Ernest Obukx Agoba

The Emergency Room Artist

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Dangerous Times: Nigeria, Africa, as Observed by an Embattled Artist

“Ile-Ibinu”, Digital Art by Ernest Agoba

Ernest Agoba's startling digital art exhibition in Motna, Jos, might not be for the faint hearted.

Prof. Ernest Agoba

“Paranoia”

In a period of four years, after my last exhibition in Jos, Nigeria, titled, Cracks on the Wall, I slumped into some kind of creative inertia. I managed to sell, for survival purposes, most of the artworks I had planned to use for exhibitions between 2016 and now, 2020.  It is already 2020, a year visited with unbearably agonizing human suffering increased by the afflictions caused by the Covid ’19 virus and continuous attacks by militant terrorists. I was spurred to return to making art by the need to inject hope in the minds of people that cared to look at my works.

Artworks that Elicit the Pains and Pangs of Our time

“Dangerous times”  is coming on the heels of “Cracks on the Walls” which illustrated the failure of Leadership in Nigeria. This follow-up exhibition is presently being done between August 3, 2020 to August 17, 2020. It chronicles the mental and devastating experiences that have surfaced among Nigerians and Africans at large as a result of the suffering brought about by both the Boko Haram and the advent of the ravaging Covid virus.  From classroom drama to pictorial documentations of rehearsals, I have converted experiential and pedagogical classroom engagements to a major exhibition statement in this aptly themed exhibition outing I call, “Dangerous Times”

Consumed-3-

“Consumed” Oil on Canvas, By Ernest Agoba

Broken

“Dripping” Oil on Canvas, By Ernest Agoba

How was I motivated into Creating this Body of Works?

2020 and the successive years, in Africa, came with abundance of pain and insecurity. While mothers and fathers are killing their unborn children, others are selling their children and siblings for paltry sums of money to provide for themselves. Life in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, has never been the same. Every turn we get to provides us with more and more challenges and misery. These are exacerbated by the advent of covid ’19 which has imprisoned people in their anxieties and pains.  While it has become increasingly difficult for Nigerians to cope with medical bills and food supply, the government’s clampdown on social activities has made life more difficult for the people. The rising insecurity in the northwest and north central has continued to be a constant source of disturbance for me. There have been vicious attacks on local communities and the kidnapping of people by criminal groups in these regions. While this is being described by state officials as banditry,  evidence suggests that the government is simplifying the dynamics. In actuality, northwestern and North Central Nigeria have become the safe haven of increasingly active terrorist groups. These include the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS); Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb; a splinter of Boko Haram popularly referred to as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), and the Fulani herdsmen of West Africa once rated the fourth-deadliest terror group in the world. I have christened my artworks that express the pains of our time under a theme I title as, ” A Cry for Help”. In this them of works, as are contained in this exhibition, “Dangerous Times,  I  delve into the tumultuous minds of people struggling to survive a world they did not bargain for. Here, I see man as covertly protective of his deep fears and anxieties, creating affectations  to conceal his weaknesses and storms.  With a world characterized by chaotic and heartbreaking moments, I see man desperately searching for hope in what appears a futility. 

Ernest Agoba's startling digital art exhibition in Motna, Jos, might not be for the faint hearted.

“Ìĺè ìbiñù”, Digital Art,  by Ernest Agoba

“Ìĺè ìbiñù” is a digital art that enacts the vexatiousness that exists in contemporary Africa.  It equally depicts leaders in Africa who heedlessly sow seeds of discords on our soil to produce more discord. Our lands have become mythic lands of vexation, a labyrinth of evil. This work belongs to  my art theme called, ” A Cry for Help”  This work is the outcome of multiple experimentations on a play titled, Red is the Freedom Road, by Femi Osofisan, during rehearsals in the Open Air Theater of the University of Jos, Nigeria.  “Ìĺè ìbiñù” drew a lot of curiosity from my audience. Why would the child be killed by his own father? What does the brooding child in the distance represent? does the precipice around which the stand represent the danger that is portended? the much I could say as an explanation is, “Ìĺè ìbiñù” is a digital art that enacts the vexatiousness with which Africa is presented associated.  It depicts leaders in Africa who heedlessly sow seeds of discords on our soil to produce more discord. Our lands have become mythic lands of vexation, a labyrinth of evil. The symbolic child in the picture is metaphorical of a youth that seems watchful but complacent. This work belongs to  my art theme called, ” A Cry for Help”  

“Bridge Across Troubled Waters 1” Oil on Canvas, By Ernest Agoba

“Bridge Across Troubled Waters 2” Oil on Canvas, By Ernest Agoba

“Bridge Across Troubled Waters” is a stunning painting that portrays a tottery decrepit bridge inside a stormy water. Despite its apparent fragility, the bridge is depicted as firm and steadfast, suggesting that with determination and perseverance, one can overcome even the most challenging of obstacles. The painting invites viewers to reflect on the importance of everyday efforts in achieving success, highlighting the power of small steps towards a larger goal. See more on these paintings here.

“Dark Tunnels” Oil Painting on Canvas 

By Ernest Agoba

“Dark Tunnels” is an evocative oil painting that captures the poignant journey of African youths as they flee their homeland in search of solace and refuge. It is one of a series of tunnels and wilderness paintings still being done by me.   The painting portrays these individuals within a symbolic subterranean passage, representing the arduous and clandestine nature of their quest. Read more and see similar works here.

“The Wilderness” Oil on Canvas, 

by Ernest Agoba

“The Wilderness” portrays a gathering of economically afflicted Africans seeking Succour and solace through spiritual intervention. Set against a backdrop of darkness, the scene unfolds in the night, emphasizing the challenges experienced by the teeming population of Africans in Africa. The color palette of the painting is subdued, with muted tones dominating the scene. Shades of blue and gray evoke a somber atmosphere, while hints of warm earthy tones in the foreground woman symbolize a dim faith, resilience, and connection to their African roots.

“Sheriff Haram” is an oil painting created to lampoon a former Governor in Nigeria. This photo shows the making of the work before this exhibition. An unusually comic approach was used in combination with a grotesque effect to ridicule whom was believed to be one of the reasons for the political instability in the North East and North Central Nigeria.

“Sheriff Haram” a Satirical-Comic Break in Acrylic Painting

Exhibiting these works in 2020 is considered a most arduous task because  of the covid restrictions. However, I saw the need to let people know that art will thrive, even in the most austere situations. Art will not sleep. Art will not hold back. For me, the show must go on.  While it did not quite witness the expected turn out as expected, the radio discussions that accompanied the exhibition was gratifying. 

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