‘Everyday People’: Thematically opens up vistas of realities


Beyond critical concerns, it is not the duty of any photographer to set up orthodoxies by which others within human confine are required to abide. It is rather for him or her to visually examine the society, and in doing so, he or shecomes to terms with the fact of his or her interest, as we can see it, towards a comprehensive socio-political and economic complexities


The above position aptly reflects in this exhibitionthematically tagged Everyday People, which highlights the undying spirit of some Nigerians, drawing attention to “those fleeting moments when human emotions and physical surroundings combine to create stories of joy, sorrow, contradictions, absurdity, anger, humour and real life situations.”  This exhibition, which is his first solo outing,also underscores the environmental and the socio-economic devastation that Nigeria and Nigerians have experienced.  Through these pictures, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, a civil servant, bitten by the bug of creativity, has strongly drawnattention to the need for national and perhaps international dialogue on the economic realities within Nigeria nay every other placeAnd as a social documentary photographer, the idea, according to him, is to portray the different circumstances of his subjects in order to correct them and bring about reforms.

As much as this exhibition is meant to visually highlight the real life issues affecting the people daily, it is also a true reflection of the poignant and very grim socio-economic situation in the country which I believe is in dire need of an urgent revival. In view of this exhibition, I had the strong conviction that it is also the duty of photographers todocument what may be termed ‘unspeakable’ and also open the ‘Pandora box’ and generate the right public debate or discourse that can hopefully see us out of the woods.

Caught up in the labyrinthine depth of Abdullahi’s visual documentation, one is also trapped by his simple but not simplistic images, overwhelmingly highlighting histranscendental imaginations. This can be clearly seen in the obvious bitter-sweet ‘Pensive in which a light is shone on the seeming vulnerability of a set of children living under threats of hunger, illiteracy, displacement, exploitation, physical and mental abuse.

Abdullahi’s landscape and his portraiture is an epical resonation of his subject matters in exhilarating sensibilities.  Yet, the artist is well earthed in his evocative range of compelling subjects, of mediumistic conceptualisation and instructive interpretations.  Through a serious alliance of exquisitely nuanced convergence, he has transformed experiences into monumental calligraphy of realities.  And beyond the grasp of the visual, the real truths here are couched in a more realistic imageries captured from places to places at which he is confronted with himself and with his environment and again with himself – and then his subjects of interest.

Right from his entrance on the photography scene, Abdullahihas brilliantly dawned on us as one of the definitive visions of the new generation of Nigerian visual artists.  His style is unique, his sensibility refreshing and his ideas revealing, and,by and large, culminating in a redefinition of subliminal documentation of the human milieu.  Also of equal significance is his remarkable ability at sustaining a creativebrilliance through a consistent reinvention that derives from his relentless experimentation with as much his camera as his images.

Abdullahi has maintained a distinguished string of applicable creativity that has remained resourcefully extensive and imaginatively illuminating through a persistent stylistic/formalistic renewal.  Therefore, in the light of his continuous gush of outstanding artistry, he will no doubtsucceed in sustaining such remarkable freshness that could only derive from an enduring creative urge and productive self-watch.  And the totality of this quality is what he hasbrought to fruition in this exhibition. 

His works are compellingly assuming significance to the effect that subjects such as ‘Undying Spirit or ‘Contrast’, ‘Hold It’ and ‘Viewpoint are, among others, very splendid – a sort of reinforcement to the central theme, like in his ‘Providence.  Thus, apart from his employment of reporting artistry in ‘Black Market‘Passionate’ ‘Waste Pickers’ other works remain equally central to the conceptual weave of the theme

Some of the works have loquaciously reveal the squalor and the likely consequent health hazards that we are to encounter in the country.  But, in all of this, we can still find optimism and hope in the faces of those photographed here. In works like ‘Roadside’, ‘Off Road’, ‘Surprise’ and ‘Diligence’, hiscreative emphasis is advanced towards manifesting the fulfilment of reporting in highly restrained and suspicious photographic terrain, in spite of the risks.  Also, relatively significant to the direction of his documentary is himanipulation of the focal pointthe synchronising of the functionality of his gadget with the camera shutter to achievethe dominant compositional elements that integrate his imageswith the weight of the contextual visuality of his structures, plots, stylistics, location and the rational themes

In quite a number of the works, the weight of the search for daily bread and the disposition and the entrepreneurial acumen of the average Nigerians are quite accentuated.  Essentially, his visual harmony is largely through a compositional reinforcement of the overall pictorial effect, besides which there is no employment of brush work like photoshop as catalyst to intensify the emotion in the awesomeness of his collections.  Instead, the expression of hopes and anxieties captured is heightened in the dramatic variation, conceptual interpretation and, sometimes, symbolic characterisation of his images

Beyond all these, what remains and yet unfailingly rivets anonlooker are Abdullahi’s familiar but memorable traits:  the etching of his imagination within the familiar vistas of reality to include the deepest terrains of dreams…, the thorough filtering of experience and total distillation of feelings into subliminally captured pictures…, the evocative exploration of the subterranean self and the unusual deep-dive into the gorges of existence to reveal the soul of realities…, the transcendental simplification of the human complexities and, of course, the paradoxical blending of themes and philosophical visualisation of issues…  Although these areusually not new to serious creative activists, but these traits have, in the yet not so long of his practice, become the hallmark of his works which are not only fabulous butrefreshingly thematic

AUTHOR: Enam Obiosio: Investor Relations Practitioner, and Arts, Culture and Entertainment Analyst

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