For as much as the technicalities of Gerald Chukwuma’s works and the not-so-subliminal semblance it exudes with the works of famous El Anatsui, the observing eye and mind is somewhat conjured into telling a tale critically in two different ways.
It is one thing the Chukwuma hasn’t repudiated when fielding questions from correspondents – the comparison between these two distinctive artists. Many at times as a matter of fact, Gerald Chukwuma brilliantly made a rejoinder, addressing the comparison between his works and El Anatsui’s.
Gerald Chukwuma would go on to make reference to El Anatsui as an inspiration to his art also reinstating that in no way are the works of these duo same, as perceived by some. As a matter of fact, El Anatsui belonged to the older generation of artists as evident not just with age but with definition of works and resume alike.
Gerald Chukwuma was born in Nigeria in 1973 and hails from the South Eastern part of the country. Chukwuma first became acquainted with Nigerian art history while he was a student at the revered University Of Nigeria, Nsuka. In his beginning days while studying at the art department, how he had had a paradigm shift in his creative thoughts as a result of El Anatsui’s influence – Gerald would recall this in a recent interview with an art discussion platform based in Lagos, referencing El Anatsui as a decorated artist and a tutor par excellence of art in the same school. Anatsui at the time, had just won a competition worth thousands of pounds in Japan while Chukwuma was a prospective student.
Anatsui belonged to the ephemeral Nsukka group of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts. This famous group, comprising of seven artists, is renowned for the system of traditional Igbo designs and styles known as ULI. Artists Uche Okeke, Chike Aniakor, Obiora Udechukwu, El Anatsui, Tayo Adenaike, Ada Udechukwu, and Olu Oguibe contributed laudable and numerous art projects to the growth of Nigerian art in its entirety and in this same vein we see Gerald Chukwuma following in similar footsteps, maximizing impressions and in turn utilizing his art as a platform to reach out to, and inspire the up and coming generation.
I initially had an experience with Gerald Chukwuma at a contemporary art auction where his piece sold for a convincing amount of fortune considering the caliber to which he belonged. It’s not surprising because the Nigerian art community recognizes Chukwuma as an “auction favorite” .
Set in the Gold Coast city of Accra is a contemporary art space located on the ground floor of the famous 5 star Kempinski Hotel known as Gallery 1957. It was the gallery’s opening reception of Gerald Chukwuma’s STANDING OVATION, an exhibition that explores migration as a constant process of transformation.
The atmosphere of Chukwuma’s works breathe a fresh air of present-day curiosity that comes with the careful observation of one’s environment. There is the need to appreciate the thought process of a man who deploys the use of traditional Uli and Nsibidi symbols, with reference made to the aforementioned texts regarding his days at Nsukka; continuing to preserve the glorious African culture.
These new clove of works mediates on the amalgamation of history of the Nigerian culture and language. The opening headline was taken from the work Standing Ovation (2017) which in itself is a commemoration of Gerald Chukwuma’s fortitude over time in the course of his career as an artist. Chukwuma puts to work his impressive wood carvings to tell a story of optimism amidst the dark times considering Africa’s struggles, politically and economically. These indefatigable ambitions to rise irrespective of continued times of post-colonialism, perpetuation of violence, and corruption.
The conspicuousness of Chukwuma’s art and the implied narratives it particularly conveys makes him near-genius; and these traits Gerald Chukwuma has in tidy supply. Chukwuma’s works of paintings, collages and sculptures are sometimes figurative or abstract with each work embedded with an analogy of personal and political derivations. Chukwuma through his works further analyses the detailed relationship between engineered, formative and primitive qualities of medium and image.
Subjectively, Gerald Chukwuma reiterates his straight-forward gifted decision to appeal to the emotions of an observer, intuitively coercing one’s mind to see the most salient issues that confronts the communities of Africa in this present day; communicating the past, what is happening presently; the course of the future and what it has in store.
What else is deserving of an art gladiator whose mechanism is satiated with the culture and represents the struggles of a threshold of people, other than a standing ovation?