November 24, 2020

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In restless times, art moves towards light

3 min read

A solo exhibition of 31 paintings and drawings by painter-philosopher Ibe Ananaba, Towards the Light, is currently holding at The Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos. It is an exhibition of paintings and drawings grounded in an avant-garde musical track, which encapsulates the rhythm of a generation seeking answers to fundamental questions about identity and equality, democracy, racism and the right to choose who leads us. It is being curated by SMO Contemporary Art led by Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago. Towards the Light is on view from November 4 to December 4, and is supported by Louis Guntrum wines.

Ananaba graduated from the Institute of Management & Technology (IMT) Enugu, in 1999 with a distinction in painting, and spent the early part of his career working in advertising where he honed his technique and artistry as a fashion illustrator, designer, caricaturist, portraitist and art director. He later opted for a full time studio practice.

Over the years, Ananaba’s art has provided a critical commentary to the state of global and local socio-politics.  During the months of the corona lock down, he kept himself busy in his studio, a safe cocoon in which music inspired each brush stroke, as he painted to drown out the insecurity, the anxiety, the uncertainty, and keep the pandemic at bay.

His subjects are presented in strong contrast, with powerful sources of light, which act as sheaves of hope filtering through dark spaces. He renders his portraits with deft impressionistic brushstrokes beckoning us to rediscover our internal peace, away from the rush of our noisy, complex lives. Ananaba’s work circles back to the mantra that despite the apparent darkness, we need to keep moving towards the light.

“Ananaba’s works bring solace at a time of emotional and political fatigue as we near the end of a very challenging year,” said Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, the exhibition curator and Founder of SMO Contemporary Art. “While the constraints on our lives in the midst of the corona pandemic are not relenting, Ananaba’s works remind us to continue to tap into the power of community, and the hope, vitality and pure creative energy of our visionary youth.

“While enthusing about poise, elegance and glamour, Ananaba’s works reflect on the dark sides of the human condition. His themes connect with his creative process rather than to any final visual presentation. He makes politically-charged statements with a consciousness for the daily struggles of living in Lagos and the ineptitude of governance,” said a fellow artist and writer, Tony Nsofor.

Ananaba has taken part in many group shows and solo exhibitions in Nigeria, South Africa, the United States, the UK, Israel, and Canada. He won first prize in the Art Masters Contest, at Art Vancouver in 2019, and his work is in important collections including the National Assembly in Abuja. He has taught workshops on diverse topics including ‘Harnessing Your Artistic potential’ and volunteers as Chief Art Consultant and Coordinator of studio programmes for the Girl Child Art Foundation, a non-governmental organisation committed to using art as an advocacy tool for adolescent girls.