A tweet from a follower almost got lost in the abyss of trivial and repetitive topics that tend to fill my timeline occasionally but thanks to the algorithm that shows you tweets you missed, I happened to come across it. It had a link to information about Legacies of Biafra exhibition that was coming to Brunei Gallery and I was disappointed in myself for not having known of this beforehand; I like to delude myself into thinking I’m some sort of art guru.
This exhibition is particularly important to me because as you may (or may not) know, I am of the Igbo culture, therefore, conversations pertaining to Biafra are of interest. Do not misconstrue this as me advocating for the secession of the Igboland from Nigeria and a recreation of Biafra in modern Nigeria (as Nigerians so often like to exaggerate things), but rather that it is important we have meaningful discussions about the civil war, its effects and debris left afterwards.
This multi-media work explores the impact of war that occurs domestically and internationally as well as a remembrance of Biafra – what it stood for, what and who were lost and forgotten stories and moments in history are revived. I learned more from the works from Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about this historical event than I did from parents and most likely more than I would’ve had I finished school in Nigeria. Nigeria is good at forgetting about the wounds that our country has faced which ultimately slows the healing process to a sloth-like speed and therefore, nothing changes. Hardly anyone wants to talk about the civil war; not the Igbos, the Yorubas or any ordinary citizen of this Giant of Africa.
I cannot urge you all enough to carve out an hour and a half or so, to go and see this tremendously curated exhibition (curated by Louisa Egbunike) and just dedicate your attention to the pieces installed. The exhibition features work from the Nigerian Art Society UK collective (NASUK) like the likes of Chike Azuonye and Hassan Aliyu. Below are some pictures from the exhibition.
Bold Steps (2017) by Titus Agbara
This tripartite piece represents the many steps and sporadic directions migrants have and continuously take in order to gain some form of freedom from the atrocities left behind. It is particularly evoking given the current migrant crisis that allowed us to see the darkened hearts of many countries and leaders. “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark” (Warsan Shire, 2015). You’ll soon find that this particular quote from Shire’s poem is apt for a number of the pieces installed.
Oh My Africa! (2017) by Hassan Aliyu
This immensely large wall hanging will not be done justice if I attempted to describe the intricate details that lie within. It is something you have to see for yourself. Every time I look at it, I find something new. This piece halts your steps and demands your attention.
There’s a great selection of books by renowned and (possibly) less known authors who have talked about the country that once was. I saw books that I wasn’t aware existed!
Behind The Sin (2014) by Ade Ogundimu
A play on words, Behind The Sin ‘exposes’ the involvement of the United Kingdom in the atrocities that took (and still) takes place in Nigeria. It calls back to pre-Biafra and the colonial and imperial ruling as well as, presently, their involvement in the syphoning of our natural resources with the help of our incompetent government.
Women, sisters, mothers, wives – easily forgotten in the talks of war.
Legacies of Biafra is an exhibition that I cannot implore you enough to see for yourselves. There are documentaries to be heard, photos to be seen and so many emotions to be felt. Thank you to SOAS, Brunei Gallery for being the vessel to which this brilliant show was brought alive. This exhibition is running until the 24th of March and is FREE to all! Brunei Gallery is open from Tuesday till Saturday and the closest tube station is Russell Square.
I hope to bump into you, reader, as I certainly aim to be there as often as possible until the end.
Long live the memory of Biafra.