Ikepo Soyinka, a 16-year-old visual artist, has unveiled her first exhibition in Lagos.
Titled ‘Crows Come At Dawn’, the solo exhibition features works by the young Nigerian visual artist, whose passion for the arts is infectious.
Speaking at the exhibition, which was held during the Lagos Fringe Festival in Lagos, the artist noted that she also used the exhibition platform to advocate for a gender-equal society.
On display at the exhibition were breathtaking works including a series of traditional paintings that portrayed the pride and suffering of womanhood, the constraints imposed by culture, and the broader social implications.
The collection of works, according to her, provides a nuanced exploration of the highs and lows, the joys and limitations faced by women in Nigeria.
Hence, the young artist can rightly be said to be using her works for art advocacy as she publicly declared that she is an advocate of social justice, especially as it concerns culture and gender.
She sees visual art as a veritable means of expressing herself and boosting efforts at correcting some societal ills.
“I am very passionate about social justice and activism in general. I have messages exploring how community is built among women and how tradition can be a positive thing. I also explore how gender roles and putting people in specific boxes is a negative thing.
“I see a lot of people criticize feminism as a bad thing; it is a very narrow way of viewing things by trying to fix people in certain boxes, especially viewing feminism as a bad thing.
“I want people to think on how we can deal with gender and culture and how to let culture and gender coexist in a very healthy manner.
“We need to review the way we think and check our biases,” she said.
For Olatunde Barber, a lecturer at the University of Lagos, and Brenda Fashugba, regional head for Creative Economy, British Council and co-founder of the Lagos Fringe Festival, Ikepo’s feats at a young age is as a result of having parents that encourage their children to follow their passion in life.
Kenneth Uphopho shared the same sentiments, emphasizing the need for parents to always support their children in their chosen careers.
They attributed Ikepo’s success to the massive support of her parents and family.
“I’m surprised that this is coming from a sixteen year-old. You can see that this is what she wants to do from the way she articulates herself. It is good we support our children in their chosen careers.
“This is about being courageous and discovering your dream early. It’s an opportunity for parents to see what young people can do and support them.
“Ikepo has the support of her parents and it’s showing,” they observed.
On his part, Ayo Soyinka, father of the artist, called on Nigerian artists to be the mouthpiece of the society through their works of art.
“Artists should speak more on the ills of society through their art works. Art is a powerful medium to convey messages more than any other.
“Artists have a chance to liberate us through their work. They need to be more expressive and speak for those that cannot be heard,” he noted.
Ikepo Soyinka, who is also a storyteller, cultural observer, and an inspiration to young artists, believes the future looks good for other young minds looking to break into stardom.
Apart from the exhibition, the Fringe festival also featured a stage play titled “Beyond Tears”, which addresses the issues of child violence, especially against the girl child. It was written and directed by Kayode Sodunke.