The world’s growing burden of cross border migration makes daily global news headlines. Whether one considers the refugee crisis in Europe, the issue of displaced people across Africa, or the influx of vacation seekers during the peak summer travel months, migration affects us all.
The Wheatbaker’s summer art exhibition, Wanderlust, opens to the public on July 10, exploring the “why” behind cross cultural, cross border, mental and physical journeying. Wanderlust is an exhibition of 36 paintings, drawings, photographs and mixed media works by six leading and emerging artists with strong roots in Germany and Nigeria: Chidi Kwubiri, Dilomprizulike (popularly called “Junkman of Africa”), Emeka Udemba, Numero Unoma, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko and Jimmy Nwanne.
These internationally celebrated artists explore the concept of ‘wandern’, a term of Germanic origin, drawing on our collective desire to travel and explore. Responding to a frequently polarised and fragmented world, these artists explore the internal and external aspects of Wanderlust vis-a-vis the modern reality and ancient roots of exploration inspired by the quest for safety, economic prosperity, education, and conquest, or simply for recreation, refreshment, and enrichment.
Award-winning artist Chidi Kwubiri’s 3-metre wide painting Transitions, in which a human form sits cross-legged with arms outstretched, touches on the very essence of Wanderlust, highlighting the need to “open up” emotionally, spiritually, and physically when embarking on life journeys. Better known for her fashion photography, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko presents multi-layered photographs which reflect nuanced historical African migration narratives while pushing the boundary of stylised studio images.
Writer-photographer Numero Unoma’s witty, tongue-in-cheek pop-art paintings and poetry touch on the irony of travel, teasing out deep seated cultural sensibilities from differing African and European viewpoints. Known for his installation and performance art, Emeka Udemba presents stark portraits of society’s marginalised wanderers reflecting the emotional and physical “up-rootedness” of (imi)migrants and (emi)grants.
Junkman of Afrika, who is known for sculptural installations of recycled objects, presents a new body of fragile paper works, expressing the “transitional realities” of wanders through human and animal forms migrating through abstract colour landscapes. And finally, Jimmy Nwanne’s soulful portraits of men and women haunted by memories of fading histories are a powerful reaction to European socio-political realities.
“Wanderlust stimulates cross-fertilisation of ideas centred on issues of identity, migration, and belonging between African artists who define their practices on the continent and those in the diaspora,” said Oliver Enwonwu, the president of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA). “All the works presented here, are a testament to each artists’ quest in exploring new visual vocabularies and the development of new techniques.”
“I think it is important that art helps us question, reinforce or realign our core values which shape our individual and community evolving histories,” explained Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, the exhibition’s curator and artistic director of SMO Contemporary Art. “I trust the Wanderlust exhibition will bring us to a deeper understanding of the emotional and physical effects of migration and hopefully increase our empathy for the world’s displaced people.”
The exhibition is hosted by The Wheatbaker until mid-September and is supported by Deutsche Bank, Still Earth Holding, the German Consulate of Lagos, ELALAN, and Louis Guntrum Wines.
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