Ernest Obukx Agoba

The Emergency Room Artist


What Have We Done? – Diaries of Ernest Agoba, an Outraged Professor and Visual Artist

Art: Fighting With Forms and Colours

Protest Art Exhibition by Ernest Obukx Agoba in MOTNA, Jos, Nigeria

Today, a strong spirit of guilt welled up inside of me. I am probably not doing enough to express the anguish of people in my country. Things were going terribly wrong. I should have done something to either prevent this or assuage it.  I could not understand how such a strange nagging thought would come occupying and eating me up from the depth of my mind. What could I have done to prevent it? I wasn’t one of the leaders in the land. Neither was I in the position of authority to know when the crises were coming. It took a period of one week before I could come to terms with these creepy thoughts. I was a metaphor that reflected every single person in my society or country.

A Thin Long Thread” Oil Painting on Canvas – 70 inches (177 cm) x 24 inches (61cm). This work expresses the pressures our burdens and troubles put on the threads that sustain us from falling

“A Thought Too Long” Oil on Canvas – 70 inches (177 cm) x 24 inches (61cm).   Rendered in blues, it reflects the thought into which man is daily immersed. 

Confronting the Double-faced Enemy

If everyone understands the precepts of peacekeeping and leadership, it will be easy to understand why I carried this nagging thought for a while. What did I do on my own to mitigate it, or completely avoid it? Did I publish articles to educate people on the evils of war? Did I hold any workshops to sensitize people on the need for peace? I couldn’t do any of those. Then another rather rebuffing question popped up: As an artist, a lawyer, a teacher, or engineer, what did we do collectively to ensure we live peaceably? Reflecting on these thoughts, it immediately occurred to me that if one does not use his profession to protect the world and sensitize people to the need for lasting peace, one may be wasting his time on earth over inconsequential matters. I had no peace until I carried my brushes and paints and began to paint experimentally.  Trying different styles, I painted and made photography depicting the pains of evil leadership and of the agonies of war.  This is what informed the need for me to address myself as the emergency room artist. I am particularly pained that Nigerians are not courageous enough say the truth, face the truth, and fight the enemies even in the face of truth. Today, this exhibition is titled “What Have We Done” to both denote the cry of helplessness, anguish, and protest, and to denote the question of inaction and complacency that we so often put up whenever actions are required to be taken. “What Have We Done” is a fresh body of work that populates the work series titled, “A Cry for Help” in my website and body of works.  A number of the works subtly address the problem of the Boko Haram terrorists in our midst. These works do more than mere aesthetic expression by going further to mention names in both poetic and direct manners.   Prominent amongst these are the ones titled, “Shadows of Shakau” and “The Face of Kashim”. These express my anger with two of the ones I believe are the sponsors of the dreaded Boko Haram and Fulani terrorists in Nigeria. “The Face of Kashim” is a splurge of colors that carries the hate and fear generated by Kashim Ibrahim. While the works themselves may not fully express these subject matters, the paper and physical explanations that come with them did a lot to explain these.



“The Face of Kashim”  is an oil painting on canvas that captures Ernest Agoba’s dilemma on whether to, or whether not to make it realistic for fear of  apprehension. This oil painting was created to lampoon the 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 pictorially satirize him.   Making a real face of a real antagonist  would  invite the wrath of  that person. I fought relentlessly in this painting to move away from verisimilitude. While doing that, I risked the possibility of the work losing its impact.  After much efforts to reduce the look alike, I realized  the painting still looked like Kashim Shetima, someone I was convinced was a patron of the dreaded Boko Haram. 

Other Artworks in Exhibition

“The Pawn God” is an oil painting on canvas. It measures 72″ inches x 54″ inches. This painting illustrates the paradox of life that sees us all as pawns and as gods. 

“Dark and Lonely” is a digital photographic art that portrays the dingy uncertain world of women who are often captured and raped by militant terrorists 

“Gritty”.  In this work, I portrayed light as symbolizing hope and strength in times of fear. It measures 2 ft. x 3 ft.

“Shame” As depicted in “Dark and Lonely”, “Shame” is an extension of  the problem  of violence against the female gender

Metaphor of Tunnel and the Symbol of the African Struggles

A major feature in this exhibition is the crowd and tunnel symbolism coupled with subjects coupled with subjects on anxiety, escape and immigration. 

“Light in the Tunnel” is a 5 ft. x 7 ft. oil painting equally featured in the exhibition, “Dangerous Times”  It connotes the search by man for light and a panacea to the perianal troubles in his world.  In the course of this search, the beginnings are occasioned by anxieties and circumspection.

“Dark Tunnels 2”  is another from a series of my tunnel  paintings that capture the dangerous journeys of African youths as they flee their homeland in search of solace and refuge. This painting portrays these individuals within a symbolic subterranean passage, representing the arduous and clandestine nature of their quest.

“The Herdsmen Flight” 

“The Herdsmen Flight” is an oil  painting that captures a dramatic and intense moment in time during a hot pursuit by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. The artwork depicts a young girl desperately fleeing from a group of menacing mad cows and enraged herdsmen. The scene is set against a vast, open landscape with an eerie, murky atmosphere. I tried to portray chaos and fear in the viewer  through the fiery looks of the cows and the girl’s disheveled hair and torn clothing that both indicate the urgency for her escape. Fulani herdsmen horrors are recurring tales amongst farmers in both North Central and North Eastern Nigeria. 

“No Where to Go” Oil Painting on Canvas, 

by Ernest Agoba

“Nowhere to Go” portrays the harsh reality faced by Africans seeking refuge and safety in their own lands.  The tunnel, like my other tunnel artworks, symbolizes the arduous journeys Africans undertake, as they flee from the horrors of internal crises and fear of annihilation as they seek passages to freedom. The thin obscure light within the tunnel represents the absence of leadership and, thus, the difficulty in finding a way forward. The absence of any discernible destination adds to the feeling of aimlessness and the elusive nature of their quest for safety. The composition draws attention to the collective experience of these individuals, highlighting their shared plight and the unity that emerges from their shared struggle.