By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
The opening of ‘Blackouts’, the first solo show by Abuja-based Chike Emembo in a decade, was graced by an enthusiastic and engaged audience. Held captive by the works on display, many of them were either arguing about intellectual positions or in a passionate discussion. Some of them looked at the work in a most spellbound manner. This is totally expected, of course, being that the art debuted also includes new directions from the artist, shown on the massive walls of the famous Orisun Gallery, in Central Area, Abuja.
After the tape had been cut and the exhibition declared open, Emembo, alongside the curator of the exhibition, Susa Rodriguez-Garrido, engaged guests as refreshments were served. In attendance were many artists, enthusiasts, and collectors. Journalists also interviewed the artist, the curator, as well as attendees on their impressions of the work.
One thing stands out about all the work, typical of the artist’s work: A boldness of colour, theme, and composition, as well as a brilliance that makes a good number of them come across as instantly iconic.
About half of the 22 works are in the same vein as Emembo’s work of the past five years, while the other half showcases his evolution and growth, as well as forays into newer materials. But one thing stands out about all the work, typical of the artist’s work: A boldness of colour, theme, and composition, as well as a brilliance that makes a good number of them come across as instantly iconic.
Speaking of iconic, also evident across Emembo’s oeuvre is his tendency to feature black-skinned subjects within biblical contexts and iconography. According to him, it is important that the Bible is recognized as a multicultural book. “Accurately presenting the icons provides some form of acceptance and closure for the underrepresented,” he said.
Also evident across Emembo’s oeuvre is his tendency to feature black-skinned subjects within biblical contexts and iconography.
Buttressing those points, the curator of the exhibition, Rodriguez-Garrido, added that the works touch on theological themes, interspersed with socio-cultural content. She also said: “It is time for Africans to define themselves, rather than compare themselves with something from the outside, and art events like ‘Blackouts’ are a good opportunity to reflect and debate crucial arguments like this one.”
Femi Coker, the Manager of Orisun Gallery, thanked guests and closed with a statement that declared the exhibition a tribute to great Nigerian artists, of which he also added Emembo is becoming one.
The ‘Blackouts’ exhibition was slated to remain open till Sunday, 26th June, but it has been extended till Friday, 1st July for an encore viewing, at the Orisun Gallery, situated within Tropic Galleria, adjacent to Grand Square, Central Area, Abuja.