The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos is pleased to present a monumental project by Nigerian artist Ozioma Onuzulike in an exhibition entitled Seed Yams of Our Land. The exhibition explores yam (Dioscorea spp.) – a prestigious and sacred food crop, and the yam barn – a site of political and economic power among various ethnic groups in Nigeria – as metaphors to engage the human condition in Africa shaped by unequal relations with first world countries and their imperial powers.
Over the years, the artist has explored the materiality of clay and the allegorical images locked in its working processes. He relates his studio processes to the ‘resource curse’ that has plagued many African countries. The processes of working with his primary material (clay) – hammering, crushing, wedging, kneading, slapping, cutting, slamming, punching and firing – are metaphors for the violence associated with resource exploration, exploitation and control, which mostly affects young people and children in Africa.
His current project, Seed Yams of our Land, reflects on the artist’s studio processes and ideas related to the cultivation and storage of yam. In ironically creating a barn of terracotta yam tubers in various conditions of damage, the artist invites visitors to reflect on the issues of man’s inhumanity to man and the horrific implications of conflicts and wars on human beings and on the natural environment. For him, the yam with its physical and conceptual attributes offers fitting metaphors with which to engage the human condition in Africa.