There is something so hard to ignore about this wig-sporting glamour boy in the photograph. Really, few fashionistas would fail to be baited by his mafia-esque outfit – a black fedora hat and black suit jacket – which matches his gleaming ebony complexion. Besides, his seeming to back the viewer, while at the same time showing his half-profile, heightens the viewer’s curiosity. This 31 x 39-inch fashion photograph is titled “Wander”, the exhibition catalogue informs. It is strategically positioned in the Terra Kulture’s recently-relocated exhibition hall, which is now on the ground floor.
The exhibition? It is Deji Oluokun’s about-to-conclude first solo outing, titled RCVRY, which opened at the Victoria Island, Lagos-based cultural centre on Saturday, July 24. The exhibition, which could have ended on Monday, August 2, was extended for another week.
Back to the photograph, titled “Wander”. The explanatory note – “Man is just as learned and experienced as far as he wanders around in life. The farther you go, the further you go.” – should aid the viewer in his further musings about this work. And about the others too.
Otherwise, how does a viewer wend his way through the thickets of such conceptual titles as “Curried”, “Sanctuary”, “Sicily”, “Hue”, “Carnal” and the “Utopia” and “Estate” series, among others?
Beyond these titles, a message lurks within the exhibition title, RCVRY, which should actually be spelt as R-E-C-O-V-E-R-Y. Oluokun opts for the former spelling as a nod to the penchant of the Millennials and their Generation Z kindred spirits for abbreviation. So, RCVRY is meant to be a motivational rallying cry to this segment of the Nigerian young population to regain their self-esteem through the rediscovery of their potentials.
Through this exhibition, Oluokun – a self-taught digital artist and a fashion photographer, who holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Ibadan – engages his audience through three mediums: digital art, the more conventional visual arts and fashion photography. An experienced art director, with over seven years in advertising and creative design, he is driven by a passion that transcends just creating art. Rather, he appropriates art as a means to answering questions or, at least, seeking answers to them.
“I have a story for you,” the artist who goes by the moniker TDo tells viewers in what he calls the exhibition’s official trailer – which sounds more like a teaser. “You see… I come from a small town, where you either belong to the ‘What is the point?’ or ‘What is your best?’ tribe. ‘What is the point?’ guys don’t like to change anything. They don’t care how far you can go in life; they are just comfortable. ‘What is your best?’ guys? Yeahhh! My guys! They are the movers, the challengers, they never quit, they see everything, EVERYTHING around them as a way to break through. I initially set out to be one of them, but I got tired. The consistency is draining. But, I don’t want to stop. I CAN’T STOP. I am not a quitter. I have so much in me and this is just the beginning. This is a recovery stage in my life. I stand for the ‘What is your best?’ tribe. So, I ask you… Are you with me?”
Those, who were with him at the exhibition’s opening on Saturday, July 24, were promised “guest performances, celebrity appearances and of course, eccentric fashion and style all in line with The Deji Oluokun brand.” With his works already been featured in First Magazine, Intra Magazine, Osengwa, among many others, he says the exhibition is meant “to increase awareness about digital art and fashion photography and their relevance to the younger generation and the field of modern art.”