By Nii B. Andrews.

Throughout most of the world, especially over the last six months, there has been a dearth of inspiring and honest leadership in politics and business.

A significant cohort of politicians and business leaders have conducted themselves in a less than exemplary manner.

And no, I shall not provide specific examples at this time. We need only remind ourselves that livelihoods have been decimated and lives of loved ones cut short and lost.

Napoleon, 2019, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 66.1cm

Even as we write, things are still in a flux as self centred politicians, business leaders and their (political) scientists push for an early dangerous sustained exposure of the populace to the pestilence.

Such are those that were referred to in the past by celebrated artists – including Fela Kuti in his music, and George Orwell in his writings as BEASTS.

The General’s Wife, 2019, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 66.1cm

The young Lagos based artist, Ikechukwu Ezeigwe, reminds us of this trope in his paintings.

He avoids any cliched references and instead alludes to historical events, contemporary issues and also utilizes a visual language that encompasses Greek mythology, renaissance painting, graffiti and pop art.

Fifteen of these evocative paintings constitute his first exhibition at the Omenka Gallery scheduled from May 29 to June 29; it is available for viewing online and curated by Seidougha Linus Eyimiegha.

The Business Mogul, 2020, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 66.1cm

Aptly titled BEASTS OF NO NATION, Ezeigwe takes no prisoners.

The sweep of his critique includes Europe’s imperial history, the colonial project, newly independent African societies and the foibles and antics of its native/ indigenous predators in their inglorious role as malignant narcissists within contemporary African societies.

Struggle against Corruption, 2020, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 228.1cm

The depiction of anthropomorphic pigs and monkeys (in different shades of brown, just like ALL humans) is particularly scathing, more especially when combined with imperial uniforms, the other trappings of ego and temporal power and of course text – which doubly assists the viewer to provide context.

Need we once again remind ourselves that all good art including writing is provocative. Otherwise what is the point?

But Ezeigwe is fair and witty; nothing malicious or perverse comes across.

Besides does anyone anywhere vote wisely anymore? Are we all in it together? Are some more equal than others?

The Aspirant, 2019, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 91.4cm

If you notice that the paintings appear somewhat unfinished, then perhaps that is Ezeigwe referencing the graffiti artists who throughout the world have offered furtive laconic commentaries in public places on the abuse of power and privilege.

It will be interesting to see how his career and visual language develop in the years ahead.

Hopefully, in this fast becoming intolerant world, his satirical barbs will not lead a predatory egotist to place a knee on his neck.

The General and the Stripped Chicken, 2020, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 91.4cm
Vote Blindly, 2020, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 91.4cm
Honorable Parliament, 2019, 152.4 x 203.2cm
Askari, 2020, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 66.1cm
Colonialist, 2019, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 91.4cm

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