19-year-old Nigerian artist, Emediong Uduak Ikoko has unveiled a Fela-inspired painting to celebrate the strength of Nigerians.
In May, her painting of music legend, ‘Lagbaja’ has become the first African work to be displayed at the Cyprus Modern Art Museum.
Emediong is also the youngest artist and only African to have her work exhibited at the museum, which is the largest in the Mediterranean region.
Emediong unveiled the painting at an auction of 17 of her artworks held in Abuja on Saturday.
The painting titled ‘Bush Babies/Shuffering and Smiling’ is aptly named after a Fela Anikulapo-Kuti album with the same title.
In 1980, musical activist and the father of Afrobeat, Fela chronicled the state of Nigeria and the resilience of the people in the award-winning album.
Sharing the same sentiments as Fela, Emediong said she was inspired to paint the work because the phrase was still relevant in present-day Nigeria.
She said, “It represents the resilience of Nigerians. Despite the suffering, Nigerians find joy in music and arts. This painting to Nigerians and our strength as a people.”
Emediong also unveiled a painting titled ‘Ekpe’ that featured a masquerade relative to Akwa Ibom, her home state which drew applause from the crowd.
Also in the masquerade series was the painting of the ‘Ijele’ masquerade, generally regarded as the father of masquerades among the Igbo ethnic group.
She also unveiled ‘Fourth Man in the Fire’ based on the biblical Nebuchadnezzar story, ‘Whistling Boy’ enacting the Nigerian folktale and ‘When the Gods Roam’ based on the ‘Eyo’ masquerade.
Emediong said she draws her inspiration from music, experiences, stories and other creative people.
She also urged the Nigerian government to pay attention to the creative industry as it is a platform to help the nation’s image.
She advised creatives to continually search for opportunities that can push their works.
Emediong said, “I feel that the government should pay more attention to the Nigerian creative space because there is so much talent that is hidden in this country.
“The government and other stakeholders should actually pay more attention to the Nigerian creative scene. That push is all the scene needs.
“Creatives should connect. You don’t know who you meet. You don’t know what you create with the people you meet. Everyone has where they are going to and coming from.
“I feel that most creatives should learn how to create networks. They should reach out for opportunities as opportunities won’t come to meet you. You have to reach out to them,” she said.
Also speaking, the chairman of the auction, Dr Solomon Arase, Former Inspector General of Police said that parents should encourage their children to pursue arts and skills.
According to him, artistry and other careers in the creative industry can help curb insecurity as young people will be engaged and find lesser time to commit crime.
He also called on the government to extend its focus to the creative industry by improving the opportunities available to young people in the industry.