Delta Bush Refineries and Other Stories

Seventy-five images of the problem-plagued Niger-Delta, captured by the lens of leading Nigerian photojournalist Akintunde Akinleye, are the subject of the exhibition titled Delta Bush Refineries and Other Stories at the Omenka Gallery. Running till December 31, together the works deal movingly with the complicated issues surrounding the region, including the illegal refining and smuggling of crude oil by local gangs, amidst the perennial exploitation by international oil exploration and production companies, of the local communities leaving in its wake, polluted waters, uncultivable land and loss of subsistence. Each distinct photograph is a vital chapter in a continuing episode of the consequences of a nation’s reliance on crude oil as a mono-product to drive her ailing economy. Indeed, each image contributes a layer of meaning to the whole, to create multiple coexistent possibilities for interpretation. Here, the viewer consents to engage in dialogue with the works, despite the disturbing nature of the subject. In 2007, Akinleye became the first Nigerian to win the World Press Photo Award with his depiction of a Nigerian man, rinsing soot from his face at the scene of an oil explosion in a densely inhabited area of Lagos, Abule-Egba. On December 26, 2006, an armed gang ruptured a pipeline and siphoned off fuel into road tankers, leaving behind a stream of petrol on which hundreds of residents pounced to sell on the black market. It burst into flames while the scavengers were collecting the fuel. According to the Red Cross, the fire killed at least 269 people, and injured and burned dozens of others who were trapped between a workshop and sawmill. The photograph also sparked interest in the UK with its inclusion in The Spiritual Highway exhibition at the Brunei Gallery (2014)

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