The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Abuja recently hosted Emmanuel Eni, Nigeria born artist, practicing in Berlin, Germany to show his latest works of art.
“HASKE ZANEN” is not Stained Glass.
“HASKE ZANEN” is not Lithography.
“HASKE ZANEN” is Light Paintings Art
discovered and patented by Emmanuel Eni.
Haske Zanen is Hausa language expression meaning Art of Light. Nigerian international artist, Emmanuel Eni chose this as title for his solo exhibition showing at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Abuja. The twenty paintings on exhibition are of experimental new medium in consonance with postmodernist tendencies. Being testament to Eni’s years of dedicated studio practice, underscored by constant exploration of new media and ideas this body of work is a successful part of his several artistic engagements in Nigeria, Germany and other parts of the world. It is the appreciation of this fresh works of art that kept guests who thronged the exhibition venue on the evening of the 4th of March, 2016, enraptured. With painterly neon-like effects, the illuminated paintings bordering on nuances of experiences, relationships and the totality of existence provided enough to be ruminated on.
The exhibition opened with a complimentary performance titled “Blackman in European Kitchen.” The performance comprised of dancers, drummers, and the artist, working together to give interpretation to a four-thousand-word poetry. The paintings, like shimmering apparitions from the gallery walls, accentuated the performance thereby providing a rich combination of the visual, sound and poetry. Eni explains the transcendentality of his talent: “performance for me is the background information which I use to complement my visual art. I have used performance to connect to my newly developed light painting art technique for the enjoyment of my audience.”
A well grounded artist in both theory and practice, Eni passed through several art institutions in Nigeria culminating in a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Benin, in 1991. He later migrated to Europe where he obtained a Master of Arts degree from the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The cross cultural currents evident in Eni’s art is connected to his experiences from his roots in Nigeria and his country of residency Germany, where he is conjugally integrated and operates an art studio in the capital city of Berlin. His art and performances referencing both African and European themes is an attempt to navigate both worlds by retaining his culture while experiencing the best of others. Eni’s artworks talk about the old Africa which he juxtaposes with reflections of contemporary concerns while exploring social and cultural divisions inherent in relationships.
Always in a continuous search for a purer medium to communicate his ideas, Eni pays particular attention to this aspect of his creativity as he is thrifty about revealing his new medium: “I don’t reveal the details of the medium I use to create my works of art except to the collectors and people who buy my work. Originality is important in my practice, so I have secured a universal patent for my new light painting medium.” The unique technique Eni used in the creation of his current body of work exploits the translucence of the canvas material and his colour medium against bright light. When lit with electric bulbs, the paintings exude warmth from within. This technique results in a painting that can be appreciated at both day and night, He says, “this technique enables people to appreciate my works even in the night because they have their own value of light.” He notes that “sometimes the most beautiful and famous paintings in the world are not seen without lighting. My newly discovered Light painting art pries into the innate nature in my paintings and plays down the aggressiveness of primary and secondary colours within the evocative genre of every particular painting, thus showing the soul of the colour and painting itself as the inner light surpasses the light outside of it.”
Eni’s use of light explores tensions that arise from differences in cultures and becomes a metaphor for illuminating mindsets that are sometimes cast from prejudice, ignorance and misinformation when encountering different cultures. The sharp and soft light projections are like the strong beams of Eni’s awareness of his cultural roots which emanate from inside but resonate around him as he constantly confronts the global cultures encountered in the course of his many engagements. Correlatively, Eni’s performance “Blackman in European Kitchen” also explores the theme of apparent cultural dissonance when different cultures meet for the first time. An apparently new-in-Europe black man finds himself in a European’s Kitchen during a birthday celebration. He finds the ingredients and equipments around strange, yet he must prepare a meal. The performance revolved around the challenges of migration and navigating transcultural challenges. How in the absence of familiar ingredients one finds alternatives. The involvement of local drummers and dancers during the performance reenacts Eni’s overriding cultural influences from where he questions, understands and integrates influences. The fusion of actions and acoustics from the dancers and drummers with the recited poems underscores the inadequacy of words in the projection of meanings.
Eni’s light paintings can also be appreciated in the absence of electricity albeit less intensely. The values of the works evoke striking mellowness which projects its own unique inferences. Some of the (sub)titles of the works on exhibition in English and Hausa languages include Lovers / Sow 2015, Woman with Shield/ Machi Mai Abun Fada,2015, Bride2015, Gods of Nigeria/Allahn Nigeria 2015, and King and Queen/ Sarauniya da Sarki, 2015, provide percipients with the tool to unlock meanings. Eni expect his audience to take home “the concept of African civilization and the need for the promotion of her technological instincts that has always been from the beginning of the world.” He sees his new light Painting Art as “the light of the art world, a new concept coming from Africa to the world.” He believes that the goal of his art is to create human understanding in order to foster an appreciable humane and peaceful living, leading to the understanding of other cultures, for the benefit of African civilization and that of the greater world. Eni believes that the pursuit of these concepts has made it easy for him to live in Europe as an African.
Eni has held several solo exhibitions and had many group shows. He is also a veteran of several biennales such as Dakar, Lyon as well as Documenta XII in Kassel, Germany. On what drives his creativity, Eni says, ‘My philosophy is built around African civilization which is nurtured by the developing of new ideas both technically and culturally for the general human civilization.’
Haske Zanen: Art of Light is on view from March 4-14, 2016 at Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Wuse II, Abuja, Nigeria.
Agwu Enekwachi is a Sculptor, Art Teacher living in Abuja. He was a participant in the British Council sponsored 2015 Culture Journalism Workshop organized by Contemporaryand.com in Lagos, Nigeria.