BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
IN Cascade, the painter Ben Osaghae taps from waterfall to get a theme for his ongoing show at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.
With works such as Battle for Survival, Black Market, Absentee Father, Prayer Warriors series, Pump Price and Prison Foods among 32 others on display, there is no mistake about the show’s focus. “The theme really represents my feelings,” he declares.
Osaghae uses what he describes as the force of waterfalls to express his thought. A depiction of mother and child surrounded by rifles and other related arms, explains how the artist sees an average Nigerian attitude to survive in life. Job Hunt, Pump Price and Pay Toilet also underscore this so-called survival instinct.
Is the average Nigerian really as resilient as Osaghae’s thoughts on canvas are? “Yes,” he argues. From Lagos to Enugu and part of the North, the artist recalls his experience, saying, “I had lived in some of these places and seen all sorts of hardship people go through to make a living. Nigerians would do anything, legitimate, to earn a living.”
Few years ago, Osaghae did something on the country’s fuel crisis, bringing out the sufferings Nigerians pass through.
“We just can’t give up as there is more potential for this country to excel,” he intones as he uses works to solicit for better society.
And this decay in value starts early with what he notes as “the young facing the rigour of education.”
The piece, Page 75, oil on canvas, says much about this real and imagined ‘rigour’ of a student, who on graduation is thrown into the labour market with little or no hope to survive.
Really, the student hardly enjoys the fun of being a youth, because “the excitement is no longer there in schools,” Osaghae argues as he compares his school days with what prevails today.
VISUAL art, naturally, is intellectual enough. But with Osaghae, it’s deeper, a potential for exclusivity in an environment that is less receptive to higher intellectual reasoning.
Perhaps, this is one subject he would rather avoid as he says, he is not conscious of any “unusual intellectuality” buried in his work.
In Prison Food and the Prayer Warrior series, among others, these intellectual depths are delineated. Treatment of prison inmates as exemplified in the quality of foods, is as divisive as the bars that separate the prison inmates and their guards. A prison system should be reformative and not “hardening the inmates.”
To survive, many cling to religion, which is fast becoming a money-spinning venture as against the spiritual lifting and direction it’s purported to serve. However, Osaghae’s Prayer Warrior has hope that the religious institution, despite the challenges, could offer “optimism and counseling.”
FOR Osaghae, being conceptual is total. He argues that the power of the artist’s imagination should not be eroded just because there are models and photo assists. He states: “If I come across a scene that fascinates me, I simply record it in my memory and go straight to the canvas.”
The best in every scene is achieved if “you experience it first”, before releasing on canvas, the former art teacher at the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State stresses.