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Personality in Focus

How Title Deed is Responding to Stolen African Art

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By Jane Efagwu                                                              Photos: Olaseni Okedairo

It is no longer a secret. 2020 has proven to be the year of something bigger than anything else: The black revolution. Africans everywhere are taking a stand against systemic oppression, discrimination and objectification of the African culture and her people. While this major cultural reset now dominates public spheres and has initiated major social discourse everywhere around the world, it is important to look back at where it all started. Africa. Before the now popular violence and commodification of Africans themselves, there was the very unpopular violence and commodification of African art.

Stolen. Shipped. Sold. Copied. Displayed. And now, owned by major museums around the world, the journey to the world stage for African art has been a painful one. However, if it’s one thing about art, it’s that it will always turn pain to power. This power is what Title Deed, a collective of seven young Nigerian contemporary artists-Wasiu Eshinlokun, Maureen Uzoh, Ken Nwadiogbu, Lekan Abatan, Emma Odumade, Margaret Otoikhine and Yussuff Aina have employed in correcting the narrative and telling their own stories through their own art and in their own spaces.

Re: Mediation. An exhibition which was held at the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) at Victoria Island, Lagos featuring works that boundlessly explore the theme of restitution. In these works, these artists demonstrate the importance of understanding the past and appreciating the present as a means of predicting and owning the future.

Eshinlokun’s display features masking tapes dangling in an unending W motion, flooding the ceiling and connecting to the three art pieces on the wall which are also connected to themselves and each other. The artist goes a step further to pull the art out of the frame by featuring a live remake in a painted and taped human form. This one step produces several painted and muddled footsteps and the artist explains that this represents the movements of Africans and their culture such that we no longer know where it starts or where it stops. Wasiu also explains that the tape represents bondage as well as continuity of life for Africans, African art and of course, African artists.

For Ken Nwadiogbu the renowned hyperrealist, the eyes will always have it. This is how he represents consciousness in an unconscious world. He depicts the sale and commodification of consciousness by putting eyes on a coin. Nwadiogbu’s clever irony stings again when he puts open eyes on bodies and cages them with something made to cool us down – a fan.

To execute the theme, Maureen Uzoh employs a brilliant fuse of new media and old culture. Her works also feature heavy themes of sisterhood, African feminity and family. In one frame, Uzoh attempts to ridicule the idea of the West renting, selling or discounting African art to its rightful owners despite being aware and even wearing the countless headlines of stolen African art being reported in the media.

Abatan’s Our Ancestors Wear Prada shows the aftermath of a cross-fire meeting between Africans, their art and the West thus birthing popular phrases like ‘African American’. His works feature portraits of historical Benin, Ife and Nok art pieces dressed up in Calvin Klein, Adidas and Lacoste with African fabrics as the background. The mix up is almost comical yet thought provoking.

Restitution is literal for Yussuff Aina as he presents three dimensional versions of a recreation of Eniyan, his signature mask style. Eniyan, meaning person in Yoruba, takes on the form of newly excavated art pieces whose facial/body features have been damaged due to the gruesome unearthing process. One piece features Eniyan with palms pressed together and a marked cross on one palm. He explains that this is a way of using Western religion to beg/pray that the Westerners return the stolen pieces back to Africa.

Choosing a dramatic yet creative approach to the topic, Margaret Otoikhine casts African art and its stories in movie posters that attract you with their colors and captivate you with their details. The only photographer in the group, her use of black and white imagery on one of her pieces, Queen Idia, sees the filmmaker and photographer attempt to tell the Queen’s actual story before the tragedy. It is Margaret’s way of telling her own story as an Edo born Nigerian. She explains that the poster was actually for a short film that was supposed to be shot but was put on hold because of the pandemic.

What better way to change the narrative than to educate? But how do you educate people on what they can’t even see or understand despite how much it affects them today? Emma Odumade captures this glitch in the system by depicting the after effects of the looting on education and African children, who he says he used to represent dreams. His works are set against the heavy backdrop of the past while projecting the uncertainty of the future especially for the younger, upcoming generation.

The ‘Re: Mediation’ exhibition is a very refreshing take on the conversation surrounding African art and it’s movements because it offers a contemporary yet genuine view on the topic. The works serve as an intermediary between a distant past and an uncertain yet inspiring future. ‘Re: Mediation’ commenced on the 26th of September, 2020 and showed at the African Artists’ Foundation until the 12th of October, 2020.

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Personality in Focus

Meet Yemisi Edun, FCMB’S New Acting MD

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The management of First City Monument Bank has appointed Yemisi Edun as its acting managing director.

Mrs Edun, holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and a Master’s degree in International Accounting and Finance from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

She is also a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Mrs Edun began her career with Akintola Williams Deloitte in 1987 with focus on corporate finance activities and audit of banks and other financial institutions.

She joined FCMB in 2000 as Divisional Head of Internal Audit and Control before assuming the role of Chief Financial Officer of the bank.

The acting MD is also an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers and an Associate Member of the Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Member of Information Systems Audit and Control, U.S.A. and a Certified Information Systems Auditor.

The decision to appoint Edun acting MD came amidst the scandal involving the managing director of the bank, Adam Nuru.

Mr Nuru proceeded on leave earlier in the week to enable the bank to investigate the allegations against him.

The bank has been in the eye of the storm lately when allegations of unprofessional romantic affair were leveled against Mr Nuru.

It was reported that over 1900 people signed a petition asking the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sack the Mr Nuru.

The petition alleged that the bank MD was responsible for the demise of a staffer, Tunde Thomas.

Mr Thomas was said to have died of depression on December 16, 2020.

According to the petition, the FCMB MD allegedly had an affair with Moyo Thomas, who was the deceased’s wife, resulting in two children.

It alleged that Moyo had informed her husband that she was leaving Nigeria for the United States with the kids only to call him upon arrival that the children do not belong to him.

The petition claimed the news initially caused Mr Thomas to have a stroke but he later recovered and thereafter met another lady whom he planned to marry.

Mr Thomas was, however, said to have suffered a cardiac arrest after returning from work about two days before his introduction to his already pregnant girlfriend.

On Tuesday, FCMB called on the public to exercise caution as it looks into the allegations.

In a Twitter post Wednesday night however, the bank said Mrs Edun has only been appointed in acting capacity, “and that she has not been made the substantive managing director”.

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Personality in Focus

Online Security Publishers Honour ‘Mama Diaspora’ for Selfless Service to Humanity

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Her Royal Highness Queen Mother Amina Temitope Ajayi F.I.I.M, Chairman/CEO Silicon Valley Nigerian Economic Development (SV-NED) Inc., fondly called, Mama Diaspora was recently honoured at the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP) Dinner and Awards 2020, held at the NERDC Conference Centre, Alausa-Ikeja, Lagos, as the NAOSNP Lifetime Achievement in Humanitarian and Security Award.

Chief Mrs. Temitope Ajayi’s selfless commitment to the welfare of humanity – both at home and in the Diaspora cannot be overemphasized. It was in appreciation of her social entrepreneurship and community activism that Google ranked her as the “third most powerful person” in the Country. The queen mother, a leading advocate of women and youth empowerment, has, in the past two months, empowered over 300 Nigerian youths, and still counting, many of who participated in the 12-day October nationwide protests tagged #EndSARS (#EndSARS is a decentralised social movement, and series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. The slogan calls for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of abuses), including men and women, with interest-free loans and other materials, to be self-dependent with interest-free loans.

The Queen Mother has restated her commitment to continue empowering and motivating the youths whom she described as bastion of strength and hope for the Nigerian economy.

“Winning this award tells me that people are watching and appreciating what I’m doing. The best thing for me is to keep helping people in every way I can, and I’m sure the award will help more people to come and support the Nigerian Young Adults to do greater work and make Nigeria Proud” she said.

NAOSNP through her President, Comrade Samson Oki believe that as a Community Activist who has always been talking about women and youth empowerment, Mama Diaspora should be publicly recognised for her outstanding humanitarian contribution to humanity.

“She has demonstrated great courage and the power to inspire people, especially the Nigerian Youths to be entrepreneurs, have the ability to lead and possess incredible integrity to stand out in what they do” he said.

The US-based Nigerian business consultant who is an Accountant, Social Entrepreneur and an ardent community activist, was the former President of All Nigerian American Congress (ANAC). Her efforts and continued advocacy on the Nigerian Diaspora issues earned her in the moniker Mama Diaspora, an iconic inspiration of hope and love.

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Personality in Focus

Taste is My Unique Selling Point, Says Tola Animashaun, King of Finger Food

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Popularly called Tola Guinea Fowl, Atolagbe Animashaun has distinguished himself in the burgeoning food industry in Nigeria. Whether at home, office or in social functions, food must be eaten. Having carved a niche in the finger food sector in the past 21 years, Tola now calls himself ‘the king of finger food.’

The CEO of Tola Guinea Fowl Ventures stated ‘our business covers guinea fowl, chicken and turkey processing. We also make asun, barbecue, and other products from these poultry birds. I can say that in the past 21 years, God has put fruit to our efforts.’

On the origin of his business, ‘I was not born into the business. I got to know about it having observed my brother who was into the business. He is not really doing the business now but I have moved forward with the business. This is how guinea fowl has become a big business for me.’

The finger food merchant continued: ‘In this business, I always have the mindset that what I cannot eat, I must not give it to others. And this guides me to give superior product quality for each and every one of our orders.’

‘Our unique selling point is the taste. There will always be the unique difference of taste when finger foods come from our brand. This is what distinguish us from the rest.’

‘Those paying us money value us, we must also value them in return. So I ensure that I monitor every stage of the processing. Sometimes I do it myself. I do not say I am the CEO. Product quality is vital and I am so glad that we are receiving commendation from the creme de la creme in the society.’

On ensuring durability of the perishable product, Mr. Animashaun noted:
‘Depending on the distance of our orders, the method of preservation we use also vary. This is so that we can maintain the freshness of the product. We roast some to dryness to lose oil content so there won’t be occasion for rottenness even after 10-15 days. We freeze some products and place ice blocks on them so that it can maintain freshness and taste.’

The agripreneur who is full of gratitude for the clients shared: ‘I want to say thank you to all our clients who patronize us within and abroad the shores of Nigeria. We are online through our website and social media and we deliver in time. This has made us to enjoy word of mouth advertising from our clients which gladdens my heart.’

‘It is their satisfaction that has brought the recognition of the NAOSNP award as the ‘Finger Food Brand Company of the year’ which I cherish so much. I am also praying to attain greater heights and also be able to establish International branches.’

He advised youths to get involved in productive activity. ‘It is not like there is no job but some don’t want to learn or invest time and energy. Many of my customers from 20 years ago are still with me today. That’s the reward of hard work. I am very excited that I am into this business. I was not forced into it. It is my passion and I am enjoying the result of dedication to my passion. I have married, have children, built house, bought cars from this business. It’s a great thing and I thank God.’

‘I also advise youths to use this time well. I am still youthful, it is better for me to use it for my business. My wife understands this. My children know too. So they have to give me the necessary support. When I get customers’ orders I have to set out. I am very ready like a soldier, my business is 24-hour service-oriented’, he concluded.

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