– as he returns with Art Merchant II
Germany-based Nigeria-born artist, sculptor, painter and choreographer of international repute, Emmanuel Eni is set to storm Nollywood. The brain behind the famed death of the curator is in Nigeria with the second edition of his art exhibition tagged scheduled for April 28 to 30, 2015, at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos.
In this chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly at the Ambassadors, Ikoyi, Lagos, the supremely talented creative mind, married with kids shares his success story…
Tell us, how it all started?
I can always answer this question. It started when I was a little boy, around six. Then everyone would wonder how I could stay in a room filled with wood, clay, paper all by myself. I needed those things because I wasn’t resting and I wanted to make a beautiful image of everything I saw, that’s how I became an artist.
Growing up, what were those things that influenced you and who you’ve become?
The nature of the polygamous African family where you grow up in the midst of about 60 Nigerian citizens who are your brothers and sisters. Finding your identity in the family becomes a challenge where there are doctors, lawyers, architects, pharmacists, etc. It was important for me to use beauty to capture the essence of life.
So far, would you say your dreams have come true?
The only dream that has come true is that I have the ability to spend money (laughs). People have overtime come to realise that art is useful and everybody likes to have a beautiful art.
How much appreciation have you received as an artist, especially here in Nigeria?
First, I’m very happy being here in Nigeria and I find there’s a lot of appreciation of art here. I’ve been invited by the lowly and even the mighty.
Compared to countries overseas, how would you rate the Nigerian art industry?
The Nigerian industry is very beautiful and has a good tendency to become really strong. We are back to put in the impulse of the international market; we want to set the pace for the western world.
Long time ago, even prominent and famous artists like Picasso stole ideas from the African man. Africa has always been in the arts, even during the period of cubism, expressionism; Africa is the centre of the arts, be it European, Scandinavian or Asian arts. Even whites paint black pictures, because the skin is not the colour, the mind has no colour.
Which of your works would you say is your most inspired?
My most inspired work will be the one I’m working on now, that is the Art Merchant Salon. When the cat is let out of the bag, the secret becomes known. The Art Merchant Exhibition is like letting the cat out of the bag; the artist becomes a merchant where he displays his works and sells them like other products.
You are coming into Nollywood. What do you have on the table?
For Nollywood, I have something inter-disciplinary, evocative and very modern even better than Hollywood. In Hollywood, there are a lot of films that are very difficult to consume; it is either because art works are not well articulated through the scripts or the possession of the cast and crew is not right. When I come to Nollywood, we are going to remove the African voodoo they use to disturb viewers. We’ll mainstream and concentrate on simple things that make life go on, and it’s not voodoo.
How do you plan to achieve this?
I’ll do this by writing scripts and also choosing scripts that I play on.
Tell us about your art exhibition.
My art exhibition is called Art Merchant II Salon. The first edition was held in March this year and it was very successful. I was invited back to Nigeria and this time I’m bringing not only art, but also the pleasures that complement it – that means, this time we sit down over a bottle of beer discussing arts and having a party.
It will open at 6pm on Tuesday, April 28 at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yabatech, Yaba, Lagos. The following day (29) also at 6pm is a talk – the podium. It will be directed by Prince Omoba Yemi Shilorin, he’s the greatest art collector in Africa. The special guest is Sammie Olagbogu, one of the great collectors of art in Africa and beyond.
Some favourite Nollywood stars will be present. On 30, there would be a art performance party entitled Black man in European kitchen vs the curator. There would be music with a lot of paintings and sculptures at the exhibition.
How would this edition be better than the last one?
It’s much more different and I hope it would be better because this time we’ll be doing it in the baba style. That is we’ll sit down, nothing too intellectual, too intoxicating or technical, but very pleasurable. You can relax, even take off your shoes if you like, drink your beer, eat, look at art and communicate with others.
– SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN