AN ARTIST’S METAPHOR OF ENTWINED HAIRSTYLES

With a soon-to-be-held solo exhibition at the National Museum, Lagos, which is being organised by Alexis Gallery, Timi Kakandar hopes to stem the tide of Westernization. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke writes

Returning to the industry’s limelight with another solo exhibition when the memories of his last solo exhibition at Ogirkan Gallery in Ikoyi, Lagos, held about six months ago, are yet to fade, burnishes Prince Timi Kakandar’s credentials as a diligent artist who is intent on pushing the boundaries. The 1999 University of Port Harcourt graduate, who is no stranger to the exhibition circuit, seems intent on highlighting all the previously recognised elements of his creative ethos in the exhibition that has been scheduled to be held at the National Museum in Onikan, Lagos.

Entwined, as the exhibition, which runs from July 1 to 8, is titled, looks to disentangle the mindset of the highly digitalised younger generation from the creepers of westernisation, a nod to a zeitgeistthat roots for cultural renewal. “Westernisation,” he notes, “is spreading like wildfire through the internet with a corresponding loss of interest in African culture, values, and symbols.This is one of the reasons, aside from the deep pursuit of creativity, that makes this exhibition expedient: to serve as a reminder of who we are as a people.”

Timi Kakandar 2

As a title, Entwined reprises the artist’s familiar adulation of African women with threaded hairstyles, which he appropriates as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of the human race. This, however, does not negate the fact that each painting in this exhibition, which is being organised by the Victoria Island, Lagos-based Alexis Gallery, has its own hidden narrative, one that is based on the artist’s personal perceptions.

Drawn into a conceptual space swarming with cryptic messages, the viewer is compelled to scour for clues beneath the unique aesthetic appeal of the hairstyles of the female figures in the paintings. While one, for instance, evokes a fruit-bearing tree, as in the painting “We Have Become Low Hanging Fruits,” another suggests a hanger on which a mask rests, among other things, as a reminder of receding traditional values.

Not unexpectedly, female figures continue to dominate his paintings, a tendency, he explains, that hinges on what he perceives to be visually attractive nuances in the constitution of the fairer sex and which, therefore, explains the fact that he represents Africa “as a beautiful innocent maiden.”

Back to his likening the hairstyles to trees, further iterations of this are expressed in the painting “Queen of Spades”, in which he conjures a tree branchfrom a hairstyle with two birds (most likely parakeets) perching on it ostensibly to swap “gossips”, and yet another painting depicting leaves sprouting on a hairstyle to indicate the fecundity and the unsullied nature of a virgin girl who carries traditionally carved hair combs (hair picks) that have been associated with the traditional weaving of hairstyles for generations of African history.“In general, I have come to see the entwined hair as a placeholder, a symbol of instruction, of power, a communication tool, a sign of virginity, and a sign of naivety capable of telling its own stories,” he says.

Perhaps it helps at this point to remember that the images in most of the exhibition’s offerings are products of Kakandar’s poetic musings. His signature representational forms, which proclaim his love for the human figure, are not only vehicles for sociopolitical commentary but also an expression of a nostalgic yearning for Africa’s past transcendental cultural treasures.

Besides the metaphor of the hairstyles, which serves as a unifier for the body of work that swirls around poetic love, a sense of community, encouragement, self-belief, and political and social awareness, the inevitable colour bluethreads its way through most, if not all, the paintings, albeit in varying shades and tones.

Of course, Kakandar’s palette also embraces other colours beside blue—mostly red and yellow—which he deftly manipulates to lift a corner of the veil on the surging emotions seething in and around the stationary 2-D forms.Somehow, it is as though he is exploring different ways to breathe life into the rigid representations of human forms.

If, even while based in Lagos, he has garnered a large,devoted following both within and outside Nigeria, it is because he has earned his seat of honour among Nigeria’s most prolific contemporary artists in recent memory. Indeed, besides his four solo exhibitions so far, he has been featured in over 30 group exhibitions, which included appearances at the Portraits Exhibition at the Bricklane Gallery in London, United Kingdom, in September of last year, along with his inclusion at the Artankara Contemporary Art Fair in Ankara, Turkey, the Art Contact Contemporary Art Fair in Istanbul, Turkey, the InstaLive International Group Art Exhibition in Queensland, Australia, and the Salon Afrique: A Homecoming Reimagined Art Exhibition by Madlozi Art Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, among others.

Local aficionados and habitués, therefore, can look forward to this artist’s weeklong exhibition in anticipation of its cryptic and aesthetically pleasing offerings.

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