How can Awo, a Yoruba man, who exemplifies Yoruba culture, wear laced shoes under agbada? This among others are bordering the minds of seasoned artists, Tola Wewe, Olu Ajayi and Dele Jegede,..and they are asking Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to pull down the statue and rebuild it.
Over a week after the Lagos State Government unveiled a giant statue of legendary politician, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in Ikeja, it has continued to generate controversy.
In separate interviews, they variously commended the government’s intention but said the work produced by Hamza Atta and five other artists did not artistically represent the personality.
Wewe noted that he had not visited the site to see the statue. But he added that the photographs of it that he had seen did not match Awo’s outlook.
Wewe said, “I wouldn’t want to discourage the Lagos State Government from what it is doing in terms of the way it is investing in the arts and culture sector. There is no other government that is encouraging arts the way Ambode is doing.
“But there is a kind of disconnect between the statue and what Awo stood for. Forget about the sitting position; what matters most is the way whatever position chosen is executed. More important is the question of the laced shoes the man is made to wear. It is not done. How can Awo, a Yoruba man, who exemplifies Yoruba culture, wear that kind of shoes under agbada? No Yoruba man would do that. For public view, for the sake of Yoruba race, I think that piece should be pulled down and rebuilt it.”On his part, Ajayi said the public was right on their concern for the way the artists executed the statue, based on the personality involved and the need to protect their sensibility. He said a similar complaint was made when Diana’s statue was unveiled.
According to him, a statue of Awolowo ought to serve the purpose of education and serve as a constant reminder of what the sage stood for.
“So, when people demand a measure of accuracy, they know what they are saying. Consider children who never knew Awo. Can the statue offer them a dependable knowledge of the man? Again, you have the right to complain about any artwork that offends your sensibility whenever you see it.”
Some people have suggested that the government can make Atta upgrade the work, at least, by changing the footwear. But Ajayi argued that the structure was beyond remodelling.
“There is no short cut in this matter. If you remove the shoes, what about the face? It is like a house not well built. You either demolish it or you are prepared to live with the issues involved.”
Earlier in an online post, Jegede had taken a similar position, saying the work did not justify Ambode’s desire to honour Awo.
He wrote, “Dear Governor Ambode, I am delighted that your administration has deemed it fit to honour Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s foremost thinkers and political giants, with the erection of a statue in Lagos. I congratulate you on this gesture, which is laudable for its ability to immortalise a hero and, perhaps, more importantly, seal his image in the memory of everyone who is opportune to see his statue.
“However, there is a disconnect between your laudable idea and its execution. And, in the public domain, which is where this statue has taken residence, the Awolowo image that I have seen in pictures falls severely short of the colossal idea that inspired its commission. My concern here is purely on the merit of the statue as a public work of art. It is, to put it directly, a poor representation of Chief Awolowo.
“The proportions are way off the mark, and, indeed, reveal an image that is completely antipodal to all the attributes that one has come to associate with the sage. The physicality of the sculpture considerably diminishes the eminence of the subject matter; in its shrunken and undignified sitting posture, this statue significantly whittles the vitality — the aura, the elan vital – that this cerebral Nigerian hero embodies.”
While some other people, including a grandson of the political hero, Mr. Segun Awolowo (Jnr.), however, okayed the statue, Jegede also wants the government to “tear” it down. But the government does not seem to be thinking in that direction. If anything, it currently appears focused on the statue of superstar musician, Fela Anikukapo Kuti, which it will unveil on October 15.
Its position, as expressed in a statement by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Adebimpe Akinsola, is that the statue is a “piece of artwork expressing the artist’s impression of the late sage and not a photograph.”
As a result, it believes the artwork can be subjected to several interpretations.
The statement added, “The reality is that Chief Awolowo was a colossus who cannot be stereotyped. Stereotyping such a highly intriguing personality only exposes the lack of depth of the totality of what the late sage represents.”
Atta had also earlier said that the Awo that he and his colleagues chose to project was Awo the thinker and not a politician at a rally.
Although he earlier said that he would not change the laced shoes, there are indications that he may amend the work in this regards, based on the latest chat he had with our correspondent.