An exhibition of 31 paintings and drawings by a painter-philosopher, Ibe Ananaba, opened recently in Lagos, titled: ‘Towards The Light’. The exhibition is hosted by The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, featuring 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.”
In the wake of demands for good governance in Nigeria, Ananaba’s art inspires a sense of community and hope in restless times. Ananaba, who graduated from the Institute of Management & Technology (IMT), Art School, Enugu State, in 1999, with a distinction in painting, spent the early part of his career working in advertising, honing his technique and artistry as a fashion illustrator, designer, caricaturist, portraitist and art director, before becoming a full time studio artist.
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 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. “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,” said the exhibition curator and Founder of SMO Contemporary Art, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago. Commenting on the exhibition, fellow artist and writer, Tony Nsofo, said: “While enthusing about poise, elegance and glamor, 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.” Also commenting on the exhibition, a notable visual artist, writer, and photographer, Victor Ehikhamenor, described Ananaba’s dexterity with palette knife as incomparable. “Ananaba’s dexterity with the palette knife in bringing to light our daily lives is incomparable to no other artist of his generation.
“This new body of works succinctly captures both the gloom and hope of our current existence. The anchor and beauty that tie it all together is the optimism that ‘Towards The Light’ portends for all of us,” he said. Ananaba has taken part in many group shows and solo exhibitions in Nigeria, South Africa, the United States, the UK, Israel, and Canada. Ananaba 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 regularly taught workshops on diverse topics including ‘Harnessing Your Artistic potential’ and volunteers as Chief Art Consultant and Coordinator of studio programs for the Girl Child Art Foundation, a non-governmental organization committed to using art as an advocacy tool for adolescent girls.
It was gathered that, ‘Towards the Light’ will run till December 4, and is supported by Louis Guntrum wines. Talking about some of the works, Ananaba said: “Conversations with the Future and Reassurance are inspired by talks between my daughter and I; she can ask me a million questions. Because of the pandemic, she can’t go to school, she can’t see her friends, go to the park, play outside. “Having to explain the times we’re in was what gave birth to that painting.
‘Daddy, when do you think coronavirus will stop?’, ‘Sweetheart, I don’t know’; ‘Are we going to be like this forever?’ “No, things will look up, for now, let’s just be a happy family that we are, let’s just create, look at things we like, and be happy. “This is me trying to plant seeds to expand her mind, while we’re in darkness. I’m saying look, you need to hold onto faith and look towards the brighter side. “You will still experience all the things you want and go to all the places you want, you will still play with and see your friends. This is me trying to guide her mind to be optimistic.”