• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Kamal Atiku: Badagry artist, who spotlights Egun heritage through his works

Kamal Atiku: Badagry artist, who spotlights Egun heritage through his works

In 2013, the Nigerian visual art scene witnessed the debut of a new kid on the block.

His debut followed a strong decision to follow his passion instead of furthering his education to become a lawyer, as his parents wished then.

Today, about 11 years down the line, Kamal Atiku has risen to be reckoned among fast-rising contemporary Nigerian visual artists.

Atiku, an indigene of Badagry, the border town in Lagos State, is most importantly, an Egun son. The self-taught artist is very proud of his Egun culture and heritage that he dedicated his art career to his Egun heritage.

He majors in abstract painting on canvas and wood carvings. But the works all depict Egun people and their heritage.

“I paint on canvas, mainly abstract and I do wood carving. But my works, both wood carving and paintings talk more of Badagry, especially the Egun people and their heritage,” Atiku explains.

Tracing his journey in visual art, Atiku recalls, “I do not have a formal training in Visual Art. My grandfather built the zeal and passion for art in me, then he used to carve slate for Arabic writing and also Tesbih or rosary used by Muslims for prayers. That was when I picked interest in art.

“I pushed further after the passion for art ignited by my grandfather and I started making ‘Sato’ drum, a cultural drum. It combines all the Egun culture in Badagry, Ogun State and in Benin Republic”.

However, the artist’s love for the Sato drum has no match. He is renowned as the only artist that carves Sato drum in the whole of Badagry.

The drum is a cultural and heritage object, with huge importance in Egunland. It is special with carvings and abstract things on the body.

Explaining the rationale for that specialty, Atiku says that Sato drum is the main cultural heritage of the Egun people across Badagry, Ogun State and in Benin Republic.

“The drum is a symbol of unity for the Egun people. So, I use the Sato drum to represent the Egun people.”

I only carve Sato drums, and the carvings on the drums talk about a particular place in Egunland. I can talk about my community on carving and other places too.

“Those things on the drums talk about my origin and other relevant heritage of the Egun people, like the river in my village that is revered because it offers healing for my people, among others like the Osun River,” he says.

There are many stories on the body of the Sato drum, but they all point to the heritage of the whole Egun people, the artist said.

Also, his paintings do the same heritage promotion for the Egun people.

Apart from boosting his heritage, he also uses his works to counter the jest by other tribes about the Egun people as people with lowly lives, less educated and less exposed.

“These are not true of my people,” he differs. “We are educated, very creative and hardworking people. Probably, they take our simplicity and honesty as weakness”.

He also explains that, “My abstract paintings look scary and funny. I use their looks to signify the Egun people based on how people look at them and the way they say things to them, especially derogatory things”.

But Atiku is not in haste to sell his works despite the fact that they are highly sought-after by collectors and galleries.

“Whenever I make a piece of work, I am not always in a haste to give it out to collectors. I have a special attachment to my works and only those who recognize the attachment can easily get the works from me.

“Patronage is not an issue for me because I am careful in selling my art, but the more I create works and post on Instagram, I see a lot of positive comments and that feeds me very well.

I am fine with that. I believe that when it is time, the right offer will come.

But I keep on creating works; I work anytime of the day depending on the inspiration,” he explains further.

He also recognized the fact that sales have been slow in recent times, probably due to the economic realities.

Offering other reasons for the slow sales, he says, “For collectors, art is not by force, it is by choice, I don’t force myself on people or force people to buy my work. When my art speaks to you, you will definitely find me”.

Those qualities are what have made his works sought-after by big collectors from Croatia, some from the Arab countries and many in Nigeria too.

Well, he also connects with other artists through joint exhibitions since his first exhibition in 2013 at the Badagry Museum. He has exhibited in Togo, and in Mydrim Gallery Ikoyi last year, while looking forward to a solo exhibition soon.

The fulltime studio artist is also open to collaborations and even plans to have a residency with Bob Nosa, and Muyiwa Akinwolere, an artist living in Badagry.

Of course, he plans to bequeath his creative ingenuity to the younger generation artists, who are under his tutelage at present.

“I have a lot of boys that are under my tutelage, about 15 of them”.

In the next five years, he insists that his works will be where they are supposed to be because as an artist, “your work should speak for you”.

His works are in private and public collections and at Adeline Gallery, Sachs Gallery and Mydrim Gallery.

Of course, he plans to bequeath his creative ingenuity to the younger generation artists, who are under his tutelage at present.

“I have a lot of boys that are under my tutelage, about 15 of them,” he concluded.