Recently the exhibition "Playing with Chance" opened at the Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos where I work part time. It was a privilege and honour to curate the work of international artist El Anatsui alongside international curator Bisi Silva who is also the director at CCA,Lagos. I usually don't share work stuff here but I just had to, how many times do you get to curate the work of such a great artist and along side a great curator, I'm honoured and blessed! Thank you Bisi Silva for the opportunity.
For those who have met El Anatsui before you would know he is a man who doesn’t say much about his work (but with a good sense of humour) but it seems he has his moments when he does although they are rare. Even in his interviews he really doesn’t say much. But don’t be fooled there’s a lot going on within him and it is all laid bare through this exhibition.
The show opened on Friday 14th March 2014 to celebrate the artist's 70th birthday and it takes an archival route. Rather than focusing on the finished works of the artist, we show sketches, drawings, and (insightful) letters relating to most of his works we know today. Who keeps hand written letters from over 20 years ago??? What of pay slips from his teaching years at Nnsuka?? Its all laid bare at CCA,Lagos.
Who knew he was a painter? what about his famous "Broken Pots" series bet you never heard of those. Also on display is “fold crumble crush” a documentary on El Anatsui, interviews, as well as images of his paintings and broken pots series, much earlier works from the artist. We also had the privilege of loaning one of his earliest works from 1973 and 1974: his trays, from the collection of Omooba Yemisi Shyllon.
Also in the exhibition is the work of 3 of his students when he was a teacher at the university Nnsuka (he was more a teacher than a lecturer it seems) Nnenna Okorie, Lucy Azubuike and Amarachi Okafor, women doing great work in the art scene today.
El Anatsui has been an inspiration to me for a long time, he was one of the first artists I came to know about when in Yabatech so having access to his archive and fliping through his sketch books has been an amazing experience (they are in glass boxes for the show and cannot be touched, that is the advantage of being a curator and working with Bisi Silva hehehe).
I doubt any other space in the “world” has had this kind of opportunity like CCA,Lagos to show this amount of archival material in one space from this amazing artist, in books maybe, but not firsthand (please correct me if I’m wrong). Hence I urge everyone to see this show before it ends on the 12th of April. Like I have been telling everyone I invite; it isn’t a “breeze through” exhibition, you need to dedicate some good hours to see this show. After you see it, you would experience El Anatsui and his work in a completely different light and even fall in love with his works if you weren’t before.
|Chatting with El... he's gat jokes|
Again I feel really blessed. It was a lot of work putting it together and I really didn’t think it would make such an impact while we set it up, but after the opening, that was when I realized that I shouldn’t take it likely. Infact I realised a lot shouldn’t be taken likely, people we meet, relationships we have, places we go, nothing should be taken likely but appreciated by taking advantage of or acted upon.
By the first day, half of the brochures were gone; everyone wanted a poster , just anything from this artist.
It has indeed been an amazing experience.
CCA,Lagos is located at 9 McEwen Street Sabo Yaba, Lagos Nigeria. Visit www.ccalagos.org. for more info on the show. Be sure to book a weekend appointment if you can't make it during the week.