French multidisciplinary artist, Brune Nouri, on Saturday unveiled a landmark exhibition in Lagos in collaboration with the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at Obafemi Awolowo University and the families of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria in 2014.
Ms. Nouri specializes in sculpture and explores a multitude of media, particularly through installations that include photography, film and performance.
Inspired by the ancient terracotta heads of Ife and figurines also titled Breathe, this collaboration aims to raise awareness of the plight of Chibok girls still missing while highlighting the global fight for girls’ education.
The exhibition, held at the Art Twenty-One Gallery at Eko Hotels in Lagos, featured 108 sculpted heads made by Ms. Nuri and art students from the OAU’s Department of Fine and Applied Arts.
Eight years later, with most of the girls still in captivity and the world seeming to have forgotten them, the cast is remembered by the show.
Explaining her reasons for undertaking the project, Ms. Nuri said: “When I first heard about the Chibok Girls, I was traveling with the Terracotta Girls Army Charity in China, and I heard about the Eve Chiefs.
She sheds light on her dream of visiting Effy. “As a sculptor, it was my dream to one day go to Eve’s house and work with clay,” she said.
“It was love at first sight with the teachers, and we share the same philosophy of interdisciplinary transfer, so we decided to do this project with 108 students mixing heads inspired by Ife heads but especially with images of Chibok girls.”
She explained that the parents gave them pictures of children and sculpted their heads.
Regarding the international publication of the artistic narrative, she said: “The idea is to travel around the world with the military and show all the heads that embody the missing Chibok girls, but also to talk about girls’ education around the world.”
During the exhibition, a former captive from Chibok named Amina attended the unveiling of the works.
The work will be on display at Art Twenty-One until February 4, 2023 before going on a world tour.
According to Nouri, a documentary featuring sculptures from The Sculpture Show will also be featured on Breathe, allowing all contributors to include their unique voices and perspectives from teachers, students, parents of lost girls, or anyone involved in the creative process.
After meeting with the Chibok families to design the project, Nuri said she was entrusted with photographs of their lost daughters, from which the eight heads sculpted from clay were inspired.
She set out to create portraits of high school girls in the style of Grandpa Chief Eve popular in the area.
Of these eight original sculptures that were then molded, she said, 108 heads were molded from clay sourced from Ile-Ife, by potters from the all-women potters community in the Yoruba town of Ilorin and students from Obafemi Awolowo University.
On September 30, 2022, a one-day workshop was held at the university. 108 students sculpted and transformed each head into unique sculptures using images of the missing girls.
A delegation of mothers of Chibok girls and boys who managed to escape from Boko Haram captivity also came to pay homage and remember their friends and loved ones who are depicted in the sculptures.
The girls’ army is indivisible and must stick together as one whole work of art.
The 108 Presidents, all signed by the participating students, will be on display in Lagos before traveling around the world to recall Nigeria’s rich and diverse history and culture and the current challenges we all face collectively as a global community.
The organizers said that at the end of the visit they would return to the permanent collection of a museum in Africa.
Fresh Art Clay Ife
Nigerian-German singer Ade Bantu, real name Adegoke Odukoya, who was also part of the project, revealed that when he searched the terracotta potters of Ife, he found nothing, despite it being a town from which the terracotta heads of Ife originated.
He said, “When I went to Ile-Ife looking for artisans who worked with clay, no one worked with clay anymore, so I had to travel all over the Yoruba country to try to find artisans who still worked in clay, and this is where I met a group of women.” Potters.
It is also revealed that they got the clay used from Ile Ife and Lady Nuri wanted to use the clay from Ife so that she could pay homage to the Ife because the Ife head made of clay is well known.
Okunade Adenka, Senior Lecturer in Ceramics in the OAU’s Department of Fine and Applied Arts, said he enjoyed working on the project.
He noted, “The project was a great experience for us in the department. It is the first of its kind. This is the first time someone has come to collaborate with us, especially in the ceramics department.”
It was remarkable, he said, that Ms. Nuri’s decision to combine the image of the terracotta heads of the Effie with those of the Chibok girls was remarkable.
Moreover, he said that the project addresses a social issue and adds to the artistic culture in Ife. He said, “Ivy bosses, we only see them in pictures, but this project is more than a reality that brings it to life and uses it to say a lot about the Chibok girls.”
“With these heads that we can see now, we can easily remember the Chibok girls, but we can also see the traditional Ife Ori Oroko heads.”
He added that the department is looking forward to more intensive and continuous collaboration while planning more projects to showcase Yoruba culture.
Student Wasio Olatund, the project’s technical assistant, explained that the biggest challenge was the emotional hurt and that it took his group about two months to complete the project.
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