LONG before Victoria Island and Ikoyi became hot items in big business and posh, choice residential areas, Apapa had acquired its reputation as not just a port of pre-eminence but highbrow residential area with that foreign, expartriat mix. Its vast port facility and now obsolete Apapa Amusement Park made it the rave part of Lagos to visit. Indeed, if you had not visited Apapa for its scenic port facility, with the Christmas-like lighting shimmering in the waters at night from the huge ships berthed on the port and in the distance, you could not be said to have visited Lagos. It was the point of contact with foreign visitors and goods of all kinds. Apapa was Nigeria’s go-to spot.
But times soon changed all that, thanks to poor management, and Nigeria’s foremost port city, only slightly rivalled back then by Warri and Sapele ports, soon fell into bad times. Broken down access roads from Mile 2 and Ijora that have defied all efforts to fix them did the damage. And Apapa lay like a Whale washed ashore and unable to slide back into the water, thrashing for life. Businesses and residents began to move away, and Apapa became a ghost of its former self.
But while efforts are being made to reinvent Nigeria’s foremost port city, so it could bounce back into reckoning, something cultural is subtly aiding that reawakening. Q-Gallery, within a leafy garden tucked off Creek Road at 3 Ashabi Adedire Close, (opposite Apapa Motorboat Club), is leading the charge for the reinvention of Apapa. Q-Gallery is the handiwork of renowned art collector, interior designer and gallery owner, Princess Juliana Edewor. ‘Five Solos’ is the inaugural exhibition slated to kick off on Saturday, July 15, 2023 and runs till September 2023.
Founder of Q-Gallery, Princess Juliana Edewor showing her interior design and creek house brasserie to Annette Akinsete of Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria
A statement from Q-Gallery is instructive in setting out the purpose of both the gallery and its first group exhibition in opening up that axis of Lagos and redirecting art patronage traffic and giving women opportunity to showcase their crafts. Three women and five men constitute ‘Five Solos’ art show.
A Q-Gallery statement reads, “In keeping with her (Princess Edewor) commitment to promoting women’s equality and empowerment, Q-Gallery is featuring three female and two male artists in this mid-year group exhibition at her recently opened Q-Gallery. She reiterated that the purpose for establishing Q-Gallery is not only to provide a platform for artists and creatives to showcase their works but also to provide for the environ of Apapa, Mile Two, Festac and Surulere areas a standard art gallery where students and art lovers of all ages can see and engage with the creative industry without resorting to going to the Victoria Island and Ikoyi.
“As a lover of nature herself, she has incorporated a lush garden into the design of the exterior of the premises which also houses the showcase interior showroom, a garden, bar and restaurant. This natural ambience gives a healthy backdrop to the art works, the environment itself being one of her enduring passions; in her own words: “I am passionate about the conservation and promotion of indigenous plants and forests. We need to be more aware of our environment. We share this planet with plants who are our life-being. They take out the carbon dioxide from the air and give us the oxygen we need.” Displaying art within the beauty of nature, she says, underlines her personal passion for eco-feminism in a world which continues to undermine the female point of view.”
The exhibiting artists are Grace Ighavbota, Taiye Erewele, Phillips Nzekwe, Joseph Ayelero and Juliet Ezenwa-Pearce. Titled ‘Five Solos,’ the exhibition will open to the public on July 15, 2023 at Q-Gallery, Apapa, Lagos. A resume of the exhibiting artists shows that they have been doing amazing things on the art scene for as long as memory serves. Indeed, they have been part of the Lagos artistic scene and have made their mark. What comes through from the works on offer are a combination of maturity, grace, and professionalism. Art patrons will certainly find the exhibits at Q-Gallery works of value.
Metal work by Phillips Nzekwe
Veronica Ogene is a retired civil servant, now 74. She began to draw and paint as a hobby after retirement. She came in contact with art through her mother, a traditional wall painter. As a child, she watched her mother preparing the different colours of mud and clay she used for painting mud walls. With materials mainly from clay and earth and plants. She watched her mother transform the surface of old mud walls. In her words:
According to her, “People used to come to our compound to stare at her designs. Over the years, whenever I see artists working, I would stand and watch them. I was always fascinated by the way the painting or drawing would materialise out of nothing. It was when I went to South Korea after retirement that I saw women like me creating different crafts that I told myself that I can do it. I began to draw with charcoal before moving to paint. It did not look good at first until one day I joined the platinum creative workshop for retired people. My children and grandchildren have been very supportive.’’
Taiye Erewele is an experimental artist who specializes in painting. She had her early education in Kano, where she spent the first 16 years of her life. Inspired by her elder brother as a child, she cultivated drawing as a hobby and would later obtain a BA in Fine Arts from Ambrose Alli University in 2008 (where she emerged the best graduating student in her faculty), and an MA in Visual Arts History form the University of Lagos in 2012. Known for her many portraits, Taiye also indulges in abstract representations characterized by spontaneity and an intuitive use of colours, lines and textures, amongst other elements.
Drawing from the fabric of her personal experience, she explores compelling issues surrounding the female gender. Her works tell compelling stories of African women while engaging beauty, culture and marriage. She also tackles socioeconomic ills that have become exigent in today’s society. She is a recipient of several awards and has participated in a number of exhibitions both locally and internationally. She had her first solo exhibition in 2018 at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.
Works by Grace Ighavbota (left); Taiye Erewwle (middle) and Joseph Ayelero (right)
Grace Ighavbota is a representational impressionist whose painting strives to freeze bits and happenings around her immediate environment. She uses her art to advocate for, or against, the happenings in her society. She works mainly with oil paint on textured canvas and denim jeans. Born and raised in Sapele, Delta State she obtained a diploma in Fine Art at Obafemi Awolowo University in 2013, whereupon she joined the prestigious Universal Studios of Arts for her industrial training. In 2015, she returned to her alma mater for a bachelorette in fine and applied arts. Her love for exploration and knowledge brought her in proximity with great minds whose works also influenced her through workshops. The role of her late mum, God and her love for people; their personalities, cultures and Afrocentric modernizations can’t be downplayed in her inspiration.
Phillips Nzekwe is considered one of Nigeria’s most distinguished experimental artists who explores the rich material culture from his environment. His art comments on daily issues affecting him as an African/global citizen such as climate change, freedom of expression, the rights of the child, etc. Through his choice of materials, Nzekwe addresses the effects of mass consumerism resulting in the over-exploitation of natural resources. His artistic creations are made primarily from the junked and jettisoned. His research led to his discovery of “eco-friendly wood”, a combination of silica, organic compounds and wood dust, a by-product of the lumber industry and a major environmental pollutant. Nzekwe has been a fulltime studio artist for close to two decades and has participated and facilitated several artists/makers workshops. He has also held many solo exhibitions both in Nigeria and abroad. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in Fine Arts from Delta State University and University of Benin, respectively.
‘Friends’ – acrylic on canvas by Juliet Ezenwa Pearce
Joseph Ayelero was born in Iseme-Ile Okeho, Osun State, where he spent his early years with his extended family. His grandfather was a carver. He attended Yaba College of Technology, where he studied General Art. In 2006, he apprenticed under Ebenezer Akinola, and developed his painting techniques and improved his colour combination, as evidenced in his landscapes. He draws inspiration from his environment and finds fulfilment in living in suburbia. He is a multi-media artist. His simple-themed abstract landscapes, even though mostly imaginary and distant from the original subjects, encourage viewers to be more discerning and appreciative of natural atmospheric elements.
Juliet Ezenwa Pearce is one of Nigeria’s leading female artists who has been practising since graduating from Bendel State University (now Delta State University), Abraka in 1990. She held her first solo exhibition in 1996 and hasn’t looked back since then. In 2019, she was the subject of a documentary by Tam Fiofori, the biographer of Sun Ra (whose music features in it). It was filmed by Filip Drozdz, the award-winning Polish cinematographer, and is available on request. She has participated in many art auctions organise by Art House Contemporary in Lagos. She has also edited two books on Nigerian art, Issues in Contemporary Nigerian Art (first and second series), both of which are available on Amazon.