Our two-day visit to kó, an art space in Ikoyi, Lagos, for the exhibition, THE ESSENTIAL JIMO AKOLO: A RETROSPECTIVE OF DRAWINGS AND PAINTINGS, was most enlightening for the students and staff alike. The pupils learned of and experienced the gallery’s effort to preserve the portfolio of one of Nigeria’s finest artists, Jimi Akolo.
Jimi Akolo may not be as recognizable as the likes of Ben Onobrakpeya, Yusuf Grillo or Demas Nwoko, but he was an equally significant member of the renowned Zaria Rebels, a group of undergraduates who formed the Zaria Art Society while studying Fine Art at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria). The group formed in a bid to uphold traditional African art processes in the face of what they considered as an increasing influence of foreign cultural values and traditions on Nigerian art.
The exhibition according to kó was “to reveal Jimo Akolo’s artistic engagements with as many works that he has created as possible.” The exhibition showcases his works from 1961 to 2015, the years of his earliest and most recent works, respectively.
Jimi Akolo (b.1935) is a contemporary painter, artist and retired professor of art education. He is known for his figural paintings and representation of the cultures and peoples of Northern Nigeria.
During the visit, the pupils journeyed through Akolo’s transformation over the decades of him working as they listened to the artist expound his art style in a recorded video and as they participated in reenacting Akolo’s works in their drawing books. They paid attention to the style of strokes in his painting and followed his patterns of shading and his employment of colours.
A thorough observation of Akolo’s art revealed the artist’s immense love for African tradition, particularly the cultures of Northern Nigeria. He lived a good measure of his younger days in Kogi and Kaduna States. Most of his drawings included the annual festive events held in the North, horseback riding, rituals, dances, landscapes, native sports and market scenes.
Some of his drawings include The Horseman series, The Tiger and the Model. His paintings comprise The Sojourners, The Guard, Daura Contingents and Road to Kufena where the artist expertly used colours to portray his visceral connection to the cultures and realities of the ordinary peoples of Northern Nigeria.