Using Art To Preserve Native Language
AS visual art is largely an elitist medium, TAJUDEEN SOWOLE writes that brand-man, Hakeem Adenekan is on an unfamiliar terrain in his brand of art.
THE energy and enthusiasm with which Hakeem Adenekan releases his words speak volume of his passion for art promotion, particularly, using same to rescue the decline in the strength of native languages.
The managing director of a marketing communication agency, Commstrat Associates is also unhappy that visual artists are grossly under enumerated. This, he says is due to the fact that artists are poorly packaged. As a brand man, he is familiar with artists enough to know their potentials: about four artists – painters and graphic artists – are in the Commstrat team.
And if he actually needed to update himself on the art gallery scene to feel the pulse of full time studio artists, a visit to one of the leading art galleries in Victoria Island, he discloses, confirmed his position that artists were not getting their shares of the robust art scene. He insists that the works in the gallery can compete with any best work in the world. But to his dismay, “I learnt that the galleries in this country get as much as 30 to 40 percent, some 50 per cent of the transaction between them and the artists.” This, he argues, is wrong and wonders: “what is then left for the artist who does the job?” This enthusiastic ad-man may not be saying anything new about what has been said, severally, on artists not being good managers of their skills. But Adenekan seemed to have another idea how to go about representing the artists in better ways. There is a better future for the artists, he assures, “we have plans to introduce the marketing communication approach to sell artists’ works to corporate and individual clients. What matters here is the presentation.”
Meanwhile, Adenekan and a team of culture experts, are currently embarking on a mission to use visual art as a medium to promote mother tongues. The project known as Evagrin Koncepts, he explains, “is an attempt to rescue Nigeria’s native languages from being lost.”
So much have been muted about preserving the nation’s cultural value, particularly the vanishing mother tongue; quite a number of individuals and groups are working to achieve the ultimate goal of promoting African culture. So, what is really knew about Evagrin Koncepts?
Arts, he declares, are the most reliable outlets to use in this mission: “we are starting with visual art now, and hope to bring in music, movies and others later.”
Mounted on the walls inside the Surulere, Lagos office of Commstrat, were paintings that communicate in different ways from the regular work one comes across at the galleries. Although the artists of these works were unknown – no signatures or any other information provided – the contents, indeed confirmed that Adenekan who is the Group Project Coordinator of Evagrin and his team really meant business. Each work of folkloric content from a particular region of the country comes with an inscription in the native language of a chosen tribe.
Such texts as the headlines “Orin orileede Naijiria”, a Yoruba version of the national anthem printed on a talking drum image; Karatu madaci, karshenta da dadi, Hausa text on the image of a boy writing; Oji Onye wetere oji wetere ndu, Igbo texts on a plate containing kola nuts; these paintings reproduced in giclee prints bring a tutorial approach to promotion of mother tongue. Some of the “over 300 of similar works,” Adenekan assures, are expected to be on exhibition for the maiden outing of Evagrin this October.
Painting for exhibition packaged this way is apparently strange to the art gallery scene, raising the question of the targeted audience for the planned shows. “It is for everybody,” he says, and argues that the images of the works would not convey the message without the text. And who knows, the brand-man might just hit a double with his unfamiliar art: sell text-illustrated art on canvas and indigenous language.
Armed with such background as grew up in Mushin, the heart of Lagos where core Yoruba language meets the corrupted Lagos version; a passion for music that makes him the lead vocal of a loss genre; worked in about four advertising agencies, Adenekan believes he has an idea to share with like minds “hence the birth of Evagrin, which actually started 10 years ago.”
Today, he has a team to work with. Selected across the three major tribes of Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, the group, which comprises of experts in Nigerian languages, he explains, is working on mostly oral literary materials that are either not widely published in the past or not even documented at all.
Some members of the team are: ace producer/director, Tunde Kelani, Advisory; Micheal Williams, Project Director, Arts; Jamiu Osoba, Project Director, Operations; Ifeoluwa Oduniyi, Manager, Business. Disappearing mother tongue is a worrisome development of which Adenekan challenges the elite. He notes that this so-called enlightened class of the society finds it more comfortable making English the “official” medium of communication with their families at homes.
He is bold to say that, his is not a ‘prophet’ who says ‘do as I say, not as I do’: “At home, I ensure that the language of communication is Yoruba. I think this is alright by me; let’s leave the school to take care of teaching the children how to speak good English, while parents and guardian should communicate with their wards in native language.”
Reminded that it is a policy that a child must take, at least, one native language in school. He cuts in “it is not enough to have the policy, is it working?” Most schools, he argues don’t care about implementing it, and yet the government is doing little to enforce it. Home support for mother tongue, he stresses, is the option.
And there is a strange angle to Adenekan’s commitment to this whole passion of mother tongue: despite his corporate image, he is a member of a lost music genre, Sakara; a Yoruba country music made popular in the 1950s through 1970s by late legend, Yusuf Olatunji and his rival, S. Aka whose studio works still enjoy wide air play on radio and at most homes. Apart from Oseni Ejire’s band and some obscure bands still playing that genre of music, hardly is there any group of younger men interested in the music. But Adenekan, a man in his 40s, discloses that he has a four-piece sakara music band comprising a 62 years old drummer, two OND holders and himself as the lead vocalist. Sakara band, didn’t we lose that with the dinosaur? He notices the surprise looks of his guests. “Yes, a Sakara band,” he repeats.
An alumnus of Cranfield University, UK; IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Spain, Adenekan had earlier got his HND, Mass Communication at the Ogun State Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
He had worked at CentreSpreadFCB; Campaign Palace Advertising; LTC J. Walter Thompson Ltd and was the Associate producer of the Yoruba movie, Arugba.
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