Arts & Design

Young Artists Show Different Perspectives On “Japa’ Phenomenon, Identity in ‘Journeys’

One of the works at the exhibition

The trend of ‘Brain drain’ also known as ‘Japa’ in Nigeria’s local parlance is not peculiar to Nigeria alone but across Africa and Asia. The desire to travel in search of a better life or greener pastures has always been part of human life and reasons for migrating may differ for each individual. This development is the focus of the on-going summer exhibition by SMO Contemporary Art titled ‘Journeys.’

The show which runs till September 10 is hosted by Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi where 33 art pieces from 10 young artists are on display. Among them is Prudence Chimutuwah a Zimbabwean with a striking collage of oil paintings made with Zimbabwean decommissioned bank notes, snippets from prints, and letters. Also, the poignant surreal portraits by Praise Sanni-Adeniyi reflected the mental and emotional struggles most people encounter on their physical and meta-physical journeys.

Also on display are bold sculptures of Collins Abinoro and Ejiro Fenegal created out of stone, marble dust, newspaper clippings, and up-cycled cutlery serving visual commentaries on governance, identity, and spirituality.

There are works from Ademola Ojo, Aluu Prosper and Robert Oniha. Others are Iniobong Usoro, Sanjo Lawal and Tuminunu Gbebire. Their creative pieces explored various questions about life journeys. The young artists present a cross-generational analysis of critical themes such as cultural identity and rootedness, the physical, and spiritual quest for homes, and humanity’s yearning for safety, abundance, and a place for enfolding.

Majid Biggar, SMO Gallery Manager and the exhibition’s curator shared her thoughts on the show’s overarching theme, “The theme ‘Journeys’ as an expression was inspired by the current brain drain going on in Africa—the Japa phenomenon is where people leave Nigeria for greener pastures. Over the past years, we realised that this scenario is not limited to particular people in Nigeria. It cuts across fields and demographics. We decided to do an exhibition to explore the trend of why people move and why they are leaving Nigeria.

“In our research, we discovered that it is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, some people migrate from Asia and all over the place and we decided to expand the scope of the expression. We are now looking at what is pushing people to leave their country. What are the physical, spiritual, and emotional reasons why people go on this type of journey? You don’t necessarily have to move to go on a journey, it could be a journey of retrospection. There are different types of journey people take.”

The participating artists are essentially mid-career and emerging artists from Nigeria and Zimbabwe with paintings, mixed media work and sculptures. The artworks would be on display for two months at Wheatbaker Hotel.

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