By Omiko Awa
DRESSED in a tee shirt on a pair of jeans trouser and a pair of loafer shoes, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, the Nigeria-born US based artist is on the go, putting finishing touches to her installation, which will among others usher in the 3rd edition of Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF), which begins on Monday.
Working on the sculpture, whose meaning is left for the onlooker to interpret, Ogunbiyi pays attention to the minutest details while we chat.
What had you in mind when you conceptualised this project?
“It was nothing other than the history of Freedom Park, the movement of people overtime from one place to another and, of course, the history of Africa.” She continues, “the shade of Africa at the background of one of the sculptures goes with the theme of the festival, which is, The Black In The Mediterranean Blue.”
Stating that the theme of this year’s edition has some connections with Italy, she adds, “the festival has embark on this concept as a way of connecting Africa and its people to other continents, which are represented in fragments and other forms in the project.”
Using abstract materials such as mirror, chains and block, how then do people understand the message?
“I want to incite curiosity, make people think up ideas and respond to the work based on their personal experience.”
“My work is not a kind of work that shouts loud messages, rather it react to history, contemporary circumstances and then leaves the viewer to react to it in his or her own idea. For example different people have giving the project different interpretations, some say it’s an object of worship while another group would want me to tell them every thing about it; and when I do not give them the answers they expect, they feel discouraged and leave,”she informs.
TITLED, The Possibility Of The Past’s Progress, Ogunbiyi says, “this particular piece deals with the immigration of people from African to other continents in the world, it takes a retrospective look on the past and how that past has prepared us for today and the future. It recalls the history of slavery and bondage and as well speaks of contemporary forms of slavery, whether sex slave, child labour, imperialism, mental enslavement, economic or social bondage.”
And the chain! “Yes, chains do not always connote slavery or bondage; in this case, it could mean intimacy, networking and connecting people of diverse climes and creed together,” Ogunbiyi notes.
With theme that cuts across borders what exactly would you want the audience to take home from the festival? “Courage, she continues, I want to encourage them to think for themselves and reflect on their personal histories. Encouraging them to look above those things that hindered or limited them from attaining their personal or collective goals. It is also to spur them to think about artworks and its ability to preserve and disseminate information for a better society.”
Thinking the sculpture will have glittering colours to reflect diverse races across the globe, Ogunbiyi retorts, “I want to integrate the work to the environment, make it have that natural effect, so, painting it is of no use because it would make it lose its natural appeal.
Speaking on the importance of art show to the festival, Ogunbiyi, a graduate of Princeton University, Yale School of Art, Norfolk Summer Residency Programme and Columbia University, all in the US, notes, “art is an integral part of culture and anytime you have cultural discuss the first that comes to mind is cultural connection and exchange. Art in its entirety — basic, creative, visual, drama, dance — has an interesting way of discussing people and history.”
As part of the projects to be unveiled for public use on Monday, Ogunbiyi informs that Kemi Akindoju will use the installation as a stage for her monologue.
APART from Broken Weaves and New Paintings, which she showed in Lagos, Ogunbiyi has featured in group shows such as A Kilo of Hope, at the Yusuf Grillo Gallery, School of Art, Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Lagos; All We Ever Wanted, at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Sabo, Yaba, Lagos; grand finale of African Artists Foundation (AAF)/Nigerian Breweries (NB)-organised national art competition tagged Documenting Changes; and others outside the country.