C M Y K 38 — Vanguard, MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2019 OSA MBONU-AMADI 08070524223 firstname.lastname@example.org Bidemi, Uthman exhibit jointly at Alexis Galleries By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor From 16 to 22 March 2019, two Nigerian rising stars in painting, Joseph Bidemi and Yemi Uthman will be holding a joint exhibition of their works at Alexis Galleries, Akin Olugbade Street, off Idowu Martins, Victoria Island Lagos. Thirty-year-old Bidemi is an impressionist whose works are heavily influenced by his childhood experiences, especially the story of his mother who died giving birth to him. As a result of that, Bidemi became passionate with portrayal of women’s faces in many of his paintings. “I am an impressionist by style. My work borders on emotion. I play with colours –laying patches of colours together to create forms and images,” he says. Coming from a polygamous family, Bidemi says he experienced a lot of negative emotions when he was growing up. “It was the longest wait of my life to get liberated. By that, I mean just getting out of what I called a cage where I saw constant emotional and verbal abuse. You can imagine a father having about 13 children. So the only way to put them under control is to verbally abuse them, to make them feel intimidated. Most fathers in polygamous homes are very hard to please. Being the last born anyway, I experienced a little bit of love and attention, even though it was a divided attention.” By Osa Mbonu-Amadi Former Editor of Sunday Guardian, Jahman Anikulapo, has identified the somewhat elusive lady captured in a subtle photograph with Professor Wole Soyinka at the launch of his latest book, Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who keeps Watch over the Watchmen?), at the Freedom Park, Lagos last year. Vanguard’s Arts & Reviews had last week Monday published an in-depth descriptive story titled Encounter with Professor Wole Soyinka. The story which attracted a lot of comments, responses, and accolades from readers was published with a photograph in which a white elderly lady and the Nobel Laureate were holding each other’s shoulders like lovers. The writer had interpreted the evocative picture which formed the crux of the story, and rightly so, as a meeting between “Professor Wole Soyinka and an uncommon fan.” An excerpt from the story had painted the scene of the photo thus: “Throughout the event, my Bidemi’s father was a successful businessman who wanted him to be a doctor, but Bidemi, who had started drawing when he was two years old, loved art. When his father saw his interest, he encouraged him to pursue his dream. Facial expressions, emotions, and body language are familiar features of his works, featuring his new series: Insecure, Unveiled (xiv) and The Royal Guard. Bidemi’s art is known for its dynamism in colour with special emphasis on portrayal of women’s faces. Women play a central role in his compositions, which also allows him to connect with everyone and everything. The artist is greatly mused by the anthropology of to achieve tactile realism juxtaposed with subtle lines and bold strokes of vibrant colours. He was born and bred in Jos, Plateau, his mother’s home state. He comes from Oyo State but resides in Lagos where he is currently practising as a full-time studio artist. He graduated in 2012 from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, specialising in drawing and painting. Bidemi’s works are privately collected in Nigeria and internationally. He also has a couple of his works in the collection of King Mohammed VI of Morocco. Yemi Uthman, on his own part, is a monochrome painter. He had recently started adding colours to his paintings, producing fascinating masterpieces. Women and children are his key influences. With Truth, he reintroduces himself and provides a rich indigenous platform for his life and work, transiting from figurativism to landscape art. Yemi Uthman is an impressionist and realist painter. The artworks featuring in the exhibition are from Uthman’s new body of works consisting of series such as Essential Scarcity, Reflection and Entertainers. Uthman is a full-time studio artist, practising at Dutchman Art Studio located in Ikeja, Lagos. He has participated in various art exhibitions both at home and outside the country. For this exhibition, Alexis Galleries is partnering with Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria, DSFN, a non-governmental association of children with Down Syndrome, DS. Most kids with Down Syndrome are neglected or abandoned by their parents and society due to certain negative beliefs and myths that tend to stigmatize them and their family. Some are also abused physically and sexually, and in some cases, denied their rights to life. Patty Chidiac- Mastrogiannis, founder & director of Alexis Galleries, prides herself on her ability to create awareness about kids with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria is committed to bridging the gap between Down Syndrome cases and the rest of the society through a support system that seeks to integrate them into the mainstream of society. This commitment is rooted in the firm belief that if given the necessary encouragement and enabling environment to grow like others, people with DS can, and do actualise their potentials and live fulfilled lives. Part of the proceeds from this exhibition will be donated to the DS Foundation. The exhibition is supported by Tiger, Pepsi, Mikano, Amarula, Delta Airline, Nederburg, Cobranet Internet Service Provider, Cool FM, Wazobia TV, Art Café and The Homestores Limited. Encounter with Professor Wole Soyinka: Jahman Anikulapo indentifies woman in picture camera followed Soyinka. When it finally came to an end, I trudged among the crowd clicking the shutter button of my camera as he stood with one important dignitary after the other. Other guests in the crowd seemed to be people to whom Soyinka was an idol. They milled and swarmed around him like flies, each striving to engage him in conversation or touch him. “Suddenly, I saw one elderly white lady approach him. She came and stood before Soyinka, looking up to him with misty eyes. Soyinka, being a highly sensitive person, must have noticed that he had an uncommon fan before him, for he left every other person and faced the old lady. “Slowly, the arms of the old lady moved up and rested on Soyinka’s shoulders. Soyinka held her shoulders too. A Bible verse (Luke 2: 25-32) flashed through my mind. It was a scene where a man who had been waiting all his life to see •Joseph Bidemi I am an impressionist by style; my work borders on emotion; I play with colours – laying patches of colours together to create forms and images emotion. He enjoys the distinct movement of the palette knife which he uses •Professor Wole Soyinka and Yaffer Schuster, Artistic Director of Africa-Israeli Stage. Jesus the Messiah before his death finally met Him… “They stood like that for what seemed like eternity, communicating beyond the medium of words. I shoved through the little crowd, got closer to them and raised my camera, perfectly framing the blissful old lady and Kongi on the LCD screen of my camera. Then my shutters clicked several times in multiple shots. I reviewed my shots and realised that I had taken an award-winning shot with half the head of Jahman Anikulapo and a certain young lady’s full view at the background. The look on the lady’s face was non-descript – she was subtly eyeing the old lady as one who was jealous.” Reacting to the story, Jahman Anukulapo wrote on ARTS JOURNO, a WhatsApp page of Arts and Culture journalists: Good take, Osa. Thanks for sharing. That woman is Yaffer Schuster, Artistic Director of Africa-Israeli Stage. She was in the country then on the invitation of Crown Troupe and me. She has been an acquaintance of Wole Soyinka since the 70s, but they hadn’t seen since about FESTAC (1977!). She wasn’t expecting to run into the man (Soyinka) at all in the course of her working visitation. So you are right; it was a magical moment for the two of them – like some old lovers. Even I witnessed it... Great eagle-eye reportage there. Well done.”
Vanguard, MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2019 — 39 OSA MBONU-AMADI 08070524223 email@example.com Finding meaning in Pius Adesanmi’s self-prophesied death By Ogaga Ifowodo Perhaps ‘tis kinder that vultures toil To cleanse torch-bearers for the soil Than eagles bare their living bone Chained to an eternity of stone . . . Kinder that, lured by cleansing rites He fell, burnt offering on the heights — Wole Soyinka IN the high noon of the ninth day of March 2019, Dr Pius Adesanmi, professor of literature and African studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, in Canada, posted the rather foreboding verses of Psalm 139: 9-10 on his Facebook wall: “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” This has been rightly interpreted as Adesanmi’s foretelling of his death, especially when read together with the epitaph in his own hand composed six years earlier: “Here lies Pius Adesanmi who tried as much as he could to put his talent in the service of humanity and flew away home one bright morning when his work was over.” Fly away home he certainly did on the 10th of March 2019. In the morning of that day, I woke up from a dream with the ominous sense that someone very close to me had died. For one inclined to the Freudian approach to dreams, who takes them as the continuation of waking life and so as the unrestrained but distorted expression in semi-consciousness of the desired or the repressed — in other words, one who would say upon waking “it is only a dream” — this was quite disconcerting. I just could not banish my fear of the demise of someone dear no matter how many times I muttered, “It is only a dream.” This was the dream: I am asleep, with the bedroom door closed. Then I’m impelled to open my eyes and turn my face to the door, which opens on its own accord. A tall man, around middle-age, in orange overalls, the sort worn by Shell’s oil-field workers, is standing at the threshold. It appears all he desires is that I notice his presence for as soon as he is sure I’ve seen him, he disappears, without uttering a word. And I’m overwhelmed with the feeling that what I’d seen was the ghost of a relative, that he had come to bid me farewell. But the only person close enough to me to ground that fear, a cousin more like my older brother, had long retired from Shell and though still indirectly connected to the oil giant in his present employment, was, the ancestors be praised, hale and hearty as I quickly ascertained. So, it was really only a dream after all. Except that it wasn’t. Dead was another brother, Pius Adebola Adesanmi, with whom I share no family blood ties, our shared human blood and twenty-fiveyear friendship, sealed by a common citizenship and love of our hapless country being as strong. The Shell motif? Maybe because I had the dream in Shell’s residential estate in Warri, and that in Adesanmi’s only volume of poems, The Wayfarer and Other Poems (2001), Shell is portrayed unflatteringly for the havoc it does to the flora, fauna and people of the Niger Delta. Like the multitude plunged into inconsolable grief on learning that Adesanmi, travelling under his Canadian passport, was on the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa for Nairobi, killing all aboard, the futility of denial — “No, it’s not true . . . Pius can’t be dead . . . he is not dead,” etc. — swiftly led to rage. But rage against a machine, fragmented upon its thunderous impact with earth, some parts aflame, was useless. Still, I raged, blurting out a first mourning cry via Facebook and WhatsApp, two of the social media platforms he used so effectively and endearingly as a witty, acerbic and penetrating critic of Nigeria’s politicians, priests, and sundry powers, of even their victims, the masses, whom he often saw as too docile and complicit in their oppression. “What or who do I curse?,” I cried? “The day? The plane? The makers of the new technology-driven aircraft on which my friend and my brother was flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi? Ah, death! And the stealth and many ways it comes! But it should never ever have set its sights on Pius, again, having tried and failed last year. Ah, Pius, you survived that road accident, and marveled that you did: ‘I still don’t know how and why I survived,’ you wrote to me. And death shamed that you had proved stronger than it on the road stalked you in the air. Ah, Pius, Pius, my brother Pius . . . From the campus of the University of Ibadan, to the campuses of Penn State University, State College, Pennsylvania, and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, to that visit to Jersey City in 2007 when I was finishing my dissertation (here’s the photo of us together on the Hudson River Walk), and all the places too many where we were together alone or with mutual friends . . . I can’t bring myself to say rest in peace and yet I must wish your restless, fecund, passionate and patriotic (how much you ached and wrote to save Nigeria!) soul eternal rest. Well, then, rest. You did more in your short life than many can living the fullness of their days. Rest in peace, my friend, my brother.” But back to that premonition of death: Professor Adesanmi, having consciously chosen the career of a public intellectual, set about it with uncommon zeal. He gave his life to the people, whether as one of the most widely read and admired columnists to come from his country with a rich history of intellectualscum-writers-and-social-critics, or as teacher and mentor to younger scholars. Late Prof. Pius Adesanmi In all of Adesanmi’s engagements, scholarly, social or otherwise, he exuded an unmistakable secular conviction. So why did he turn to the Bible to announce his death? And, really, was it just in order to give notice that he was flying away and that wherever he might end up, even if in the uttermost parts of the sea, God (Nigeria having failed him) would comfort him? I think it is beyond that. A full reading of Psalm 139 reveals a man still irrevocably bound to the land that vexed him to death. He had railed and wailed relentlessly about every inanity of his people, but the more he lampooned and satirized and coldly analyzed the more things degenerated. What was left but to seek a realm and a presence more assuring than his headstrong country? Where to find solace but in a return to his Catholic boyhood, and the words of another poet, King David? We may argue if Adesanmi’s work was really done, even accuse him in our grief and guilt of offending the living by “choosing” to die, as Ali Mazrui accused Christopher Okigbo, another writer who famously foresaw his own death — “If I don’t learn to shut my mouth, I will soon go to hell: I, Christopher Okigbo, together with my iron bell” — and went to meet it at the Biafran warfront. But read verses 19-22 of Psalm 139 and you would see that despair drove Adesanmi to fly away, to directly ask God to “slay the wicked,” the “men of blood,” God’s “enemies.” Indeed, the vehemence of David/Adesanmi’s utterance towards the end belies the soothing comfort of God’s hand and ineluctable presence sought at the beginning. “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?” As if his intent could yet be mistaken, he declares: “I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.” The enemies of Nigeria are the enemies of God, be they Christians or Muslims or nonbelievers; though as an altar boy Adesanmi had a special hatred of the sanctimonious money-changers, mammonworshippers, miracle-peddlers or, simply put, scam artists who also go by such names as General Overseers, Men (mostly) of God but women also, who litter every street with “churches,” the names of many too ridiculously funny to evoke any sense of awe or the Almighty. I began these brief reflections with an epigraph taken from Wole Soyinka’s elegy for Christopher Okigbo. I’ll end with John Milton’s poem “Lycidas.” Milton saw the death by drowning of his friend Lycidas, a priest, as analogous to the degeneration of the clergy in 17th Century England, which being a self-avowed Christian country, symbolized the degradation of the polity. Adesanmi loved Nigeria to death, sang in full throat the many-strained and straining, plainly draining, sad song of our even more degraded land than Milton’s England. “Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,” without leaving “his peer,” Milton moaned, and added: “Who would not sing for Lycidas? / He knew Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme. / He must not float upon his watery bier / Unwept, and welter to the parching wind, / Without the need of some melodious tear.” Our only solace is that Adesanmi’s life underlines the saying, “It is not how long but how well,” for had he lived a hundred and forty-seven years and not a mere fortyseven, he might not have given a better account of himself. Since he achieved in five decades what many can never hope for living the fullness of their lives, who would not sing for Adesanmi? Why shouldn’t we pause from our mourning cry and sing instead for a pious soul prematurely gone to join the ancestors? Adieu Pius. Ifowodo, lawyer, poet, writer and rights activist, was Assistant Professor of English at Texas State University and author of “History, Trauma, and Healing in Postcolonial Narratives”. His most recent volume of poems is “A Good Mourning”.