Victor Ekpuk is an across the world famend Nigerian artist recognized for his art work impressed by way of historic African writing and graphic writing programs. INTERwoven TEXTures is his first solo exhibition on the essential Efiɛ gallery in Dubai within the United Arab Emirates. There he has additionally unveiled his public artwork set up commissioned as a part of the inaugural Dubai Calligraphy Biennale. It makes him the primary African artist to show a public sculpture within the nation.
Ekpuk’s paintings demanding situations in style representations of Africa as a continent with out writing. (And as a result missing in historical past, civilisation, innovation and success.) As a critical heritage professor, I’ve studied and taught Ekpuk’s paintings to scholars for years. So I used to be overjoyed to view the exhibition and interview the artist in Dubai as a part of my ongoing analysis into his paintings.
Exploring “conventional” graphic writing bureaucracy along side his personal taste of abstraction, Ekpuk creates a brand new textual content. Person who displays each ancient and fresh Africa, but additionally reaches past the continent. His newest exhibition represents an impressive intervention. In his personal phrases:
I need my works to be beginning issues for discussion, new discoveries into the variations and commonalities amongst cultures.
African writing and graphic writing traditions
African writing and graphic writing programs date again to antiquity. They existed in Egypt, Kush, Meroë, the Carthaginian Empire and the previous Greek and Roman colonies, in addition to in Islamic Sahara, Sahel and the savanna. The well-known libraries of Alexandria and Timbuktu underscore the centrality of writing and literacy. Working in any respect ranges of society, writing and graphic writing include sacred powers, symbolic associations and esoteric attributes providing therapeutic and coverage – as specialized wisdom, even though best understood by way of a discovered few or initiated individuals.
In Africa, writing and graphic writing programs transcribe, transmit and archive wisdom into visible illustration. They come with pictographs (non-abstract), ideograms (summary) and alphabetic scripts (in response to phonetic inscription).
Nsibidi (pronounced nn-see-bee-dee) is an indigenous ideographic script that Ekpuk attracts inspiration from. It incorporates 1000 indicators, together with nouns, verbs and entire ideas. It originated within the fifth century a number of the Ejagham other people in south-eastern Nigeria and south-western Cameroon. It unfold to neighbouring ethnic teams, together with the Igbo, Efik, Ibibio, Efut and Banyang, the place it flourished from the 1600s to 1800s. Within the 1700s, nsibidi unfold to Cuba in the course of the transatlantic slave trade, the place it used to be maintained by way of enslaved Africans.
Nsibidi is related to the Ekpe society, a male ritual affiliation in Nigeria. However it additionally performs a task in day by day social existence, philosophy, cosmologies and verbal exchange. Lately, nsibidi, and the designs impressed by way of (or that emulate) the script are inscribed into the bottom. They’re additionally carried out to different “coded” items (like fabric and carvings), scarifications and tattoos.
The artist and his follow
I may draw prior to I may write. I used to be all the time scratching outdoor within the soil.
His wisdom of nsibidi dates again to his adolescence, via his grandfather. However it wasn’t till he used to be an artwork pupil at Obafemi Awolowo College in Ife that he changed into occupied with nsibidi, despite the fact that he isn’t a member of the affiliation. This resulted in his adaptation, amendment and (re)invention of nsibidi into his personal signature “script”, which he humorously describes as his “scribblings”.
Ekpuk’s occupation started as a political cartoonist and illustrator in Nigeria within the Nineteen Eighties. Over the last 40 years, he has created an in depth frame of drawings, artwork, collages, virtual prints, sculpture, large-scale work of art, ephemeral performative artwork and room-size installations. Globally impressed, his paintings offers with the histories and fresh considerations of Africans and other people of African descent within the diaspora. However additionally it is focused on the wider human situation. It’s each common and explicit and engages various audiences.
Ekpuk’s art work is characterized by way of intricate, large-scale compositions that merge African writing, wisdom and aesthetics together with his personal creative expression.
His visible grammar is composed of indicators, symbols and contours that to start with seem easy however if truth be told constitute complicated concepts. They’re multidirectional scripts (right-to-left, left-to-right, top-to-bottom, centre outwards) created in “no explicit course … no explicit line of movement”. Just a few inscriptions are translatable in step with nsibidi traditions. His strikingly daring and vibrantly colored scripts are minimum but intricate, separate however hooked up, previous and provide.
Ekpuk’s works are housed in primary global artwork collections. He helps to keep some works, particularly his early ones, as a result of they record his private historical past. His non-public assortment is for his circle of relatives, specifically his son, who he feels will have to inherit one of the vital paintings. He chuckles:
Every now and then I even purchase them again – if the costs are inexpensive!
Ekpuk’s new solo, curated by way of Awam Amkpa, is composed of artwork on canvas, artwork on picket and free-standing steel sculptures.
Coinciding with the exhibition, the artist unveiled Passage to Promise, a putting interactive architectural public sculpture that encourages audience to stroll via its human formed doorway. He additionally not too long ago offered his paintings on the Dubai Museum of the Future the place he mentioned his embracing of writing traditions, ancestral wisdom and aesthetics within the Manuscript Sequence.
On this art work, Ekpuk’s brilliance fuses nsibidi, Arabic, hieroglyphics and artwork onto Qur’anic forums (hired for educating Arabic, copying and memorising the Qur’an). This imbues his art work with bizarre creative and symbolic energy. (He used newly bought wood forums out of appreciate for those items’ sacred nature.)
Ekpuk’s paintings inscribes a couple of, complicated layers of data and that means, difficult us to reconsider now not best how however what we see. The paintings takes on a lifetime of its personal via audience’ eyes, studies, emotions and creativeness. It’s befitting that Ekpuk applies phrases like “mining” and “excavation” to his paintings.
Why he issues
Ekpuk’s creative innovation attracts on his politics, philosophies, analysis and creativeness – along his wisdom of a limiteless visible and subject material repertoire of historic writing and graphic writing programs in addition to items from right through the African continent. Importantly, he appropriates and transforms nsibidi into new bureaucracy, demonstrating its dynamism and importance these days.
Ekpuk’s presence within the United Arab Emirates marks a transformative ancient, cultural and creative second. Neatly gained by way of audiences, he firmly inserts African artwork into the area. He invitations us to (re)read about simplistic definitions of calligraphy, the limits between structure, sculpture and script, the distinctions between writing, graphic writing and artwork – and to eagerly wait for his subsequent creations.