A group of six young, self-taught photographers are currently exhibiting their photography works at Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos. The exhibition entitled “Gbam! Unearthing and Reclaiming a New Becoming”, co-curated by A White Space Creative Agency and SMO Contemporary Art, is supported by Louis Guntrum Wines and the Wheatbaker.
The 25 photographs on display question our continual unearthing, uncovering, discovering and re-imagining perfection by drawing on our history and identity as Africans. GBAM! presents evocative photographs by six avant garde fashion photographers –– Daniel Obasi, Kadara Enyeansi, Kola Oshalusi, Lex Ash, Noma Osula and Ola Ebiti.
Noma Osula’s powerful portraits of perfectly chiseled tribal marks across his subject’s striking Bantu features are juxtaposed against fine pink fabric, whimsically wound around a stout physical presence. Osula’ explores traditional scarification and the society’s concept of beauty and traditional symbolism against the interplay of striking whimsical adornment.
On the other hand, Kola Oshalusi’s documentaries, a depiction of youth in Northern Nigeria, present an emotional naiveté, a clustering of untainted stillness and repose within an arid, harsh landscape. His powerful black and white images present a lyrical expose of young adults, always in clusters, facing forward with resilience despite their stark surroundings.
According to Papa Omotayo, exhibition co-Curator and founder, A White Space Creative Agency, “GBAM! showcases the exciting diversity of images currently being created by a new generation of Nigerian visual artists. The works are fluid, referential, charged with self-reflection and steeped in the narrative and contradictions of modern con- temporary African identity and style.”
Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, Wheatbaker’s long-standing art curator and founder of SMO Contemporary Art, said: “Gbam!
broadens the common perception of fashion photography as an art form, and spreads its tentacles wide to provide socio-economic critique as it questions perfection vis-à-vis identity, equality and traditional norms and expectations,”
In the words of Mazzi Odu, “The six photographers draw on cultural historical roots and attempt to divine their essence whilst simultaneously presenting a balanced sometimes ambiguous whole, one that belongs entirely in the present, and may, possibly point to a new, bolder, more beautiful future.”
One of the six photographers, Obasi, hinted his work explores the relationship between modern (present day) Nigerian fashion and traditional aesthetics.
“My project is a fantasy that strives to juxtapose this modern day Nigerian fashion against a traditional atmosphere; an exaggerated attempt at creating characters that perfectly sync traditional styles with modern elements.”
Another of the exhibitors, Kadara Enyeasi noted his works are influenced with an understanding of form, space and perspective; mostly due to his background training as an architect. His early influences stretch from the high concept layered order of the ‘five points’ postulated by Le Corbusier to the classic avant garde portraitures of the early West African photographers. Driven by a narrative, his eye, through the camera always see something that wills the audience in; the images seem to riff with the shadows of a serene everyday sexual provocation. .
Kola Oshalusi stated: “ This is a race – our race, together, against time, for what binds us from our oppressors to redemption, but not by ourselves collectively in twos huddled together in any little shelter we can find as a group, right under the Tree, the only Tree we call shelter – wishing we were successful foreigners yet together – apart as one separated by perception of age, height, standards and cultural ideologies together we walk into a new world our back to our pains our sight only on hope.”
For Chidi Ashimole popularly known as Lex Ash said the exhibition, indicates a sign of agreement, perfection and concurrence.
“Considering the push towards gender equality, my take is to redefine what perfection and agreement really means to the tune of what modernization has done to improve the social standing and general appreciation of women in our society. We’ve come through different stages of being – Antipathy, Apathy, Sympathy, Empathy and we’re at the point of Affinity,” she said.
Noma Osula disclosed His works often involves the use of textures, vibrant colours and gestures which draw inspiration from the regularity of everyday life in his environment. A slight integration of fashion and minimalism helps build the aesthetics of his portraits.
As a stylist, Ola Ebiti’s approached to Gbam is focused on the traditional Nigerian look and how it can be translated to the current times.
Taken from the saying “there is a Nigerian everywhere in the world”, traditional Yoruba wear, he avows, is repurposed and has become worldly and nomadic. “Generations, who have incorporated traditional pieces into their everyday life, have made these traditional fashions seem universal beyond how it was invented by the forefathers. Like our people, our fashion is no longer confined to the boundaries of our country.”
The exhibition runs till September 15.