Call it advocacy through arts, change campaign or reclaiming Nigeria project, The ‘Braiders’ not ‘Raiders’ is worth seeing.
It is a sub-theme of PHCN (Please, Help Change Nigeria), a solo exhibition by Ijalobomo, an anonymous artist.
For visitors, art lovers and collectors who have been at Didi Museum, Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, where the exhibition is holding since early March, the works on display evoke pity and concern for the future of the country.
There over 30 of them, all paintings, which beyond unraveling the artist’s creative ingenuity, depth and thought, most importantly convey a salient message on the bad state of the country and need to salvage it by all.
The paintings also highlight the artist’s preference for watercolour, while also bringing his graphic art background to bear on the revolutionary theme of the exhibition.
For instance, in the work titled, ‘Kwaarraption: The crude heist’, the artist unraveled through paintings how the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria in the 1960s was seen as a blessing, but today, and six decades, the stories are sad and saddening.
In another work titled, ‘Wanted Braiders not Raiders II’, the artist differentiates braiders from raiders, insisting that Nigeria needs braiders who will take time to build the country rather than raiders who use force, pen and other means to rob the country of its wealth and peace.
Another work containing the Nigerian flag, the artist talks about the need to hand on to our children, a banner without stain. All the works are inspiring, probing and proffering solutions as the sub-theme beckons all to come together to work as “Braiders” not as “Raiders”.
Speaking on being anonymous, the artist said that it has nothing to do with the fear of incurring the wrath of the government or any individual politicians that the theme of his art indicates. The anonymity has to do with the ethics of his non-studio practice current job that should not see him engaging in any work outside his official monthly pay profession.
Explaining the ‘Braider’ metaphor, the artist said, “The “Braider” is a person with a lot of patience and skills. She picks up bits and pieces, puts them all together with great care and dexterity.
“She puts different strands of hair attachment and diverse types of beads of different colours together with great patience, working with her client. She weaves all together, to create a beautiful whole new look. Such are the people Nigeria needs today.
“People who have the skills to pick up the pieces and put them together, no matter what parts of the country such people or resources can be found, using them for the good of all, in order to create beautifully whole matters now.
“When braiders create, they create a beautiful whole in which there are no agitations.”
On the ‘Raiders’ factor, he noted that Nigerians have transited from ‘the happiest people on earth to ‘the angriest people on earth’ going by the level of anger in the country. He argued that from Independence period till date it has been very lucrative being in government, as a short-cut to wealth. Civil servants and politicians, he said, “come into office to loot and in some cases, empty state treasuries, and go on to flaunt the loot to the envy of the commoners.” Such public office holders, he labelled as “The ‘RAIDERS’, in the PHCN-II exhibition.
Whoever has no access to public treasuries, according to the artist, sometimes join the raiders, in another way by going into crimes using rifles/guns, like the dreaded AK47 to “take it by force”. These set of people such as the bandits, the yahoo boys, the yahoo plus, the kidnappers, the herdsmen, the known and unknown gun men etc,” he said, ironically, are among the commoners of the society, oppressing their fellow ordinary Nigerians.
He also questioned the rating of Nigeria as the happiest people on earth. “Are we still the happiest people on earth?”
In 2003, the World Values Survey, in its World Happiness Report (WHR), after studying 155 countries, declared Nigerians the happiest people on earth. That report, Ijalobomo recalled, was a surprise to many people. “Many wondered how they came to that conclusion, but we just accepted the report even when we felt that too many things were wrong with the country, enough not to make us the happiest people on earth.”
He further recalled how most people reacted to the survey within the context of Nigerians being seen as optimistic and persevering people. He argued that, even as at the period of the survey, quite a lot was wrong then, including the state of the economy. However, the survey then appeared to have confirmed late Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti’s “suffering and smiling” mentality of most Nigerians.
Almost 20 years after, nothing has really changed, he said, particularly with what was seen during the 2020 #ENDSARS nationwide protests against police brutality
PHCN runs until March 16, 2022 at Didi Museum, Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.