Jelili Atiku | A Performance Artists’ Efforts Towards Visual Education & Change

Jelili Atiku invites spectators to become a component of social development, an opportunity to recalibrate their reality and renew their perceptions.

Atiku utilises a plethora of methods and media coupled with his acute focus to undertake this campaign. Provocative and politically charged spectacles frequently manifest as performance art, acting as devices of a refined intent: he wishes to guide viewers towards positive thinking and change. However, the journey is fraught with the darker side of humanity. War, corruption and other severe crimes against human life are firmly rooted in an agenda that seeks resolution with an utmost determination.  

Described by the artist as a ‘visual education’, a Jelili Atiku performance is primarily focused on subject matter with fascinating aesthetics a resulting by-product. Breathing life into this content calls on the use of striking attire, unsettling body language and macabre props. This is indeed an education, one founded on the notion of shocking one into action.

 

Jelili Atiku, I Will Not Stroll With Thami El Glaoui, Marrakech Biennial 5, Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday February 26, 2014. Photo by Mahdi Messouli.

Jelili Atiku, Ologbere (Oginrinringinrin II), Slussen /Södermalmstorg/Fylkingen Stockholm, Sweden, Friday April 11, 2014. Photo by Chelsea Coon.

 

The shock or confusion brought about by an Atiku piece regularly calls for explanation.  The instigator of these elaborate performances is always keen to guide onlookers through his work. However, there is no desire to dictate a reaction for the ways in which an audience draw their conclusions are organic. It is all about opening up dialogue so that in the wake of a performance one may aid in the development of popular attitudes, with an ultimate goal of improving society.

 

Jelili Atiku, Ologbere (Oginrinringinrin II), Slussen /Södermalmstorg/Fylkingen Stockholm, Sweden, Friday April 11, 2014. Photo by Chelsea C

Jelili Atiku, Ologbere (Oginrinringinrin II), Slussen /Södermalmstorg/Fylkingen Stockholm, Sweden, Friday April 11, 2014. Photo by Chelsea Coon.

 

Despite an abundance of symbolic codes to crack, the gravity behind Atiku’s performances is clear. Ologbere (OginrinringinrinII) featured a harrowing scene where a model skeleton was dragged through the streets by a figure clad in flags –  of nations with nuclear weapons capabilities. Atiku redoubtably takes on an issue immersed in the fear and anxiety of many.  The ever entwined relationship between the fear (and apathy) of the masses and the governing powers above is recurrent throughout Atiku’s present work. The successes and failures of leadership have been documented in the recent performances Egungun-Alabala Mandela(Oginrinringinrin I) and I Will Not Stroll With Thami El Glaoui, respectively.

 

Jelili Atiku, I Will Not Stroll With Thami El Glaoui, Marrakech Biennial 5, Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday February 26, 2014. Photo by Mahdi Messouli.

Jelili Atiku, I Will Not Stroll With Thami El Glaoui, Marrakech Biennial 5, Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday February 26, 2014. Photo by Mahdi Messouli.

 

Jelili Atiku, I Will Not Stroll With Thami El Glaoui, Marrakech Biennial 5, Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday February 26, 2014. Photo by Mahdi Messouli.

Jelili Atiku, I Will Not Stroll With Thami El Glaoui, Marrakech Biennial 5, Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday February 26, 2014. Photo by Mahdi Messouli.

 

Egungun-Alabala Mandela (Oginrinringinrin I) was abound with metaphorical statements interwoven with ritual objects of commemoration and dignity. Even to those who were not educated in such nuances, the overall positive sentiment of the piece remained distinct. Unearth the context of Alaagba and you will find a trio of actions; rethinking the past, reshaping the present and reinventing the future. Not only are they appropriate for the post-colonial discussion it raises but they also resonate throughout the artist’s oeuvre.

 

Jelili Atiku, Egungun Alabala Mandela (Oginrinringinrin I), University of Texas at Austin, USA, on Friday April 11, 2014. Photo by Hakeem Adewumi.

Jelili Atiku, Egungun Alabala Mandela (Oginrinringinrin I), University of Texas at Austin, USA, on Friday April 11, 2014. Photo by Hakeem Adewumi.

 

Jelili Atiku, Egungun Alabala Mandela (Oginrinringinrin I), University of Texas at Austin, USA, on Friday April 11, 2014. Photo by Hakeem Adewumi.

Jelili Atiku, Egungun Alabala Mandela (Oginrinringinrin I), University of Texas at Austin, USA, on Friday April 11, 2014. Photo by Hakeem Adewumi.

 

This interplay between known and unknown allows for an essence of mystery. The concealment behind elaborate costumery, evocative use of colour and application of subtle symbolism are all reminiscent of Egungun. Labelled as masquerade in the Western context, Egungun elements are adapted to his performances therefore creating a visual parallel. However, Atiku is certain in differentiating the two.

 

As a principle of my personal de-colonization process, I use Egungun methods in my work. But this is not to say I am re-producing the Egungun performances. The Egungun are believed to be heavenly bodies and such it is secretive; whereas I, I am Jelili Atiku, the performer.  In theme, my performances are based on contemporary experiences. — Jelili Atiku

 

Jelili Atiku, Alaagba, performance with Anne Letailleur, Richardplatz / SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Germany on May 24, 2014. The performance was done in the context of Giving Contours to Shadows. Photo by Emma Haugh.

Jelili Atiku, Alaagba, performance with Anne Letailleur, Richardplatz / SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Germany on May 24, 2014. The performance was done in the context of Giving Contours to Shadows. Photo by Emma Haugh.

 

Jelili Atiku, Alaagba, performance with Anne Letailleur, Richardplatz / SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Germany on May 24, 2014. The performance was done in the context of Giving Contours to Shadows. Photo by Emma Haugh.

Jelili Atiku, Alaagba, performance with Anne Letailleur, Richardplatz / SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Germany on May 24, 2014. The performance was done in the context of Giving Contours to Shadows. Photo by Emma Haugh.

 

Jelili Atiku, Afamako, Transmediale Festival, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany, Thursday January 30, 2014. Photo by Alysse Kushinski.

Jelili Atiku, Afamako, Transmediale Festival, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany, Thursday January 30, 2014. Photo by Alysse Kushinski.

 

About

Jelili Atiku is a Nigerian multimedia 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 over decade, Jelili has put his art at service of the prevailing concerns of our 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 the traumatic events such violence, war, poverty, corruption, climate change, etc., that associated with our warring world have dominate his artistic forms. Born on Friday 27th September, 1968 in Ejigbo (Lagos), Nigeria, Jelili was trained at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria and University of Lagos, Nigeria – Where he was awarded Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) and Master of Arts (Visual Arts) respectively. He presently teaches sculpture in Department of Art and Industrial Design, Lagos State Polytechnic, Lagos, Nigeria. He is the project leader of Art Africa Forum; the artistic Director of AFiRIperFOMA – a collective of performance artists in Africa; and Chief Coordinator of Advocate for Human Rights Through Art (AHRA).

 

Written by Keiron Le Vine.

 

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All images courtesy of the artist. All rights reserved

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