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The Exchange from Change

The exchange of change remains the internally generated funds from agriculture and art and tourism” – Michael Fashakin

In this one sentence, Fashakin offers us a deeper understanding of his thinking behind the title of his forthcoming solo exhibition in Lagos. Here, he asserts that the foreign exchange dearly needed to rejuvenate the Nigerian economy by the Buhari-led federal government, symbolically represented by its “change” mantra, can only be realized from a harnessing of our agricultural and cultural wealth.

In 32 works in diverse media, ranging from drawings, paintings and prints to mixed media, Fashakin aptly describes the Nigerian situation – an impoverished state brought about by years of mismanagement and financial impropriety by successive Nigerian administrations, which squandered away the country’s wealth despite the oil boom in the 1970s that brought about advancements in technology and rapid industrialization. He calls for the urgent need for diversification of the Nigerian economy away from an over reliance on a mono-product – crude oil.

Today, Nigeria suffers myriad problems from poor infrastructure to epileptic power supply, youth unemployment, to a lack of basic healthcare facilities, and consequently an increased crime rate. Indeed, Michael Fashakin’s two-pronged solution to Nigeria’s floundering economic status is hinged on the federal government’s investment and close attention to agriculture and culture. It has been recognized that the arts, tourism and culture have the potential to engender economic transformation by creating jobs and stemming poverty.

Europe by rope, metal foil,mixed media, 2016, 77.6cm

Presently, the most visited destinations in the world include Paris and Dubai, replete with their renowned artists, art fairs, prestigious museums and places of historical interest. Of significance here, is Dubai’s heavy reliance on tourism as an economic tool away from its once large crude oil reserves as evidenced by major investments in tourism infrastructure, which saw a 9% contribution to her GDP between 2015 and 2016.  Other African countries like Egypt, Kenya and Mozambique have come to experience consistent income from the tourism industry; from the pyramids of Egypt to the wildlife and game reserves in Mozambique and Kenya. Likewise, Nigeria’s tourism potential must be harnessed through the creation of art fairs, the establishment of museums and identification of historically and culturally significant sites. The federal government‘s focus on culture will lead to increased appreciation of culture by Nigerians, as well as co-existence amongst our multiplicity of tribes and ethnicities. Fashakin also alludes to the importance of our rich cultural heritage in not only encouraging foreign investment but in also reinventing our collective image by challenging negative perceptions cast on us, including the label as a “fantastically corrupt” country.

Some of the works that are on exhibit indeed underscore Michael Fashakin’s position. For example in Ile ya (home, here I come), a drummer is depicted with the torn surface of his once taut drum, serving as a metaphor for a Nigeria unable to cater for the welfare of the majority of her citizens despite vast human and natural resources. In Future Leaders, Fashakin questions the capability of the younger generation of Nigerians to lead the country when precious time meant for the classroom is spent hawking wares on the street to support their parents and siblings. One Penny reminds us of a time when the naira exchanged for equal value as the pound. In How Long?, the sole figure is shackled, reminiscent of our recent history when a canon gun sold at the price of fifteen able bodied men – a metaphor for mental slavery. In Europe by Rope, Fashakin laments the brain drain – the mass exodus of professionals who migrate to the West in search of greener pastures, leaving their home country underdeveloped and in dire need of their services.

Born September 23, Michael Fashakin is a graduate of the Yaba College of Technology and holds a higher national diploma in painting. A former assistant general-secretary of the Society of Nigerian Artists, Lagos Chapter, he has participated in several group exhibitions including Times of Life (2009), NYSC our Influence (2009).

In all, the works are individually strong and together they underscore the contemporary artist’s heightened role as a beacon of hope and as a “change” agent in shaping society positively.

 

Oliver Enwonwu

President, Society of Nigerian Artists

April, 2017

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