In an ongoing solo exhibition in a Lagos-based art space, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka-based Ozioma Onuzulike breathes new life into time-worn themes with the deft manipulation of his trademark mediums. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports
Trust Ozioma Onuzulike to leave behind a trail of nuggets at each of his career’s many eureka moments, which – more often than not – tend to leave his adept devotees in awe. And, as one of these moments, his 2018 solo exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Yaba, Lagos, which was complemented by the artist’s poetry collection, fits the bill. It was indeed first at that exhibition, which was the 10th among his solos, that he drew uncanny parallels between yam tubers and motionless bodies encased in body bags. He further explains: “When sorted and tied together (like in a typical African yam barn), they remind me not only of how African slaves were in the past crammed in slave ships like mere commodities but also how they are today tightly packed in trucks and boats hazarding the desert and the sea with the hope of going to ‘grow’ better in a more conducive environment. Many have been lost in transit.”
This above assertion – premised on his metaphorical allusion to Africa’s youth population as its yam seedlings – was a nod to the fact that yam seedlings used to be seen among his Igbo kinsmen as pointers to every family’s hopes for sustenance and wealth. Hence, that exhibition’s title Seed Yams of Our Land....