Q, Why does the earth matter to you as an artist?
A, First, I see the earth as my habitation. I live here. I live on it. I live in it. My life both physical and spiritual depends, and is influenced by it.
As an artist I see my self as co-tenant with the rest of humanity who have a responsibility to tend, replenish and dialogue with it symbiotically. My role is to act as town crier, prophet and watchdog. We say that the artist see other people look. The artist is a Seeingscientist. The special sensibilities of an artist give him/her the responsibility to dialogue with the earth and to share that dialogue with humanity.
Artists were perhaps the first "scientists" to observe the delicate nature of the earth and point its beauty, fragility and character to human civilization.
Q, In what ways do you and your community act as agents of environmental change and what role do you play in sustainability of the environment?
A, My role as an agent of environmental change is partly expressed in my response to your earlier question, "Why does the earth matter to you as an artist?" As an earth citizen I consider it a primary responsibility to care and cater for my environment. I do this through my understanding of the environment as an artist. The natural environment perhaps represents the artist's most compelling source of inspiration and creative energy. This recognition demands a certain burden of responsibility to be a good custodian of the earth, a gardener not an exploiter. I think that the community of artists, universal, and every artist, irrespective of geo-cultural location, share this fundamental responsibility. Our response may vary but fundamentally we seek for the same equilibrium.
My community at large is complex. In Zaria where I live and practice art, I do not see any shared relationship with my local government or state government other issues of the environment. As I respond to you trees planted in the 1960s are being fell along a major street in the so-called Government Reserved Area (GRA). I am recording the destruction and preparing a position paper on it. I hope to mobilize action from interested persons to question the acts of destruction and to see how we can replace the fallen trees.
I wish I know of an active environmental action group and I can key my concern into.
As a university lecturer, I find myself on the path of the life of the future enlightened population of Nigeria. In my art classes like landscape drawing, landscape painting, Cityscape and other design classes. I challenge my students to environmental issues. I provoke them to question our use of the environment, how we manage it, the result or consequences of the way we manage our waste. I challenge the students to propose solutions, which include the obvious -recycling.
As my interest grow and as I become aware of the politics of environmental issues, I see myself assuming the role of an ambassador of reconciliation rather than an activist. This is for the obvious realization that big private institutions controls governments policies on environment, and their interest is to exploit to desolation not regeneration.
As an artist, since 1989 I have dedicated my artistic work on the environment. Below is a synopsis of my work:
Solo exhibitions related to Environmental Issues: Brief on each exhibition
Floral Notes-1989. Italian Cultural Institute, Victoria Island Lagos: This exhibition is a result of a study of nature with specific reference on flowering plants started in 1985. It seeks a deeper appreciation of color and the nature of nature itself. The focus on plants seeks, among other aesthetic exploration, to project the fragile nature of the environment. In the end, plants, flowers and elements of nature became a language for social commentary and critic.
The Wasted-1996. Art and Objects Gallery Lagos: The title of this solo exhibition was derived from the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka who in a Nigerian newspaper article lamented the systemic collapse of the Nigerian nation and declared that we were "a wasted generation". The issues of oil spillage in the Niger Delta and the despoiling activities of oil companies further influenced the creation of the works titled "The Wasted". In this body of work I sought to explore how humanity exploit the environment in a destructive manner.
Conversation with Mother Earth-1999: - Alliance Françoise Kaduna Nigeria: In this exhibition, the artist engages both man and environment in dialogue of reason and criticism, of emotion and romanticism. The catalog presentation was complimented with a few sketches of poetry lines. It was the intention that the exhibition will awaken and heighten consciousness about the public's attitude to the environment.
The Endangered Image-2007 - Kashim Ibrahim Library, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, 2007: This was more like a retrospective exhibition. The show was a selection of works from 1978 to 2007. The works reflect thematic focus and serial studies in the career of the artist. They oscillate in a dialogue between the role of art/artist in and environmental issues while at the same time present a positional argument about the intellectuality of art and the artist in a university environment.
Man and Earth -2009 - Goethe Institute Victoria Island Lagos, 2009: The Solo exhibition addressed environmental damage from semi-arid region of northern Nigeria to the swamp forests of the Niger Delta. The works mourn, reflect and meditate on the state of a threatened environment.