Folake Shoga


Mundane (Video installation)

Folake Shoga is a Video and Installation artist. Born in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1955. Studied at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic. Has worked as a freelance illustrator for several years and has received commissions from Women's Press and Virago. Has been presented in several solo and group exhibitions including In/sight at the Blue Coat Gallery, England, and Cross/ing at the University of South Florida Art Museum, USA. A winner of Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary for Film and Video, and a Television Award for her film "Imperfect Window". Lives in Bristol.



"Oya" (Video installation): Within the Yoruba belief system, Oya is the goddess of storms, tempests and of the river Niger. I have interpreted her as a guardian of boundaries: boundaries between weather systems, different lands, and by analogy, between different cultures, and perhaps between two states of being, life and death.

When two systems meet, there is a great deal of turbulence. This figure of Oya represents the potentiality of such a turbulence. In legend "Oya is as powerful as the buffalo or bush cow whose hide she employs as a disguise when she withdraws from the world." (Miguel "Willie" Ramos). Meetings between Europe and Africa produced many changes in both cultures. This is a ongoing process which continuously recreates the world we live in. the presence of bronze heads from Benin can be seen as a signifier of this process, as can the presence of an exhibition of technology-assisted art from Africa.

Within Nigeria there are many traditions of mud-sculptures ranging from the formal, including a type of court art, to the intensely personal and idiosyncratic. Often they are devotional in purpose. Somewhere within this range is the work of Austrian artist Susanne Wenger, a founding contributor to the fusion of African /European art I remember in the Nigeria of my childhood. As a member of Nigeria's educated "elite" (as they used to call us in school) I have an academic rather than a visceral knowledge of these practices. But in the landscape of memory I also have images of weathered, half-broken clay figures submerged in long elephant grass, cerily powerful and silent, which evoke for me all manner of associated memories: Sunday afternoon drives in the bush, family visits, formal social occasions, cement funerary sculpture, the smell of harmattan, ... No doubt it is these factors which dictated that the first sculpture I attempted was in the form of a shrine. I was surprised that the figures almost seemed to make themselves. They have a strange autonomie.

Educated in the European Art School tradition, I had no idea that the ancient, but very culturally-specific archtypes I was dealing with would just click into place within my mind, proving a means of picturing the world, of giving ideas a concrete form, of mediating between something called "imagination" and something called "real life". from the beginning, each figure seems to have a life of its own, an internal logic and dynamism, which is my task ro uncover. The basic material for my figures is newspaper, which, both cheap and abundant, functions within my context as a substitute for clay. As for the moving image, it has been around for 100 years: long enough for us to stop being so impressed by its magic. That is, its technological magic. In its metaphorical, emotional and acathetic magic it is equal and equivalent to any other material within the artist's repertoire - and hopefully is also as versatile and as unpredictable.




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