French multidisciplinary artist Prune Nuorry on Saturday presented a significant exhibition in Lagos in collaboration with the Department of Fine and Applied Arts. Obafemi Awolowo University and in 2014 the families of the Chibok girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
Ms Nuorry specializes in sculpture and explores many mediums, mainly through installations that include photography, film and performance.
Inspired by ancient Ife terracotta heads and titled Statues Also Breathe, this collaboration aims to raise awareness of the plight of the still-missing Chibok girls, highlighting the global fight for girls’ education.
The exhibition at the Art Twenty-One Gallery at the Eko Hotels in Lagos showcased 108 head sculptures made by Mrs. Nourry and art students from the fine and applied arts department of OAU.
Eight years later, most of the girls are still in captivity and the world seems to be forgetting about them, the collaborators remembered through the exhibition.
Explaining her reasons for embarking on this project, Mrs. Nourry said: “When I first heard about the Chibok girls, I was traveling in China with an “Army of Girls” work called “Terracotta Daughters”, and I heard about the Ife heads.”
He highlighted his dream to visit Ife. “As a sculptor, it was my dream to one day go to Ife and work with clay,” he said.
“It was the first look with the teachers, and we share the same philosophy of transmission across the disciplines, so we decided to do this project with 108 students mixing heads inspired by Ife heads but most importantly with portraits of Chibok girls. “
He explained that the families commissioned photographs of the children, and they sculpted the heads.
On spreading the narrative of the art internationally, she said, “The idea is to travel the world with the army and show all the heads that personify the Chibok missing girls, but also talk about education for girls around the world.”
At the exhibition, a former Chibok captive named Amina was present at the presentation of the artworks.
The artworks were to be on display at Art Twenty-One until February 4, 2023, before going on a world tour.
According to Nourry, a documentary film will be screened with the sculptures from the Statues Also Breathe show, allowing all contributors to include their voices and unique perspectives among teachers, students, or parents of the missing girls. who participates in the creation process.
After meeting the Chibok families to complete the project, Nourry said he had portraits of their missing daughters in hand, which he used as inspiration for the eight heads sculpted in clay.
He began creating portraits of high school girls, depicted in the style of the iconic Ife ancestral head of the region.
Out of the eight original sculptures that were then molded, he said 108 heads were cast in clay collected in Ile-Ife by potters from the Yoruba women potter community in Ilorin and students of Obafemi Awolowo University.
On September 30, 2022, a one-day workshop was held at the university; 108 students sculpted and transformed each head into unique sculptures using portraits of the missing girls.
A delegation of mothers of Chibok girls who managed to escape captivity by Boko Haram were also present, honoring and remembering their friends and loved ones depicted in the sculptures.
”This “army of girls” is indivisible and must be together as a complete work of art.
The 108 heads, each signed by their respective students, will be displayed in Lagos before traveling around the world to remind us of Nigeria’s rich and diverse history and culture and the current challenges we must all collectively address as a global community. .
When the tour is over, the permanent collection of an African museum will be returned, the organizers said.
Fresh clay Ife Art
Nigerian-German singer Ade Bantu, whose real name is Adegoke Odukoya, who was also part of the project, revealed that when he searched for Ife clay potters, he could not find Ife despite being the city where the terracotta heads originated.
He said: “When I went to Ile-Ife to look for artisans who work with clay, there was no one working with clay anymore, so I had to travel around Yoruba land trying to find artisans who still worked with clay, and that’s when I had it. she met a community of women potters.’
He also disclosed that the clay used was sourced from Ile Ife and Mrs. Nourry wanted to use Ife clay because the Ife Terracotta head is popular to honor Ife.
Okunade Adeyinka, a ceramics professor in the OAU Department of Fine and Applied Arts, said he enjoyed working on the project.
As he stated, “the project was a wonderful experience for us in the department; it is the first of its kind. This is the first time that someone will come to collaborate with us, especially in the ceramics section.’
He said Mrs. Nourry’s decision to combine the style of the Ife Terracotta heads with the Chibok girl portraits was brilliant.
Furthermore, the project addressed a social cause and added to Ife’s art culture. He said: “Ife heads, we only see them in pictures but this project is more of a reality that brings it to life and uses it to speak a volume about Chibok girls.”
“With these heads, we can see now, we can easily remember the Chibok girls, but yes, and we can also see the traditional heads of Ife Ori Oro.”
He added that the department hopes to have wider and continuous collaborations as it plans more projects to showcase Yoruba culture.
One student, Wasiu Olatunde, the project’s technical assistant, explained that the biggest challenge was emotional pain, and it took his team about two months to complete the project.
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