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‘Progress of Love’ brings fresh perspectives to Africa’s art sphere

Valerie Oka’s art exhibition The Progress of Love, one in the series involving a number of artists, currently running at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) Lagos, has opened a new vista to review the traditional pattern of prevalent themes of art works being showcased in this part of the world.

The Ivorian- born artist has, by the collection of works on display, set a new discourse about the power of expression through art forms without limitations.
The collection establishes a shift from the regulars of political developments, environmental issues, and civil unrest to love in different forms.

From Oka’s collection I find interesting the works titled ‘Love market’ and ‘I promise to love you’.  The art appreciator is left to wonder what goes on in the ‘Love market’ with a woman trapped inside a cage alone with a penis. Is love all
about sex for sale? In ‘
I promise to love you’ the scene bears so many leads for interpretations. 

Scattered about the room where the woman is sleeping, tucked under her duvet, are empty bottles of alcoholic drinks; cigarette butts; her dress and shoes, underwear and condoms.
I wouldn’t know if this suites her expression of love but, if you ask me I am sure this will raise so much to talk about in this environment.

Love as its theme is good but, cultures especially across West Africa have always preferred to talk and express love, not before the eyes of the world but within confines of their privacy. So, Progress of Love opens up a dialogue through presentations that challenge the audience to expand their positions, rethink their preconceptions and prejudices and engage in the multiple ways in which love affects their life.  

The growing visibility of the role of performance in contemporary art is in itself akin to a political act.
With a younger generation of local artists breaking free from the historical dependence on painting and sculpture, live art provides new possibilities and flexibility for transgressing media boundaries and opening up a space for articulating complex ideas about their experiences and daily realities—a space where art converges with life and impacting the way we critically engage and actively explore love today
The presentation of The Progress of Love at Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos, explores the question or problem of love through a series of unfolding events and of works in a range of media, highlighting performance artistic practice that has yet to receive adequate presentation or critical engagement within the field of contemporary art in Nigeria or, more broadly, in West Africa. 

The performance work of Jelili Atiku (Nigeria) and Wura-Natasha Ogunji (USA) explores the subject of love within the contexts of familial bonds and personal memory, while performance installation works by Temitayo Ogunbiyi (Nigeria) and Valérie Oka (Ivory Coast) coerce viewers into interactive projects that take the technical and ephemeral dimensions of romantic emotions as subjects of inquiry. 

The moving image forms an integral aspect of the exhibition through the works of Zanele Muholi (South Africa)
and Andrew Esiebo (Nigeria), with their insightful and topical documentary projects as well as Adaora Nwandu’s (Nigeria) short films which foreground lived experiences and fictional stories from the perspective of same-gender love confronting a continent that considers such affections taboo.

 Inspired by personal experiences, family ties, tradition, technology, and local literature, these works express joy, loss, absence, pain and difference; they invoke memory, challenge prejudice and articulate togetherness in lyrical and at times, satirical ways.

This transatlantic collaborative project between art institutions in three cities and two continents: CCA, Lagos, The Menil Collection, Houston and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis, showcasing the changing modes and meanings of love in today’s global society, is curated by  Bisi Silva of CCA, Lagos and by Kristina Van Dyke at the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.
The series on  The Progress of Love  continues at CCA on Saturday, November 17  with Wura-Natasha Ogunji’s  performance titled A tortoise walks majestically on  window ledges.











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