How Atiku Painted India yellow with ‘Nobody is Born Wise’

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An ABU trained Multimedia artist, Jelili Atiku, during his three-day performance in India, colored Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi yellow, providing his audience and those who came to watch him at Art Fair, a sense of intimacy and spirituality. Udemma Chukwuma writes on his performance and experiences at the art fair

FOR three days, Nigerian performance artist, Jelili Atiku, enchanted his Indian audience with a charismatic performance in this year’s edition of India Art Fair, which took place at the National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), Exhibition Grounds, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi, where he presented for fourteen hours.

Jelili Atiku
Jelili Atiku

The performance entitled: Nobody Is Born Wise, was inspired by Yoruba Òrìcà (Isese) and Indian Sanâtana Dharma rituals. These two traditional rituals he depicted with yellow pigments, brown boxes and calved, mini white elephants; a sacred animal in India.

Within a few minutes when Jelili Atiku began the perforce, he bathed himself with brilliantly yellow pigment, turning his white attire to yellow. This display reminds one of the India Holi festival, which takes place every year from February to March.

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“In the performance, I brought in the qualities and symbolic meanings of Ganesha and elephant as integration of sacred elements to the meanings of the contents of the performance itself. I also carefully considered their meanings to the people of India. They are, therefore, used or integrated ontologically in the performance….”

“….The robbing of Yellow Holi on the objects: Ganesha, elephant, and boxes are to spiritually connect to actions of sanctifying objects and thus connect to the therapeutic energy of self-cleanse, energizing and recognition of these divine thoughts and ideals that connect ones to higher energy in nature and inner consciousness. This, of course, is a way to refocus the minds of the audience to the intimate connection between nature and human aspiration,” he said.

The uniqueness of Jelili Atiku’s presentation is that he carries his audience along. Sometimes he gets them to also perform alongside him as the performance sometimes involves the audience participatory, “which makes the audience react intimately and a cordial bond develops between him and the audience. The audience of course engaged with the performance, their personalities and identities which form their cultural history and developments in the South Asian region.

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“I created an intimacy of visual transmission of forms, colour and body movement with the audience. Through the performance, I was able to activate the feelings of pure beingness and feelings of presence with sense. Of course the foregoing is what some philosophers have described as sublime feelings,” Jelili Atiku explained.

He continued: “This bond between me and the audience did confirm that art increases the sensibility of a person and increase power and energy that enable or set in motion action taking gestures. It is pertinent to mention that the audiences were also influenced by the symbolic contents and context of the performance, which were conceived as a reflection on the environmental issues, social stratification, disorganisation and inequality; and the current debate on the India country Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.”

Jelili Atiku had performed almost all over the world. Each country with a different message and different display. Each audience with their uniqueness, but to the artist “there are no such distinct differences in all places I have performed throughout in world in comparison with India except that the performance in India was in the country’s annually art event that “reflects the country’s fast-developing art scene, as well as offering curated insights into the cultural landscapes of neighbouring states”.

Nobody Is Born Wise began on January 31 and ended on February 2, 2020. Jelili performed for four hours, none stop, the first day; the second day he performed for another four hours and the last day, for six hours, making it a total number of fourteen hours.

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The challenges he faced was in the visa application processes, which involved 30 days of the visa process. “I could not submit the application form because of my recent trips to Israel and Germany to make performances. I, therefore, couldn’t meet up with the application procedures. But for the interventions of the team of the India Art Fair, I was able to get the visa in less than four days, but my flight has to be changed twice and missed two days that scheduled for the preparation of the performance.”

What is performance art?

Do not mistake performing art with performance art. They do not mean the same thing. Performance art is the presentation of an action which is usually done with the body. In this way, artists could prevent their art from being purchased and then used for purposes that they had not intended.

It originated in the visual arts but is also linked to physical forms of expression, such as drama and dance. The difference between them can be minimal. Performance is more like implementation or an event than theatre, which often has a beginning and an end; dance is more about rhythm, movement, and choreography.

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Since the early 20th century, performance art has developed in a variety of directions. What we call performance art today originated among the dada artists, constructivists and futurists in the early 1900s and is was coined in the 1950s.

The concept of performance art includes “body art”, where the body is the only means of expression. Performance has also been developed into a form of “multi-media montage”, mixing various media within the performance format.

Who is Jelili Atiku

Jelili Atiku is a multi-media artist with political concerns for human rights and justice. Through drawing, installation sculpture, photography, video and performance (live art); he strives to help viewers understand the world and expanding their understanding and experiences so that they can activate and renew their lives and environments.

For decades, he has put his art at service of the prevailing concerns of his times; “especially those issues that threatening our collective existence and the sustenance of our universe. The contents of these concerns ranging from psychosocial and emotional effects of traumatic events such as violence, war, poverty, corruption, climate change, etc., that associated with our warring world have dominated my artistic forms.

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“However, in expressing myself artistically, I often search for new forms of creativity. Hence, I make collaborations with artists of diverse practices. In other words, my art forms are created out of experimentation and collaborations.

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In recent times, I have been focusing on enacting social intervention and political motivated live art performances – where self-invented costume, audience, etc. are integrated as symbolic contents.

This direction is influenced by the gesture to further the expansion of the field in visual art by creating an “effective” intersection of performance with theatre. Pertinently, I am compelled by the foregoing to make preliminary drawings, photographs, and filming of my performances and use the same for exhibitions.”

Born on the 27th of September 1968, in Ejigbo (Lagos), Nigeria. Jelili Atiku was trained at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria and the University of Lagos, Nigeria, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) and Master of Arts (Visual Arts) respectively. He is presently the Artistic Director of AFiRIperFOMA – a collective of performance artists in Africa; and Chief Coordinator of Advocate for Human Rights Through Art (AHRA); and the CEO/Chairman of Ateckhu Forms Limited.

He is widely travelled and has participated in numerous performances/exhibitions/art talks in Lagos (Nigeria), Tokyo (Japan), Gunpo (South Korea), Paris (France), Berlin (Germany), Madrid (Spain); Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm, Malmo and Jarna (Sweden); London, Wales, Manchester, Scarborough, York (United Kingdom).

Vancouver BC and Victoria BC (Canada), Austin, Chicago and Michigan (USA), Venice (Italy), Valletta (Malta), Zurich and Bern (Switzerland), Alkmaar (Netherlands), Tel Aviv (Israel), Graz (Austria), Andebu and Tonsberg (Norway), Poznan (Poland), Dublin (Ireland), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Casablanca and Marrakech (Morocco), Accra (Ghana), Harare (Zimbabwe), Limbe and Yaoundé (Cameroun), Kampala (Uganda), Cape Town (South Africa), etc.


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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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