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Abiriba culture, tradition through Akwari’s probing lens



Abiriba culture, tradition through  Akwari’s probing lens


The rich history and culture of the unique kingdom of Abiriba come to the fore as a solo exhibition by celebrated Nigerian documentary photographer and visual story-teller, Philips Akwari, opens this Saturday at Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, and runs till Monday June 10.


Akwari’s works are based on the everyday people and activities. Significantly also, his stories are usually based on the interactions and adaptations that take place around him daily. His stories on everyday transactions help to create a deeper understanding of his African root. Akwari’s philosophy is rooted in the words of the legendary author Chinua Achebe that “if you don’t tell your stories, nobody will tell it for you”. He also believes that when others are telling your stories, they won’t tell it accurately.


Born in Umuahia the capital of the present day Abia State but he grew up in his hometown of Abiriba also in Abia State where he had his primary and secondary education, Philips Akwari left Abiriba when he finished his secondary education at the age of 17. His father was a wood merchant who turned a farmer after his business collapsed and his mother who was a seamstress was also a farmer.


His understanding of the Abiriba culture stems from the fact that he grew up there and has participated in the past in some of the traditional ceremonies. He has a vast understanding of the Igbo culture as well as possessing the ability to read, write and speak fluently the language.


He studied Geography from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and later proceeded to the University of Ibadan for a Masters in Geography degree. In 2012, he bagged a Diploma in Photography and Videography from the Craft Film School in New Delhi, India.


Philips is saddled with the burden of telling the stories of his African root and believes it might be his major obligation as a visual story teller. He loves to capture the different aspects of his root which is not limited to landscapes, food, people, architecture, cultural festivities and events.


His book; Abiriba the small London: A photographic narrative of a rich African heritage which is under publication is a compendium of the Abiriba people, cultures, landscape and ways of living. Browsing through the book gives the reader a great depth of knowledge about the people and their world views. Apart from the book, he has several bodies of work which mirrors on the society he lives. He has a collection of the Nigerian foods, the preacher, Makoko: where we live and a host of others which are unpublished.


In 2013, he was part of the Revolutionary Artist exhibition in Lagos which was his first. In the same year he also exhibited in the Sparks exhibition organized by the Waterbrooks foundation in Lagos. In 2014 won the best Lagos Photo award organised by Taskdirect an affiliate of Zinox computers. His photo was also selected among the 30 best from the IAM Alive photo contest organized by Nikon Nigeria in 2015.


Philips is a mentee at the Nlele institute in Lagos a centre for contemporary arts. He has mentored more than 30 people whom he taught Photography at the Skill Acquisition Scheme (SAS) of the House that Wisdom Built church in Lagos.


His solo exhibition which opens this Saturday at Thought Pyramid Arts Centre shows his knowledge of rich Abiriba culture and history and his love to capture the different aspects of his root which is not limited to landscapes, food, people, architecture, cultural festivities and events.


Abiriba is one of the oldest monarchies in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. Known for its pre-historical blacksmithing, sculpture artifacts, cultural heritage, especially a well-developed and active Age-Grade system that has been significant to its development, Abiriba is a community of enterprising and industrious people.

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