It is normal: we interpret art differently, whether they are abstract or representational; and the installations by May Okafor ( titled “Of Consummates and Cannibalism”) wasn’t an exception.
When I walked into the Revolving Art Incubator (Silverbird Galleria) in Victoria Island on its opening night last Friday, I felt like I was entering a world under attack by creeping alien creatures, which dotted a large part of the gallery’s white walls. They appeared to be invading the space from everywhere possible: a hole in the ceiling, the glass windows to the far right and underneath the door on the ground floor, like locusts streaming towards ripen cashew crops on a plantation.
On closer inspection, though, the greyish-black tailed objects cut the image of sperms, all of them seemingly scrambling in the direction of an ovary and aiming to fertilise that lone egg, except that the “egg” in question is actually a much bigger version of them, torn apart in large chunks with the remains pulled in different directions.
Another visitor I chatted with thought they looked like tadpoles just hatched and released into a watery habitat. But, in actual fact, the perceived sperm-tadpoles represent us, Nigerians mercilessly and thoughtlessly devouring our own country with our unchecked appetite for all things imported.
According to installation and ceramic artist May Okafor, “Of Consummates & Cannibalism”explores the total infiltration of foreign goods and services into homes and organisations in Nigeria.”
Okafor, who teaches at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, is at a loss why “Nigeria imports toothpicks from China, made from bamboo sticks which we have in abundance in the country…I cannot help but wonder how bad this would get in a decade from now if this habit is not checked.”
Besides bamboo, the apple also feeds and tortures Okafor’s imagination and creativity. She wonders where we grew our craving for the fruit shipped in mostly from South Africa. So to make her point, she fetches large quantities of the apple crates which she cuts into various shapes and sizes to make the art on display at the RAIncubator. One of them is titled “A is for Apple”, another is titled “Eden”, an indirect reference, I suppose, to the Biblical incident between Adam, Eve and the serpent.
“Take a trip to an average Nigerian food store and notice availability of apples in quantum despite their relative high cost. What has happened to locally grown fruits like orange, cashew, udara, pear, guava, date palm, melon, mango and the likes?”
*The Exhibition is open till March 2017.