

It will run till April 5. Using steel, bronze, enamel, as well as leather, brass and spark plugs, the artist brings to the fore various socio-political issues including quest for better Nigeria and the change mantra of this administration.

He notes that the looming theme in Nigeria today is coated with ‘change’ and it is elusive; an average Nigerian’s expectation is that those managing the country’s affairs are the custodians of the anticipated change.

Indeed, Bashorun, like all Nigerians, yearns for a state of utopia, of bliss, and of freedom – a Nigeria where all are offered respite from the effects of the recklessness and impropriety of her leaders. Bashorun continues to incorporate in his work found materials from his immediate environment, most notably metal in form of aerosol and soda cans, as well as domestic accessories like table cutlery.

These experiments begun in the past decade remain a key feature of his oeuvre. Major solo exhibitions like Evolving in Discovery (2013) at Terra Kulture, as well as Evolving through Waste (2014) and Evolving in 360 (2015), both at Omenka Gallery, chart the course of his trajectory.

His latest solo at Omenka, Realm of Freedom builds upon these experiences. Borrowing from the constructivists and expressionists, the artist’s skill is evident in his ability to effortlessly blend metal, wood and other found objects.

The body of work in this solo exhibition, he says, was inspired by the thought of the common agitations shared by all irrespective of race, tribe or nationality and the hardships visited on everybody.

He said: “We struggle to function in a society that frowns at freedom and is petrified by looseness. I guess we all clapped for deceitful performers. We did not hope that something terrible was in the offering, we bought into the cheap deceit. This route from far and near flags disaster; we have to recalculate, we have compromised our freedom innocently and it is our responsibility to go back to the drawing board and re-articulate our moves.

“We get what we ask for but we have to keep asking, be relentless and be engaged in the process until the very end of the tunnel. We must challenge our own thinking.” According to him, there are a few places where he tends to enjoy an abso- lute sense of freedom; at the airports (the open concept and human traffic and expressions on those faces) by courtesy of the airline associates, in the aircrafts through the tones in the voices of the crew members, on the runways and in the emptiness of the sky.

“It is however uncertain if I discovered or found the freedom – I do not know what your take is on this subject and I am uncertain if indeed you have found yours. I guess I do not know myself even though I assume that I do.

“The majority of us endorsed the slogan ‘change,’ and we did unquestioningly even when the protagonists of the phenomenon did not know any better.

From all obvious indications, they have not lived up to our expectations and on our part, we continue to perceive this issue as though we have no role to play to advance the cause,” Bashorun stated.

The Director, Omenka Gallery, Oliver Enwonwu, who is the president of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), in his statement on the exhibition, notes that Bashorun’s skill is evident in his ability to effortlessly blend metal, wood and other found objects.

“Design is central to the artist’s oeuvre, his leading dictated by his materials. Essentially a commentary on the state of the Nigerian economy, the artist reveals his inspiration behind the 19 works on display.”

According to Enwonwu, alongside an exemplary career spanning over three decades as a teacher, Bashorun has maintained an active studio practice accompanied by a rigorous exhibition schedule that have all contributed to his prominence as one of the most significant artists working in Nigeria today,” he said.

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