#BounceExclusive: Meet The Men Behind The Sculptures Popping Up All Over Lagos
Monuments have been popping up all over the city of Lagos as it marks 50 years as a state.
These monuments are hard to miss because of their huge sizes and unique designs.
Following their appearance, Bounce News sought out and spoke to the artists behind some of these gigantic art work located at the roundabouts at Ile Zik, Allen Avenue Junction, Lekki 1 and the intersection at Maryland.
Meet Abolore Sobayo, Segun Aiyesan and Gerald Chukwuma.
Propelled by their love for art and the desire to make an impact with the things that they spending their waking hours creating, the trio were given their mandate in January and had to deliver a finished monument by May when the official celebration of Lagos' Golden Jubilee was to start.
These 3 men may not know it, but they actually tell a story about Lagos that they are not aware of - Gerald Chukwuma, who is always smiling and describes himself as a happy man because his personality cannot be separated from art, came to Lagos for the first time exactly 12 years ago after graduating from the University of Nigeria Nsukka.
Segun Aiyesan who defied his parents to become an artist was born in Lagos but presently lives in Port Harcourt, while Abolore Sobayo was born in Lagos, lives and works in the city and is even part of its political thread.
Gerald Chukwuma represents Nigerians who come to Lagos seeking 'greener pastures', Segun Aiyesan represents people who were born in Lagos, then left the country's commercial capital but are still lured back at intervals to partake in its offerings, while Sobayo Abolore is the typical Lagosian, the city runs like blood in his veins.
Gerald Chukwuma and 'The Nerve Center' Monument
"When you want to do a monument even as an artist, you have to consider the people, this is different from an art work. We are doing this for Lagos state for the people of Lagos" says Gerald when he begins to talk about the project with excitement in his eyes.
Many people don’t know that the Maryland intersection was not the original location, as it was somewhere far inside Alausa, because Gerald did not want anybody to see. But his plan obviously did not work.
"I said Maryland is not workable, there is too much traffic and it is not workable, I did not plan for Maryland, the terrain was tough, you cannot mix cement in that place, but I like the challenge" he said.
The monument titled 'The Nerve Center' is made of 50 fiber glass figures shared on 5 raised pillars, with 10 figures on each pillars, and a stylized lettering on the body of the pillars to give them texture. When the letters are read, as a commuter comes from any direction (left or right), the letters form 'Lagos'.
Each figure represents the many people who make up Lagos, and the number of years being celebrated, while the raised pillar signifies that the government's job is to always lift its people up by supporting and encouraging their life endeavors.
"I did the 50 figures first in my studio, it was night and day, I worked with 10 people. After the 50 figures we moved to the sight, I worked at night from 12 midnight to 4am. We first cast the base, after 2 days, we started to cast the pillars, by the 5th pillar we had no place to climb, we had to pray all night because we needed help" Gerald said reminiscing on the process
"The base is large to show that the leadership in Lagos is accommodating and solid. The figures took me 3 months to make, the pillars took me 3 weeks. I had to bring about 20 workers to build the pillars. The base took us 2 days and the pillars 6 days, it was challenging taking the figures up one by one. They had a budget, they did not give me what I wanted to do there, we did not have the facilities to do it, but I still did something that was really cool. If there is a maintenance culture that monument can stand for 200 years."
Abolore Sobayo's 'Community' and 'Laberation' Monuments
"This is the biggest project, I have done that is an outdoor project, for me, I have learnt the ropes, I have been able to make a lot of mistakes, I have been able to correct my mistakes, its been an awesome journey for me" Abolore revealed.
The artist, fashion designer and politician said that there were over 100 entries sent to the contractor for the project, and he is happy that his works were picked for the one located at the popular Ile Zik roundabout and Allen roundabout in Ikeja.
"The inspiration for my works is the environment. The one at the Ile Zik roundabout is titled community. The fact that there is a bond between communities in Lagos, and the realization is more of water, the first sellers were fishermen, according to mythology. The Aworis are believed to be the first settlers that came by boat, that is why the work is a gathering of canoes coming together representing various parts of Lagos" he said.
The other work titled "Laberation" is a fiber glass statue of a headless Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti surrounded with depictions of different parts of Lagos. The work was a result of Abolore's last exhibition titled 'Echoes', as he used the exhibition to study Fela and document his story using facial masks.
"It's almost 20 years Fela died and we don’t have a statue of Fela anywhere, so I decided to do a statue of Fela without the head, because 3 things makes a man - his ideology, his action and his words, and these are the things that I remember about Fela. I want people to see the essence and mythology of Fela, its about a legacy, the posture of the Afrobeat icon" he said.
Segun Aiyesan And 'Virtues Of Life' Monument
"The work basically comprise of metal pieces sewn together on a reinforced steel frame, and hoisted on a steel tripod platform. There are lots of machine parts, gears, bolts and nuts, metal nets, chains, rods, plates etc" said Segun who actually studied Electrical Engineering in the university.
The title of the work is "Virtues of Life" and is inspired by his observation of the devolution of values in contemporary society, from where came things like ills of insecurities, wars, poverty, despair, addictions and loss of will.
"'Virtues of Life' is a clarion call to remind us who we are and what we are to this world. To relive a life of progressive aspirations and cast aside pleasures that swap away our humanity. These virtues guarantee us an unfettered path to freedom, equity, fulfillment and the continual strengthening of the fabric of society. A veritable legacy that ensures the success of generations to come." he said.
To bring the work to life he enlisted the help of artisans like welders, painters and oxyacetylene technicians, and since it is a metal piece with a large amount of details and with the potential to be very heavy, the work had to be broken into about 65 segments for easy transportation to the site. The different segments were subsequently put together to form the eventual piece.
Segun summarizes the essence of building the monuments and involving the art community to contribute to Lagos as it celebrates 50 years.
"Lagos at 50 celebration has been so unique in many ways by employing the visual art in conveying its commitments to the furtherance of societal values and highlighting cultural and social identity. This is exemplary in its imports and a glowing example for other states to emulate" he postured.