One of the highlights of the 20th Lagos Book Art and Festival, which ended on Sunday at the Freedom Park, Broad Street, was a solo art exhibition produced by Asiri Magazine and curated by Oludamola Adebowale.
Themed, Colours of our history, the exhibition, which ran throughout the weeklong event at the Museum Gallery, away from the familiar sounds and sights of the Food Court, featured a total of 20 illustrations woven around Nigeria’s political and cultural history.
The exhibition was divided into two parts. The first part highlighted certain events and powerful individuals, men and women, whose actions had significantly contributed to shaping the social and political history of the country.
There was an attempt to draw attention to the scantily documented anti-British resistance movement that once thrived in many parts of Nigeria as portrayed in the illustration titled, The Ekumeku Commandos.
The exhibition also attempted to revisit the familiar tale of the British invasion of the ancient Kingdom of Benin in 1897 as a reminder of that sad episode in Nigerian history, just as it also recalled memories of Abeokuta’s bloody encounters with rampaging female warriors from the neighbouring Kingdom of Dahomey in search of slaves and other spoils of war, a narrative that appears to have been buried in the sands of time.
The second part of Colours of our history captures the story of the colonisation of Lagos, beginning with the feud between Oba Kosoko and Akitoye to the bombardment and eventual invasion of the kingdom by the British in 1851, in 10 illustrations.
Explaining why there was so much emphasis on the political history of Lagos, Adebowale said,“ I believe that Nigerian historians have not done enough justice to the history of Lagos, which is a very interesting narrative. Many natives of Lagos know very little or nothing about the narrative. I don’t think that many of those who currently do business on the Marina know that the battle for the soul of the island between the British invaders and the inhabitants was fought right there.
“The fact that the outcome of the battle directly led to the colonisation of the entire country makes it a very important subject. If, perhaps, the invasion hadn’t happened and Lagos was not captured by the British, Nigeria’s history would have been different today. This exhibition has only scratched the surface of the story of Lagos.”
Adebowale also said that the choice of theme was borne out of a need to demonstrate Asiri’s commitment to promoting African history, arts and culture. “We decided to hold this exhibition just to show the world what we are doing online. People can look at the works and engage them directly. I believe the illustrations say more about the content of our work and our objectives than any other medium of expression,“ he said.
Beyond Asiri’s claim to promoting Nigerian history and culture, it appears that the exhibition was primarily driven by a need to have history returned to the curriculum of primary and secondary schools in the country.