Muyideen Adio Jaji is a contemporary sculptor, who has been producing sculptures, both in naturalism and abstraction. He has also delved into the exploration of stunted figures. The problem of this research therefore, is to outline the context that locates his stunted sculptures. The research, thus aims at analysing the content of Jaji’s stunted sculptures. The objectives are to: identify and categorise the stunted sculptures produced by Jaji, examine the media and style employed in the production of such sculptures and to discuss the ideological and philosophical basis for such sculptures. Having established painterly movements like Onaism and Araism from their exploration of the Yoruba aesthetics; in literature, there is need to document the contributions of Jaji, to stunted sculptures. The justification of the research lies in the foregoing; as well as, the research’s capacity to tell the African story from an artistic point of view. The research is significant for bringing to fore, salient issues imbedded in Nigeria’s various traditions and cultures. In analyzing the stunted sculptures produced by Jaji, Akpang’s (2013) concept of Hybrid Aesthetics was adopted; outlining the cultural context that forms the basis for his artistic creations. By so doing, cogent elements in such cultures are discussed, consequently making this research a means for cultural understanding and appreciation. The findings made from the fieldwork and analysis, established that the artist’s exploration of figures, resulted into the production of ten stunted figures, between 2008 and 2015. Adopting the partial abstraction approach, the sculptures were produced in two major materials; terracotta and fibreglass. As an artist that derives inspiration from the environment, the stunted figures he produced were majorly propelled by the symbolic artistic traits that are imbedded in the traditional Yoruba Aesthetics. The study concludes by recommending that Art Historians should research further, into various indigenous artistic.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title Page – – – – – – – – – – – i
Declaration – – – – – – – – – – – ii
Certification – – – – – – – – – – – iii
Dedication – – – – – – – – – – – iv
Acknowledgements – – – – – – – – – – v
Abstract – – – – – – – – – – – vi
Table of Contents – – – – – – – – – – vii
List of Figures – – – – – – – – – – x
List of Plates – – – – – – – – – – – xi
Introduction – – – – – – – – – – 1
Background of the Study – – – – – – – – 6
Statement of the Problem – – – – – – – – 9
Aim and Objectives of the Study – – – – – – – 9
Research Questions – – – – – – – – – 10
Justification of the Study – – – – – – – – 10
Significance of the Study – – – – – – – – 10
Scope of the Study – – – – – – – – – 11
Conceptual Framework – – – – – – – – 11
Review of Related Literature – – – – – – – – 14
Sculptures and the Styles Evolved by Artists – – – – – – 14
Materials and Styles in Sculpture – – – – – – 20
Ideas and Philosophies that Accompany Sculptures – – – – – 31
Literature on Muyideen Adio Jaji – – – – – – – 37
Research Methodology – – – – – – – – 40
Research Design – – – – – – – – – 40
Sources of Data – – – – – – – – – 41
Population and Sampling Technique – – – – – – – 42
Field Work – – – – – – – – – – 42
Data Analysis and Discussion – – – – – – – – 44
The Stunted Sculptures of Muyideen Adio Jaji and their Categories – – – 44
The Materials and Styles Employed By Muyideen Adio Jaji – – – 53
The Ideological and Philosophical Basis for the Stunted Sculptures – – – 60
Socio-Political Ideas – – – – – – – – – 62
Socio-Religious Ideas – – – – – – – – – 69
Ghanaian Influenced Stunted Sculptures- – – – – – – 79
Summary, Findings And Conclusion – – – – – – – 88
Summary – – – – – – – – – – 88
Findings – – – – – – – – – – 94
Conclusion – – – – – – – – – – 96
Recommendation – – – – – – – – – 98
References – – – – – – – – – – 100
Appendix I: Draft-Interview Questions – – – – – – 107
Appendix II: Interview Questions and Answers – – – – – 108
Appendix III: The Researcher with the Artist During Fieldwork – – – 115
Traditional African art was generally characterized by its relative functionality and aesthetics. Art was a functional and necessary part of everyday life for traditional Africans. Religion, government, education, work and entertainment were all inter-related components in traditional African societies. Whether tangible or intangible, all forms of artistic expressions were deeply woven into the very fabric of their socio-religious context; playing central roles, in establishing a cohesive community. Activities such as folktales and festivals, helped achieve this bound.
Igbaro (2010) in writing about art and religious development in Nigeria adduces that, “art permeates every strata of life, because it was then prestigious to be associated with art and art works, more also that, it was religiously expedient to do so.” In pre-colonial Africa, the belief in the supernatural and the worship of ancestors, through rituals and festivals, were very significant phenomena on which Africans base most of their life happenings. Religion, just like art, was intimately tied to all life endeavours, which made a common identity between religion and art inevitable.
Art objects were employed as vehicles for spiritual communication in diverse ways. Some were created for use on altars and shrines. For instance, in the kingdom of Benin, cast brass commemorative heads, are placed on royal ancestral altars, where they serve as a point of contact with the king’s royal ancestors, as well as, keeping the memories of their reign alive. Christa (2006) describes annual rite of renewal among the Bwa, as means to seek the continued goodwill of nature spirits. Personal misfortunes, such as illness, death, or barrenness, or community crises, including war or drought, are also causes to petition the spirits for guidance and assistance. Africans engaged in religious practices with a desire to engage the spiritual world in the interest of social stability and well-being. This is as a result of their belief that, all humanity’s fortunes and misfortunes occurred as a function of the disposition of the supernatural god. Art did not just serve religious functions in pre-colonial African life, it also served several salient functions in the totality of the African existence; affirming one of its numerous definitions that reads – ‘art is life’. Art also functioned in beautification; it functioned politically, economically, socially, culturally, educationally, and in several other spheres of life, including solving domestic challenges.
Certain visual elements, however, were incorporated into these African art forms. These visual elements were neither encompassed in the work as a fluke, nor as a result of the artist’s limitation in the interpretation and representation of his visual perception; but were adopted to serve metaphorically symbolic functions. These visual elements, mostly in human figures, were enlarged, reduced or totally distorted from their natural form. For instance, the distortion of the head, navel, female breast or male reproductive organ, as seen in Nok art, Akuaba art, among others, does not signify incompetence on the part of the artists, but was deliberately done, for symbolic emphasis. For instance, in the traditional Yoruba sculptural representation, the head is
usually blown out of relative proportion, to the rest of the body to signify the supernatural importance placed on the head, as a symbol of an individual’s identity and destiny, as well as serving as a metaphorical emblem of leadership.
These visual elements imbedded in the art of the traditional Africans, formed the bed rock for the artistic explorations of some western artists, who encountered some African art pieces. Murrell (2008) opines that, “during the early 1900s, the aesthetics of traditional African sculpture, became a powerful influence among European artists who, formed an avant-garde in the development of modern art.” He further explains that, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and their School of Paris friends, blended the highly stylized treatment of the human figure in African sculptures, with painting styles derived from the post-impressionist works of Cezanne and Gauguin. Their encounter with these art forms, gave rise to modern art movements such as Fauvism, cubism, and abstract expressionism.
In the same vein, the adoption of some of these stylistic traits is evident in the works of some contemporary African artists like Ben Enwonwu (1921-1994). ‘Anyanwu’, (produced in 1955), is one of his most prominent works, Enwonwu fused some traditional African stylistic traits, like scarifications, body adornments, partial abstraction and exaggeration of forms, among others; into his works. Vincent Kofi Akwete (1923-1974), from Ghana, also tapped into the annals of traditional African art, in embellishing his artistic ideas. Taking wood as his favourite medium of expression, the thematic essence of most of Kofi’s works were influenced by traditional concepts. Banjoko (2000) holds that, “necks and facial details were rendered in the manner of Akan Akuaba figures. Works like ‘Awakening Africa’, ‘Birth of Ghana’, and ‘Crucifix’ are good examples.”
Also, a form of artistic patriotism, by means of the adoption of the traditional African artistic values, was identified amongst the first set of art graduates, from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. From an account by Ubani (2014), the ‘Natural Synthesis’, as the concept of the ‘Zaria Rebels’ was tagged (as Uche Okeke and his group were called), was based on the fusion between the traditional and modern forms; a transformation of traditional art forms, using new media and techniques. Many of these artists sought original forms from their basic background and origin, with which they used modern materials and techniques to explore. Nnadozie (2008), based on his own knowledge of the natural synthesis wrote:
…they formed an art society and urged their members to embark on a revolution of the traditional art forms of their individual culture with a view to synthesizing this rich heritage, with the relatively new manifestation of modern art in Nigeria. Their ultimate goal was to achieve identity in their cultural existence…In practicing this philosophy, Onobrakpeya based on his Urhobo people’s folktales, Yusuf Grillo’s paintings began to reflect the elegant geometrical or the mathematical forms of the yoruba carvings. Demas took his interest back to the Nok civilization, while Uche Okeke, aware of a viable extremely eloquent form of artistic expression practiced among the Igbo of South East Nigeria, from antiquity, turned to this traditional art form for inspiration.
It was this form of artistic experimentations that gave rise to several other art groups like the Aka Group, and the Eye Society, among others. It also inspired other artistic movements like Ulism, Onaism, and much later, Araism, just to mention a few.
Onaism, just like the natural synthesis, is a movement that thrives based on the cultural idioms and motifs of the Yoruba. Adepegba (2008) asserts that, “the founders, Moyo Okediji, Kunle Filani, Tola Wewe, Bolaji Campbell and Tunde Nasiru, made conscious and deliberate effort to project and develop the Yoruba understanding and concept of art and aesthetics in contemporary Nigeria.” Irivwieri (2010) opines that Ona, is a Yoruba word, which means ‘art’. Irivwieri further explains that its relative connotations could refer to decoration, pattern, ornament, embellishment, design, composition, form, plant and motif, which are the basic elements in art production. In the same vein, Araism based on Mufu Onifade’s visual creation, came up, as
another exponent of the Yoruba tradition. Consequently, and as is usual with other movements, some scholars have expressed different opinions on the Araism movement. For example Adepegba (2008) asserts that, “the spirit of Onaism has influenced those who came in contact with it and has also inspired Mufu Onifade to midwife another technique called Ara. Araism, a movement that came out of Ara is a post-Onaism movement and shares a lot of similarities with it.”
Several other contemporary artists have tapped into diverse cultures, producing impressive art pieces, as products of their cultural romance. Artists like Gani Odutokun (1946-1995), who was known for interrogating his environment, especially the northern landscape through his visual forms; Kolade Oshinowo, who engages his Yoruba culture through the use of different unconventional materials like textiles; and Matthew Ehizele, a sculptor who specializes in welded metal sculptures in elucidating his environmental and cultural impressions; just to mention a few. Thus, Muyideen Adio Jaji, a Zaria Art School sculptor, who has been producing a series of dwarfish or stunted sculptures since 2008, is one of such artists. According to Jaji, the stunted nature of these sculptures is as a result of his encounter with a dwarf, named Olawale Ajiyan. In an interview, he says:
I had a contact with a dwarf named Olawale Ajiyan. He came in search of admission into the department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 2008. I got interested in his physical form, so I started studying him. In the process, I realized that initially, we were thinking of elegance in tall and elongated figures; however, with Wale’s short figures, one can still see God’s perfection in such forms. Coupled with my study of the African sculptures, which exaggerates the heads of their figures alongside stunted limbs and arms; I felt the urge to explore such forms. Even before there was a written history, dwarfs appeared in the artworks of many cultures. Images of dwarfs are among the oldest artifacts extant. They are depicted in ancient stone and clay funerary sculptures in Egypt, India, China, and the Mayan civilizations; they are highlighted in the legends and myths of every nation. In ancient Egypt, dwarfs were associated with Bes and
Ptah, gods of childbirth and creativity, which helped enhance their status. The Egyptian courts were unique, in that they offered roles to dwarfs as priests and courtiers, as well as, jewelers and keepers of linen and toilet objects. (Adelson, 2005) In accordance with the foregoing, Jaji’s ability to identify the stunted form of the dwarf he encountered, as an expression of God’s perfection, is a relative departure from the relatively ill treatment of dwarfs, in some cultures, in times past. Lenz (2015) reports that, “in ancient Rome, owners of dwarfs would intentionally malnourish their slaves, so they would sell for a higher price. In ancient Greece, dwarfs were associated in a menacing and lurid way with the rituals of the Dyonisian cult; art from that period shows them as bald men”. Also Adelson (2005), avers that “In the courts, from ancient Egypt through the 18th century, dwarfs were collected, indulged, sometimes abused, and sent by royalty as gifts. In all periods, they were assigned to wait upon or amuse others”. Adelson further explains that Monarchs in all nations sent emissaries far and wide to gather dwarfs: Although some may have been free, it is likely that others were held in some degree of bondage. A combination of being highly prized, but the property of an owner, were among the defining characteristics of dwarfs’ lives during the nearly 5000 years they are known to have been present in the courts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and Central America.
Elevating the status of dwarfs, Olawale served as a major trigger for the exploration of the stunted figures by Jaji; hence this research on him.
Background of the Study
Muyideen Adio Jaji was born in Lagos, on the 11th of October, 1955, by a Ghana based Nigerian business man, from Kwara State, called Alhaji Wahab Jaji. Jaji’s father left him in Nigeria, with his uncle, who raised him during his primary school years. In those early years, Jaji started developing interest in sculpture. At the age of six, he had started creating forms and shapes from
clay. In June 1969, Jaji left Nigeria for Ghana, to join his parents, where he had his post primary education. He enrolled immediately, into the Presbyterian Boys Middle School, Aburi in Ghana for his secondary education between 1970 and 1975. His father, wanting him to become a medical doctor, made him to join the science class. On the other hand, his teachers, Mr. Isaac Apereku and Mr. Asare Tetteh, because of his excellent performance in art, encouraged him to pick up art, as a career; hence, his foray into art.
After completing his secondary education, he worked briefly with the Nigerian Ports Authority, Apapa Lagos. He went back to Ghana to complete his Advanced Levels, between 1976 and 1978. He enrolled into the University of Arts, Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana to study Fine Arts. Later, in 1979, he left Ghana for Nigeria, due to students’ unrest that led to the closure of universities in Ghana, during the regime of Jerry Rawlings as President. On his return to Nigeria, in 1980, he was offered an opportunity to study Fine Arts, at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He specialized in Sculpture, graduating in 1983, with a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts. Between the years 1983 and 1984, Jaji participated in the National Youth Service in the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, then immediately enrolled for a Master of Fine Arts degree and specialized in sculpture. Afterwards he took a lecturing appointment in 1988, with the Department of Fine and Applied Art College of Education Ilorin, Kwara State. He later left for Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho in 1992 and from there; he came to settle at the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1997, as a lecturer in Sculpture. Jaji bagged a doctorate degree (PhD) in Art Education, at the same institution, in 2014.
Jaji has proven to be a determined artist, who follows his heart, for the love of sculpture. Firstly, at his early age, he decided to continue his art lessons, despite his father’s wish for him to
become a medical doctor. Among his colleagues, he stands out as the only Muslim sculptor, despite the fact that, his religion frowns at some aspects of it. When asked why he chose to make naturalistic sculptures, despite being a Muslim, Jaji replies by saying “it is only when you are doing them for worship, that it is wrong”. Similarly, Broit (2013) comments that “…If you start your artistic career by listing all the things you cannot do, you reduce your creative freedom while you really need to expand it”. Perhaps that has also guided Jaji’s persistence in art practice.
Jaji exhibits his artistic prowess, in his frequent use of cement as his modeling medium, in the execution of several commissioned works, in both relief and sculptures in the round. Consequently, Jaji’s commissioned works are mostly life sized or larger than life, made from cement. These include ‘The Junior Air Man’, commissioned for the Air Force Military School Jos, Plateau State, and ‘Argungu Fisherman’ at the NTA roundabout Ilorin, Kwara State, all done in 1984. Others are ‘Sango’, the statue of Kwame Kurmah of Ghana, and a relief sculpture of Sir Ahmadu Bello (1986); all mounted in the sculpture garden of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, to mention but a few.
He has staged one solo exhibition and participated in several group exhibitions, some of which are ‘Variety’ (1999), Alliance Francaise, Kaduna; ‘Here and Now’ (2010), New Jersey, USA; ‘Santi’ Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures, (2010), Terraculture, Victoria Island, Lagos; ‘Santi II’, Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures (2012), Thought Pyramid Art Gallery, Abuja; amongst many others.
Jaji, like most contemporary artists, has an artistic style. One vivid characteristic, mostly evident in his works, is his interest in naturalistic forms. Despite the new and popular trends of producing sculptures, like ‘installation’ and ‘conceptual arts’; he has over the years, maintained the naturalistic style of producing sculptures, which some argue, is old fashioned. When asked about
his view on installation art, he replies thus: “it is a way of escape from the real work”. As such, he is more drawn to the adoption of cement as his favourite medium of expression. This is not to say that Jaji has not explored the use of other media for his expressions. For instance, he has since metamorphosed into making both realistic and stylized sculptures in terracotta, which is another traditional medium, alongside other media like, bronze and fiber glass. Consequently, in his use of terracotta as a medium, he has produced some series of stunted sculptures; the first of which was produced during a workshop organised by the sculpture section of the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 2008. These stunted sculptures however, constitute the subject matter of this research.
Statement of Problem
The Ife School of Art, through the advent of Onaism and Araism, has been able to expose the contemporary world, to the beauty of traditional Yoruba culture. However, the effect of this stylistic experience, with the Yoruba traditional culture, on modern and contemporary art, is more evident in its painterly representations by contemporary artists. In recent times, the traditional Yoruba artistic philosophy, has suffered relative neglect, in its sculptural representation on the contemporary art scene. Though the stunted sculptures of Jaji seem to be tending towards filling this gulf; they have not been scholarly analysed and documented. Duniya (2006) holds that, “Jaji, though highly professional and proficient, has not been given much scholarly attention”. He went further to say that, Jaji’s artistic style, allows for the accommodation of complex ideas that would enable the work respond artistically, to the needs of the society. Jaji, Samuel (2012) says, now dwells more on the discovery of some aesthetic values, inherent in compressed and stunted figures, which he explores, by elucidating his ideas in sculpture composition. Thus, the researcher is not aware of any analysis or scholarly
documentation, of the stunted sculptures produced by Jaji. It is based on the foregoing, that the problem of this research centres on, discussing the context that inspires his stunted sculptures.
Aim and Objectives
The aim of this research is to contextually analyse Jaji’s stunted sculptures, and the objectives of the study are to:
i. identify and categorise the stunted sculptures produced by Jaji.
ii. examine the media and style employed in the production of such sculptures
iii. analyse the ideological and philosophical basis for such sculptures
i. How many stunted sculptures were produced by Jaji and how can they be categorised?
ii. What are the materials and styles employed by Jaji in the production of the stunted sculptures?
iii. What is the ideological and philosophical content of Jaji’s stunted sculptures?
Justification of the Study
The contribution of the Yoruba civilization, to the development of contemporary artistic expression, is immense. Ogbechie in Odiboh (2009) avers that, “Late Ben Enwonwu, Nigeria’s foremost modernist artist, had asserted that, Africans must be prepared to tell their own stories as a reflection of the struggle of their age, and their right to self actualization.” Thus, this research will serve as another means of telling the African story, within the philosophical context of the stunted sculptures produced by Jaji.
Also, Onaism and Araism express philosophical influences of the Yoruba culture, on the contemporary art scene; through experimentation with patterns and images. It is against this backdrop, that the researcher deems it necessary to examine how, such philosophical influences
have impacted sculpturally; hence, the need to document the contribution of Jaji, in his attempt to sculpturally present Yoruba ideas, through his stunted sculptures.
Significance of the Study
Researches like this bring to the fore, salient issues embedded in Nigeria’s various traditions and cultures, as the study of past events help in understanding the present and determining the future. The artistic interrogations of such traditions and cultures, have brought about different styles like Onaism, Araism, as well as Jaji’s stunted sculptures; hence, it will be important to know the context in which it has helped Jaji’s sculptural practice and by implication, other artists.
In analysing the stunted sculptures produced by Jaji, the cultural context that forms the basis for these sculptures are outlined and discussed. By so doing, cogent elements in such cultures are discussed, consequently making this research a means for cultural understanding and appreciation, particularly for a contemporary society that is grappling with acculturation issues.
Scope of the Study
Jaji has explored with different materials and has also produced largely representational sculptures, as well as, in partial cubism and abstraction; however, this research is limited to his stunted sculptures, which were produced in semi realism and with terracotta and fibreglass, between 2008 and 2015 and are based on the Yoruba Aesthetics.
The interrogation and understanding of the human environment, is interpreted by different individuals through diverse forms of impressions. Artists over the years have, investigated the various elements, that make up their society; elucidating their impressions through different artistic forms, such as sculptures, paintings, installations, and performance art, just to mention a few. Accordingly, Adiwu (2015) avers that “this experience and process have influenced many
artists and philosophers for many centuries; leading them to develop a unique form of expression that draws heavily from nature and its inhabitants. Not only does nature influence individuals, but several artistic movements too, have been influenced by nature.”
In Nigerian contemporary art, some artistic movements, like Onaism and Araism, have been influenced by the interrogation of cultural inclinations of the Yoruba Aesthetics, which hinges a symbolic significance on the human head, among other stylistic tendencies like body scarifications and the likes. Ademuleya (2007) posits that:
The largeness of the head as depicted in Yoruba human sculptural pieces, goes beyond the representation of proportion in the physical sense; rather, it is the representation of head in the metaphysical sense. The proportion depicted reflects the unquantifiable and immeasurable attributes of the head, while its physical largeness symbolises its largeness in content. In Yoruba sculpture of the human figure, be it for ritual purpose or as royal portraiture, the head is usually depicted to reflect the expressive meaning of ori (head)… to reflect the content of the form and not to look like the form itself. To the sculptors and their people, the content is much more important than the form itself, it represents a phenomenon that is larger than the man himself.
He further explains that Yoruba sculptors, as revered members of the community, have learnt from tradition not to be interested in depicting man in his realistic form. And by virtue of their position in the community, traditional Yoruba sculptors are aware that their carved images are to serve as constant reminders to their people, of certain aspects of their belief patterns and philosophical thought. Their works are therefore, seen as instruments of effective communication. Through the carved figures, they translate the coded systems of thought, as received from tradition, into visual realities.
Affirming the foregoing, Banjo (2013) submits that “the head of a figure is emphasized physically, reflecting its spiritually overwhelming importance. This cultural ideology, is expressed in the attempt made by the artists today, to blend traditional and contemporary subject matters, by forging out modernism as reflected in their works.” Conveying salient stylistic traits
from these various cultures with the contemporary artistic principles; these traditionally inspired stylistic traits, have gained significant relevance in the contemporary Nigerian art scene.
It is in the light of the conceptual collaborations between the traditional and contemporary stylistic tendencies, which Akpang’s (2013) concept of Hybrid Aesthetics manifests. According to Akpang, Hybrid Aesthetics is “an art style or convention, which combines two or three art cultures, styles or techniques to create a unique art, which exist in the boundaries between the two cultures and at same time elevates mundane visual forms or art, to a creative contemporary status.” Akpang further explains that, while some contemporary African artists have sacrificed traces of cultural identity in their art, in favour of western driven art styles, inspired by global creative advancement of the 21st century; others tend to exert Africanism in their art practice. This is to reflect the rich creative qualities of traditional visual forms and explore the various possibilities of restaging traditional identity in modernism. These ideas will constitute the conceptual basis for examining Jaji’s works. This will be in terms of how they conform with Akpang’s thesis on contemporary Nigerian artists’ collaboration, with traditional stylistic trends, particularly in this case, Yoruba stylistic traits.
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