Saturday, 1 November 2008

Ready for off!

Well everything is done and waiting to board the coach for Heathrow having contacted academics, friends and acquaintances for people to meet up with while l am in Abuja, Owerri, Nukka and Lagos - you know who you all are. Here's to the adventure! Thanks to everyone for making this happen.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


One of the facets for me about Kenyan culture was the stories that people told in terms of advice and guidance or pearls of wisdom which l found a good way of describing pictures in words.

Having just spoken to Professor John Picton to glean words of wisdom and knowlege before l embark on this new journey l realise how much this element of African culture has entered into his way of thinking.

One of his most amusing pieces of advice was to wear a skirt when travelling on the l/we may need to squat by the roadside to relieve ourselves and this would mean l could/might retain a modicum of modesty during the whole proceedings!!!

I am sure there will be more stories to tell as the project this space!


As well as this blog, l am keeping my own diary of events and thoughts leading up to going on the field trip in A6 sketchbooks. This form of reflexive diary l have previously kept whilst on the field trip to Giriamaland to carry out my doctoral research into the Commemorative Grave Posts inland from Kilifi in Kenya. I also keep studio diaries, which are useful to analyse later on for recurrent themes and thoughts in my art practice. This will also form an important element of my work and documentation on returning from Nigeria, as l experiment and later prepare artwork for the exhibitions.

Photographs/video footage will also be kept as a visual record during the fieldwork, and a photographic record of the artwork as it progresses in the studio.

The methodology is essentially phenomenological.

Preparing for field trip to Nigeria

This is the start of the anthropological research into the Mbari houses with Amarachi Okafor (Amara). I will be flying out to Abuja in November to meet up with Amara, who is now a curator at the National Art Gallery there, and we will travel to Owerri her home town to carry out a survey of the Mbari still standing and the contemporary versions. During the latter part of December we will go to Lagos to connect with other contemporary African artists living and working there.

It is with great delight that l acknowledge the support of the Arts Council of England Grants for the Arts, who have made this project possible, leading on to the joint exhibitions of our work in both London and Nigeria. Other funding applications are currently under review.

Bath Spa University and Weston College have also agreed to a two month sabbatical from teaching duties to carry out this investigation, to whom l am also indepted.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Mbari – South Eastern Nigeria

This selection of mbari images shows elements characteristic of these buildings in terms of their material construction and ideology. They were originally never repaired to reflect human existence, hence the neglect seen in one image here. Dualities are another essence of the mbari philosophy and can be seen very visibly in the image of the Earth god Ala and the Thunder god being rendered in a completely different style, reflecting very literally two different cultures through decoration and dress respectively. Night and day, dark and light, public and private elements also feature prominently in the literature on the concepts of mbari and the rituals involved with making the structure. As Cole (1988: 65) said ‘Mbari was and remains a showcase of values’. Cole, H.M (1988) in African Arts Volume XXI, 2 p.54-65 ‘The Survival and Impact of Igbo Mbari’.

My special thanks go to Skip Coles for allowing me to publish these images of his work and his support for the project. Coles, H.M (1982) “Mbari: Art and Life among the Owerri Igbo”. Bloomington, USA: Indiana University Press.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Mbari Shrines, Nigeria

This blog has been set up as a discussion forum for the research and production of artwork that Amarachi Okafor and l are about to conduct as a collaborative project. We are both sculptors whose practice includes sculptural forms, installations and video. Amara works in Nigeria whilst l work in UK based at Spike Island Studios, Bristol. We both intend to make artwork after a field trip to South Eastern Nigerian to investigate Mbari shrines and their significance in their local context.