In the world of the Afrikan of hallowed antiquity, the independent institutions of learning charged with discipleship in to the mystery schools of music, science and the arts are housed within the same sacred temples.
This synergizing of paths in pursuit of ultimate truths, took many centuries to accomplish as dedicated disciples from countless generations and genealogies met along the same narrow road. This straight and measured way which requires discipline to discern, dedication to sustain, determination to endure, courage to navigate and an inner light to lead the way through the darkest of alleys, is rarely mastered in one lifetime. Often, the brightest and most determined spend an entire life cycle in search of this illusive path with no guarantee of success. Other more practical disciples are content to build upon the foundations laid by co-conspirators along that self-same road which they can only hope will lead to ultimate breakthrough.
Mastery in one often leads to mastery in all as obstacles are more readily overcome by the application of similar techniques, guiding principles and virtues. Age is no yardstick for determining wisdom or proficiency within the halls of these sacred temples. However, the considerable time devoted to practicing, and understanding one’s chosen discipline requires the devotee to sacrifice the most productive years of life in search of answers with no gilt edged guarantees of breakthroughs. It is little wonder then that when after many years of committed, focused inquiry, a new Master emerges, the event is heralded with uncommon jubilation and instant life changing glory and acceptance.
When however such head turning discoveries are made which effectively advance mankind’s understanding of aesthetics, science, magic or the arts by one considered not yet of age to stumble upon such hidden truths, such a one is recognized not only as a child prodigy but as a returning master from a previous era. Having reached the zenith of human accomplishment in a previous life yet left some other equally important aspects of the human experience unattended, they been sent back to complete their unfinished tasks in this realm before continuing their journey through eternity.
Having demonstrated through his art and his character an unusual insight into our understanding of beauty at a remarkably tender age, Eze Franklin Nwabueze is a candidate for such euphoric accolades. Sent back to earth with his identical twin brother to possibly shed new light on symmetry, mathematics, love and light, his mission from birth was always to write his own hero story along that straight and narrow way back home to the source of all light, love and beauty.
Born twenty seven years ago in Ajegunle, a notorious slum on the outskirts of the Lagos mainland (the defacto capital of Nigeria) his name translates from his native Igbo to mean; Eze- King Franklin Nwabueze- The Child born a King. With such high expectations from his birth name, growing up in an artistic environment with his mother a seamstress and his father a carpenter was challenging for young Franklin and his identical twin brother Francis. Though they were no strangers to experimentation and innovation their poverty stricken reality left very little for children to tinker around with without serious healthcare implications.
With his sights set on becoming an artist from a very early age, his artistic sojourn began by drawing stick figures in the sandy surroundings of their modest family home. After working for years with expensive imported oil and acrylic paints, the trainee artist grew in wisdom and applied the rudiments of drawing, perspective, texture and tones to his colourful Ajegunle reality. When confronted by hyperinflation and a fast devaluing local currency in Nigeria, he was forced to seek out cheaper more readily available alternatives or abandon his mission prematurely as many of us are forced to do here on the continent.
One day however, amidst all this upheaval, he walked into his mother’s tiny tailoring workshop and experienced his first Eureka moment. Instead of seeing the ubiquitous pile of cast away off cut fabrics which had been part of his childhood, his eyes were treated to a kaleidoscope of infinite possibilities, textures and tones. In that elastic moment, he saw the ordinary, everyday African as an iconic symbol of divinity and grace translated through every movement and expression in living technicolour. That same moment, he decided to cling on to and celebrate that beauty in every work.
Like a man possessed he began to stockpile bales and bales of fabrics from every tailor in Ajegunle city and soon, he became known in the area as “Oba awon aloku”, The king of the refuse collectors, (not a term of endearment by any means) Unperturbed by conventional wisdom nor any would be scoffers, the artist persevered with his new found love determined to overcome all obstacles in his quest to understand and master his art. When after many months of trial and error, the first offspring of these new energies were born; a new king was crowned within the Nimbus family. This golden child destined to one day follow in the great footsteps of his forbears, would bring a bright new light in to our world and illuminate that well-traveled road.
His works arrest both trained and untrained artistic sensibilities and possess the timeless qualities of balance, strength and originality to endure the harsh scrutiny of the ages. His mission and his message appear to be one as though through his paintings he attempts to translate from the metaphysical, the very temple of creation, custodian of divine and ancestral wisdom, movement, science and truth. This temple is in one accord with itself and the wider universe, as insignificant as a fly yet potentially more powerful than an avalanche.
Lagos Central is Eze Franklin Nwabueze’s first solo exhibition and Nimbus Art Gallery is delighted to host this important gathering. Co-sponsored by Ifeoma Nwagbogu who also inspired the exhibition’s piece de resistance titled “The African Sound of Music”, the exhibition catalogue can be viewed online at www.bogobiri.com and www.nimbusgallery.com The title of the exhibition was originally conceived by my co-curator Sia Alexander to reflect her tumultuous ten year romance with Lagos. Once the Lagos leg of the exhibition ends on May Day (Worker Day) she will be charged with the responsibility to steers the exhibition “Lagos Central” as it docks across the Atlantic in the lover’s state of Virginia. Specifically chosen for its historical significance as the first landing port in the United States for millions of unlawfully enslaved Africans (over a mind boggling four hundred year period) the twin cities of Norfolk and Chesapeake appear destined to host Nwabueze’s Lagos Central as it aims to add colour, dynamism and Afrikan motifs to life in Virginia.
In a relatively short space of time, Nwabueze’s works and unique style have penetrated deep into the artistic consciousness of art lovers, gallerists and ordinary people within the Lagos art scene and on the international stage. With international galleries and auction houses showing considerable interest in acquiring and showing his work, his star appears to be on the rise as the world embraces his characters and themes centred predominantly on images of strong African women. This clarion call of “Sankofa” (a return and realignment to better appreciate the past, in understanding the present and visualising a bright future) echoes and symbolizes the coming of an era where feminine energies, leaders and visionaries will dominate our world and usher in a new Age of Aquarius.
As the profile exposure and international demand for Nigerian art continues to grow, the veil is beginning to lift and reveal the true origins and source of high art in our world today. From the ancient bronzes of Igbo Ukwu, Ife and Benin to the magnificent Nok era terracotta, the peoples of the Niger area have demonstrated a remarkable level of sophistication in art of life.
We at Nimbus Art Gallery believe that the temple that houses the spirit of Nwabueze and its artistic outpourings epitomise the strength, dignity and courage of this new power generation of African innovators connected to the ancient art of our ancestors, inspired by the hieroglyphics of the present and encouraged to shed divine light on to the darkness of the future.
Welcome to Lagos Central; The New New thing in Art, life and everything else that matters.