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Temitayo finds the Chibok girls

14 August 2014, 11:44Obidike Okafor

Lagos - While everyone was adding their voice to the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign, demanding that the Nigerian government rescue the kidnapped girls, Temitayo Ogunbiyi went searching.

Despite its conflicting title, A Nightmares Daydream at the Kongi’s Harvest Gallery, Freedom Park, Onikan, the body of works demonstrates a new phase in the artists life, where Temitayo Ogunbiyi uses familiar mediums of school desks, collages and clothes as she addresses an issue that is close to the hearts of Nigerians.

The collection bolsters her status as an installation artist whose artistic eyes roves for answers in objects that are stationary open ended questions on humanness in contemporary times and girl child education.

The Princeton University graduate takes the audience to the famous kidnapped school girls in the Nigerian town of Chibok, far away from the popular Bring Back Our Girls campaign, and brings the audience to the questions rumbling in her head.

The questions bounce off the installations and form part of the 300girls project which is a combination of visual art exhibitions and a scholarship fund for girl child education:

“What if they find the girls?”

 On the night of 15 April 2014, a group of militants attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, and abducted 234 girls who were writing their final high school examination.
After more than 100 days the girls are still missing-but what if they are found?

Temitayo’s  Happy Dream House Dreamt from a Desk, (2014) asks this question. The installation which is a suspended clothe covered in a collage made of  sketches of  empty school desks, smiling mouths and fire is like an arrow that points out how the dreams and plans of these girls were abducted along with  them.

If the girls are found will they have the burdens of adulthood heaped on their shoulders? Or would their life long dreams still stay intact? Temitayo focuses on the issues of innocence and holding on to youthfulness when the burdens of adulthood is forcefully offered in Crown and Costume in Glory, 2014, a  simple collage of cut out sketches of  a child’s head  wearing a crown on a school uniform clothe canvass balanced on three legless school desks.

"Why have so many of them been gone for so long?"

In trying to understand the language of this new terrorist threat and chaos, the Nigerian government hired Levick, a  United States based  public relations firm  in a  contract worth more than $1.2 million to work on the international and local media narrative surrounding the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping.

In understanding the narrative of why the girls have been gone for long and the effects of their disappearance locally and internationally, she creates installations with suspended desks and a combination of  sketches of familiar American foods with Nigerian foods in Fueling the American Table, (2014), she also has letters  cut from the her archives concerning the kidnap of the girls displayed on desks.

"Are  media headlines and topics trending on social media not restrictive?"

Parents of the girls took to social media to complain about the government's  slow response to the kidnapping.

 On 3 and 4 May, protests were held in major Western cities, at a time, the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls trended globally on Twitter as the story continued to spread and by 11 May it had attracted 2.3 million tweets, but even Boko Haram have made fun of the hashtag and most of the girls have still not be found-life goes on literally.

The  newspaper headlines and social media  lack the fire representing desire to help the girl child progress or the ability to stop smiling when things go wrong.

Fire and smiles have far from a cameo appearance in Temitayo’s works, as they splatter across a number of the installations.

Boko Haram have gone beyond using these girls as sex slaves, brides or instruments for negotiation, they seem to have transformed them to ticking bombs, but Temitayo remains undeterred.

She plans to set up other exhibitions for the missing girls, and is selling notebooks to raise scholarships for girl child education, slashing the menace with her installations.


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