Art, Politics & Society

Ocean, Alienation and Political Turmoil - Kadara Enyeasi’s provocative work

Nominated for the Edwin George Prize for Photography in 2017, Kadara Enyeasi is a multidisciplinary Nigerian artist with a very diverse portfolio. Based in Lagos, the self-trained artist focuses on perspective, space and form through highly rigorous and sophisticated photography, collage, sculpture and painting. Enquiring the intersectional identity as well as its socio-political national interrogations, Kadara Enyeasi proposes a vibrant and reflective work.

 

Taking place from September to October 2020, Kadara Enyeasi’s last exhibition at KÓ Art Space in Lagos is truly fascinating. Entitled “Is it not enough for the sea to be beautiful?”, this new body of works focuses on the ocean as a symbolic representation of alienation, regret and introspection. Including diverse materials,the artist switches between monochrome blue canvases, highly refined photography and colorful sculptures.  Interestingly, Kadara Enyeasi’s exhibition is inspired by Chinua Achebe’s poem ‘Afternoon Raid’. Written at the height of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as Biafran War (1967-1970), this poem tells the story of two friends separated by a fatal air raid while attempting to join one another across the road.

 

"The sympathy between men shared in such tumultuous circumstance can be likened to two people separated by any number of obstacles.Two blood relatives, two lovers, two friends, two strangers. A forest, a desert, a mountain range, the sea. As with ‘Afternoon Raid’, one person is engulfed by death while the other is left behind, watching. He is much too slow”.- Kadara Enyeasi, 2020.

 

Upon the day of independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, Nigeria is a highly diverse nation with thousands of different ethnic groups. Dominated by the Hausa in the North, the Yoruba in the West and theIgbo in the East, the country is swayed by political unrest and ethnic turmoil.From 1966, two military coups and deepening of the ethnic tensions led to the killing of thousands of people - especially among the Igbo minority. One year later, as a reaction to the violence against the Igbos, the separatist general Odumegwu Ojuku declared the independence of the Eastern part of the country creating the Biafra republic and ultimately leading Nigeria to declare war. Leading both groups in a civil conflict, the violence continued until the defeat of theBiafra troops in 1970. With at least one million victims, the Biafran War remains to this day one of the bloodiest and most divisive conflicts in post-independent Africa.

 

Kadara Enyeasi’s exhibition ‘Is it not enough for the sea to be beautiful?’ touches upon this dramatic historical framework and highlightsthe angst of separation emerging in conflict and turmoil. Prolonging Chinua Achebe’s metaphor, the artist builds a story on the loss, pain and alienation –intimately related to the national Nigerian history. On a larger scale, it seems that Kadara Enyeasi’s art takes a particular universal significance. The ocean as a metaphor for separation and violence presents a definite political statement invoking images of the migrant casualties in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

All in all, it seems that Kadara Enyeasi offers a highly personal exercise of confrontation to the beauty of the ocean while raising awareness on the darkness of its abysses. As both a national and universal message, the artist invites the viewer to lose oneself in the purgatory power of the ocean and its isolating infinity.

 

Kadara Enyeasi's work is accessible through his Instagram @enyeasi.k.

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