Artist Statement—”Man, Witness, Writer”

I begin my thinking again with Adichie’s character, Odenigbo, in Half of A Yellow Sun: “I am a Nigerian because the white man came and created Nigeria, but before the white man came I was Igbo.” I begin with this statement because it is at once historical and contemporary. Of course, to be Nigerian is to exist in a flux bathed by never-ending questions like: What would life be like without amalgamation? Or, what would life be like without the coup in 1966? Or, what if the elections in 1993 had been allowed to hold?

I maintain that History is always straddling the present—it is either impressing upon the present or the present is impressing upon it. I approach the contemporary with this thinking: the Nigerian life is constantly being impressed upon by an unescapable, lingering past. How do I contemplate what it means to exist in today’s Nigeria as man, witness and writer?

Speculation as a first step to witnessing. My impulses will be guided by ideas I am naturally interested in: Movement. Maps. Names. Images. My ideas will be bordered by people as dividing lines. But speculation is only useful for me if these ideas are corroborated. And what do I seek in my corroboration? Certainly not some preformed notion of what Nigeria is, or should be. What I seek, is the intersection between the road and my ideas. As witness, my role is to delineate such an intersection if it exists at all.

In entering the work, I will consider the moods of conversations, the tones of personalities, landscapes, the urgency of moments, and of course, images that capture all of these considerations. I will be in conversation with images photographers make on the road, contemplating how people subsist in today’s Nigeria from the lives that enter ours.