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‘There is nothing more dangerous when we do not voice out’

For over two decades of practice, Chika Idu, a renowned multi-media international artist, has created and mastered different unique styles and techniques for each medium he works with, which are vast and attracts global viewership and patronage.

The painter, who is fond of children, is taking his art to a notch higher with his ongoing solo exhibition tagged Silent Scream, which opened September 25, 2021 at Sachs Gallery, Admiralty Road, Off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase1, Lagos. It will end on October 15, 2021.

In this interview, the Auchi Polytechnic trained painter, voices out to Obinna Emelike his screams across a series of enthralling works and also wants others to voice out theirs for the good of society.

Excerpt.

Why are you staging the exhibition?

The exhibition is drawing attention to how we relate with society, religion, culture, how we are made to behave in certain manners in order to fit in due to where we found ourselves.

Though we are using women as metaphors, it affects everybody. The works come in three media; the oil, acrylic and watercolour.

The oils talk about the environment, watercolours talk about the children, but they all culminate to talk about an implosion. It could be an environmental issue, a religious or cultural issue. It spreads out.

How many works are on display?

There are about 35 works on display across oil, acrylic and watercolours. The exhibition opened on September 25, 2021 and will last until October 15, 2021.

Why the title, ‘Silent Scream’?

There is nothing more dangerous when we do not voice out. That is an implosion because we are exploding inward. When we see things happening in the society, we react but we do not voice it out, when we feel pain, we scream inside, we do not voice it out.

It is like the regular incidents of police seizing commercial motorcycles from the riders who are the poor of the society, who cannot talk but scream in silence over the injustice meted on them by the law enforcement agents, especially in Lagos.

If one may ask, these bike riders, who do they talk to? There is nobody to talk to, hence there is a scream going on inside them that they cannot voice out. There is an implosion until one day, the implosion explodes and that is what happens when a normal citizen, a person who has never committed crime before, who has not been arrested before takes a gun from a policeman and shuts the same policeman. That is the product of an explosion. So, we see things going wrong in our society and we are not talking about it, or talking about it in our privacy, but we are not doing anything about it. So, we are silently screaming until one day, it becomes an explosion, which is very dangerous.

This exhibition is titled Silent Scream, which means there is a lot going on wrong in society; people are shouting inwardly, but not able to shout outwardly as nobody hears them because they are downtrodden of the society.

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The works are in series, what is the series and what informed their titles?

The first is the mask series. It creates awareness on how we have to put on a mask, which represents a deity in our traditional belief. Of course, there is a spirit as well, which means the character behind the mask and whoever puts on the mask behaves like the spirit of the mask, and he loses himself. So, I chose the mask to show that when we come into some environment we put on the mask required for that environment. From the new yam festival, Igue, to other festivals, there is a spirit behind them, even if there is war, there is a mask put on for war.

As well, when we find ourselves in a religious environment, we behave religiously in order to fit in and be accepted.

This is what the mask is talking about. But it draws attention across the board. It is not only for women, but even for men. Even societies and countries, everybody behaves in a certain way when they are in a certain environment; it might be religion, tradition, but we are compelled to behave in certain manners.

The second series is swimmers. I want to take it from the angle of celebrating the environment. It is good to be positive rather than condemn all the time. We celebrate our environment because when you love something, you value it and when you value something you do not want to destroy it. That is why I paint the swimmers to say look, people swim in the oceans, people swim in the lagoons, and rivers.

So, if we find so much joy and relaxation, if the water is so important to us, why do we destroy it, let us enjoy and celebrate it. That is why I have the swimmers series.

The third body of work in the theme has to do with children with the watercolours. I have always painted watercolour and I have always paid special attention to children.

Currently, Nigeria’s debt is pilling and we are still taking more loans from international lenders. When you take loans, it means it will be paid back with interest and this generation cannot pay back the loans and that means we are piling debts for our unborn children. So, I try to look at the innocence of the children in all these. We bring children to the world and coming into the world is a war for these children. Some people bring children to the world so that they will take care of them when they grow old. So, these are what I try to look at. I try to draw attention to these so that we treat the children differently because what you do to them in their kindergarten and the adolescent stages affects them and produces the adults we have now.

The world is having problems because today’s adults were affected in one way or the other when they were children. When they become adults they respond to the society’s pressure and the cycle continues.

So, the watercolour series focuses on children, their plight, and it also tries to look at their free-will nature and their innocence.

What are your safety measures considering the time we are in now?

Well, because of Covid-19, we had an earlier opening. The exhibition opened in September so that people can trickle in so that we don’t have a crowd at the opening. We also have programs for schools, where students will come in and we talk with them. The student will come in to view the works and it is also educational for them.

What are your expectations?

My expectation is for all the works to be sold-out. But the greatest expectation is for my message to get to the source because there is a reason I followed this line. If you go round, you will discover that everything is new. There is no work from last year here; everything was created for this exhibition because the theme is a topic I want to talk about and I don’t want any interruption.

It is an advocacy and on social media, the topic has become a discussion and the message is clear. When people see the works and ask, why are they wearing masks, by the time I explain, they will say yes, this is what is going on in our society where we are forced to do things we don’t find pleasure doing in order to fit in.

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