Ernest Obukx Agoba

The Emergency Room Artist

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Shadows That Follow Me: Dark Forms and Patterns in my Palettes – By Ernest Agoba

Today is the 14th day of May 2022, marking the end of this art exhibition in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.  The Exhibition theme, “The shadows that Follow Me” was inspired by the hunt for me by a group of people that I may have unwittingly offended in my last exhibition in Jos, Nigeria. Some of the artworks in that exhibition frontally attacked the Boko Haram, their sponsors, and philosophy. Some others were caustic and subtle protest against the leadership regime of APC in Nigeria. I however did not know the effect or severity of these criticisms until most of the paintings that had been displayed in that exhibition were both burnt and destroyed on Saturday, June 5th, 2021. 

“Stalking” Acrylic on Canvas: 20″ x 20″

Some Remains of my 2021 Exhibition 

Since this incident, I went into hiding seeing only shadows. I was getting insane. What did I need to do? Paranoia, anxiety, and fear were the words I could use to establish my state. The result of that became a collection of shadow images that reflect a state of mind I have managed to tame.  Would the works of an artist directed at  critiquing people and leadership styles really matter in today’s world? Could the destruction of most of the works in that exhibition have been because I painted images to deride those in government or the Boko haram terrorist group? Should I have been less direct, or more subtle? Would being subtle as a painter create any discernible impact in a society that has become more deleterious, more egregious in its onslaught?  

“Memories of the Past”:  Oil on Canvas: 24″ x 36″  (2022)  

“Strings of Fear”: Oil on Canvas: 24″ x 36″  (2022) 

More than ever before, my mind is more occupied with the thought of freedom not only for the victims who are going through all forms of torture on a daily basis in Nigeria but for me who have suddenly gotten in front of their view. Every day, now, I see shadows on the walls, on the ceiling, on the patio, and on the walkways of my mind.  The herdsman’s shadows follow me everywhere I go, With sticks, horns, guns, and knives, he followed me. But I BASK ON THE FREEDOM  that truth offers. From south to north, from north to south did i flee, hiding from my shadows. Even as I ran, it followed me, even as I slept, it followed me. To my bed, in my dreams, I saw those nagging shadows. In pursuit, they followed me. But why did I call these my shadows? Because the fear of them is taking hold of me.

“Shadows in the Street” Oil on Canvas: 20″ x 20″ (2022)

Like Michael Allan Castle would say,

Oh, anxiety, you ravenous beast that preys upon my troubled mind,
With every breath, your grip increases,
And leaves me restless, undefined.

You slither and slide, in shadows cast,
And lurk behind each passing thought,
A gnawing hunger, that eats at last,
And leaves me consumed and distraught.

You whisper in my ear at night,
And haunt my every waking hour,
A dark specter that’s out of sight,
Yet wields a mighty, crushing power.

You twist and turn my every dream,
And color every waking moment,
A gnawing, nagging, ceaseless scream,
That steals my peace and leaves torment.

You are the raven, perched above,
A harbinger of death and woe,
The constant, cawing, carrion dove,
That feeds on all I love and know.

And yet, despite your fearsome might,
And all the pain you bring to bear,
I vow to face you with my might,
And banish you into thin air.

For though you linger at my door,
And threaten to consume my soul,
I know that I am so much more,
And in the end, I shall be whole

“Groping “  Digital Painting on Canvas: 20″ x 20″ (2022)