Curating Alternate Realities in Dark Times
It has been proclaimed a tough time for countries, businesses and people due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. With the ease of the lockdown, a lot of events and projects are reinventing the wheel in a ‘crawl mode’ as they await a major and positive shift in the times.
Sylvester Aguddah is plunging in headlong by bringing positive art to art enthusiasts and Nigerians in general. He is not waiting for the dark clouds to move. The visual artist and collagist who have worked on beautiful mixed media works using paper, fabric, recycled material and nostalgic memorabilia for over three decades, exhibited 20 new works at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Lagos, on the 5th of August, 2020. The exhibition was named ‘The Times’ in order to revert the mood and feelings of Nigerians towards positive thinking despite the changes caused by the lockdown. It in many ways also challenged many creatives who had given up to reintroduce themselves to the audience virtually and physically. during the lockdown to a small audience of friends, associates and art lovers, but since there has been an ease in the lockdown, he has shown exceptional boldness to exhibit these new works. This was his first physical and solo exhibition in the year, due the rude interruption of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The project is about reenacting good and great memories of the African people.
‘It has been a tough moment for a lot of families and when you dwell on the negatives too much, it would lead to depression. So, I decided to do works that will give people hope. God has placed it in my heart to do these works because he is gradually healing the world,’ said the artist. He also said that the works also helped him stay afloat the news, shocks and depressing silence as an artist.
Ifeanyichukwu Oraemeka, curator of the exhibition, said she felt that this was the best time to exhibit the works, in order to help ease the tensions and angst, uncertainties and the absence of communalism that the pandemic had created for many Nigerians. The event was organised in accordance to strict COVID-19 prevention guidelines. She also noted that the event would continue until the 17th of August.
Aguddah said he had to counter the negative waves of happenstances caused by the COVID-19 through the use of his craft. ‘For over a month during the lock down I was emotionally drained as an artist, my environment influences my mood. I look for exciting African stories to tell, but this was not one of those times, the whole world was going through a pandemic. And we all just needed to stay safe. After doing nothing for a month, God just laid it in my heart to start making art pieces with a positive theme and with vibrant colours. This was an assurance that this pandemic too will surely pass and our lives will return again,’ he also said.
Aggudah makes art pieces with paper, cardboard, recycled materials and fabric. This self-taught mixed-media style gives credence to environmental preservation and the celebration of craftmanship. This time, he decided to explore bright colours in bringing to light elements of hope, grace, family, history and culture, the human face, beauty at a time when news of a strained economy, of deaths and pain pervades the country.
Sylvester Aggudah’s work as an artist comes largely from a functional perspective; he considers art as part of everyday living, therefore his works are considered as aesthetics for homes, as part of the interior decoration, and to improve the humanistic nuance of office spaces. He also believes that anyone has the potential to be a visual artist, with a bit of mentorship, training and concentration. This is because Aggudah was not influenced by any of the established art schools within the institutionalised art communes. Nevertheless, Aguddah, a former brand sales expert, has relied on inspiration from God, books, mentorship, and a competitive advantage to create art. His most important tools are paper (Card paper), his cutting knives and a collection of potentially useful paper, fabric and other recyclable materials-while many would consider them junk, his ardent creative gift shapes them into connected imageries that tell stories and preserves personal, social and public history. His works have been exhibited in several countries but most prominently in major hotels in Lagos Nigeria.
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Sylvester Aguddah’s craft also meanders through photography, social work and artistic tourism. He is the chief curator and head of business operations at SylverScreen Integrated Concepts, a facility that houses a gallery, a visual arts workshop, a biking club, and a culture tourism business for folks interested in art, life and leisure in Nigeria’s neighboring countries.