An incident exhibition titled, Statues Also Breath was recently held at Eko Hotel with a sole aim of raising awareness about the plight of the adopted Chibok girls who have been in captivity since 2014, while highlighting the global struggle for girls’ education.
The project was undertaken in collaboration with the families of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, a French visual artist, Prune Nourry and the Department of Fine and Applied Arts of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, to produce sculptures representing the missing girls.
The display of 108 heads brought nostalgia to the viewers as they filled through the life size display, secondary school students in procession.
Inspired by the ancient Ife terracotta heads, Nourry, after meeting the Chibok families to conceive the project was entrusted with portraits of the missing girls, which she used as inspiration for eight heads sculpted in clay – creating portraits of the high school girls imaged in the style of iconic ancestral Ife artistry.
From eight original sculptures,108 heads were casted in clay sourced from Ile-Ife, by potters from a female potter’s community in the Yoruba town of Ilorin and students of Obafemi Awolowo University.
After a days workshop with the students, and after one year, 108 students sculpted and transformed each head into unique sculptures using portraits of the missing girls.
A delegation of mothers of the Chibok girls and girls who managed to escape Boko Haram captivity were also in attendance, honouring and remembering their friends and loved ones depicted in the sculptures.
Nourry, who couldn’t contain her joy at seeing her dream come to fruition, said: “This ‘army of girls’ is indivisible and must remain together as a complete artwork. The 108 heads were all signed by the respective students also be showing around the World to remind of the rich and diverse history and culture of Nigeria as well as the present day challenges that must all be address collectively as a global community. Upon completion of the tour, they will return to the permanent collection of a museum in Africa,” she concluded.
Lecturer, Arts History and Aesthetics, department of Fine and Applied Arts, Obafemi Awlowo University, Dr Michael Olusegun Fatuigbe who was part of the project from the beginning said the blend of culture was the most interesting part for him. “You can see the works are produced in the ancient style. We used Ife arts tradition to project another culture, which is that of the kanuri people and to let us understand that irrespective of our culture, arts, dressing or opinion, we are all faced with the same issues of security and social issues.”
He continued: “the Chibok girls issue we are facing today could be faced by Ife, calabar or anywhere, so what she tried to do was to combine so many things together such as Ife house style, ancient style, prevalent unresolved social issues like the Chibok kidnap. Nourry wants us to remember that we must not forget the people in captivity.
Because they are in captivity, they are like statues, but they are still alive, still breathing and what are we doing about it? We must not forget these people in captivity.”
Founder of Female In (FIN), Lola Omolola who was also the host of the event said: “The project was able to make the disappearance of the Chibok girls real. The works put a face to it and we can touch and feel a story that seemed like it happened in a different universe. It brings it home to us that these are our sisters, they could be your children, it could even be you. “Every single day, the girls have been robbed of their right to live a life they want. “Where is your outrage, why are we focusing on celebrity gossip, why are we not screaming out and saying the girls are still in Sambisa?”