The return of potteries

Potteries, clays and ceramics have resurfaced in the Nigerian art scene in an ongoing exhibition in Lagos.  It is tagged Potters in Town – Vision in clay.  Edozie Udeze reports

For a long time, the visual arts family in Nigeria was missing potteries and clays.  While paintings and sculptures occupied the centre stage in all artistic spheres, potters, clay-makers, ceramists and the like remained in limbo.  But that phenomenon is over now.  There’s an ongoing exhibition of potteries, clays and ceramics at the Moorehouse Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos where seven artists are showcasing their works.  The seven artists are Ato Arinze, Chinenye Emelogu, Sheriff Ojetunde, May Okafor, Chris Klay Ekuafeh, Nathalie Djakou Kassi, and Afam Augustine Okwudili.

Tagged Potters in Town – Vision in clay, it is another artistic insight into the future.  This future seeks to give its members a platform to showcase their individual prowess while maintaining certain commonalities.  “Therefore, in the process of exploring this traditional means of expression the ceramists and potters more or less excavate their cultural histories, seeking new energies, vigour, and advanced techniques in order to reenact their material culture which their society is known for”, so said, May Okafor one of the exhibitors and a lecturer in Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.

Her statement is to further give impetus to this idea of vision in clay put together by Ato Arinze.  It is not just to further explore the boundaries of potteries, it is equally an idea embedded in promoting the profound creative resume of the artists.  It is to help them bring to the fore their varied experiences, which over the years have also defined their styles, forms and techniques.

Now, using clay materials, it is easier to glimpse through their different approaches; as their works speak different languages, with the interplay of several other ceramic and non-ceramic materials.  These include glaze, entomb, oxide, varnish and soot.  Combined together, they give this array of rich potteries, their rare taste, class and beauty.

According to Ekuafeh, one of the artists, trained at the famous Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria, “It is the Igbo people who say that it is when you wake up that your morning starts.  We have to start now and start at all.  It was something we overlooked, while playing around other options.  After the exhibition we had last year, we decided to move back to clay.  We saw the light and said okay, this is possible.  Then we came together to have this vision in clay.  We intend to have it every year.  With time, people will begin to see and value it,” Ekuafeh, whose works on display deeply transcended both the Igarra, his tribe in Edo State and Northern Nigeria, where he grew up, said.

In his opinion, it is only they, the potters who can make this art internationally – renowned.  “Somehow, the awareness is growing on social media”, he noted.  “It is for us to hold our ground now so that internationally, we can grow; we can reach out to other parts of the world.  Potteries give plenty of beauty to the world.  Let me talk about Nigeria. Pottery here in Nigeria, is our art, it is first before painting.  We have our representations on the twenty naira note.  You can always see pottery elegantly displayed there.  For us therefore the decorative aesthetic functional beauty of pottery can never be overlooked”.

Pottery gives total beauty to the house; it is amazing when the beauty is displayed in an environment that is otherwise drab and dry.  In one of his works tagged maiden, Ekuafeh zeroed down on the beauty of women; how their elegance often helps to soften the surface of the earth.  He said, “this represents the woman, their forms and beauty, the role they play in the home, in the society; in our lives generally.  This goes round and round and comes back to fertility.  Everything a woman puts in place or so, her fertility is her core value”, he said.

According to Arinze, who is the progenitor of this show, vision in clay is to revisit this phenomenon in contemporary art world in Nigeria.  He explained it thus: “We needed to come back to this which we hope to have annually”.  However, in one of his works embedded in uli motifs, Arinze revisited this essential ornament of decoration in ancient Igbo tradition.  “I kind of played with motifs here.  I just love playing with those motifs at times”, he informed.  Motifs were essentially used to decorate walls, to embellish beauty in its entirety.  Women often used it to enhance their facial and bodily beauty.  Now, put in an art form, uli motifs tends to bring back memories of the past when it was indeed a sort of tattoo on the body.

The aesthetic nature of most of the works therefore pointed to that reenactment of the beauty of yesteryears, when beauty was authentic, less polluted and totally African.  The exhibition runs till the 17th of this month.

The post The return of potteries appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

from The Nation Nigeria