Deaf Vs Dumb
Lagos Biennial 2017, Nigerian Railway Museum, Lagos (Nigeria)
14 Oct - 22 November 2017

Deaf vs. Dumb, a site-specific installation, takes its point of entry from the unending campaign “fight against corruption” by the Nigerian government. Evident in the title and representation of the concept, it is a satirical commentary on the relationship between the govern- ment and the people, where the government is deaf and the people are dumb. Multi-layered and created in the framework of a boxing bout, the installation incorporates key elements in the game of boxing and highlights familiar political and economic issues within the Ni- gerian landscape. The central piece is a boxing ring that measures 36sq ft. In total, there are 12 sculptural pieces and a soundinstallation.

Acting as a metaphor, the boxing ring is Nigeria, a strong country but a battleground with constant frictions between the government and the citizens. While the figures inside the ring are the center of attraction, the figures outside are equally important. They allude to the pres- ence of the audience in a boxing arena and undertake different roles in the installation. The two figures seated and adorned in the officers’ vest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a Nigerian law enforcement agency, represent the referees in this fight against corruption, while the use of the ‘Corruption Must Go’ bags which takes its reference from the mass deportation of Ghanaians from Nigeria in the 1980’s, deals with the subject of money laundering and other illegal financial practices. A number of popular news head- lines, lend credence to the history of corruption in the country.

Invoking the presence of another audience and players in the arena, the sound installation, an audio recording of actual conversations at different newspaper stands, points at the archetypal response of the people to the news around them. In their words and actions, what has changed?

Drawing on the study of anthropometrics and ergonomics, the materials, skeletal shapes of the figures and the space of installation are measured (or deliberate). The sculptural pieces components - iron rods, woods, binding wires - sourced from construction sites and easily too, implies the simplicity and possibility of nationbuilding, as well as the contrasting nature of that process.

The figures, although vulnerable and fragile in appearance, are still standing and resisting, and attest to the boxing ring as the formidable structure that must be contested and constantly negotiated.

The piece was created for the International Performance week of the Lagos Dance Gathering. The installation is symbolically installed
in front of the National Morgue on Broad Street in Lagos Island. The work becomes both a commentary on the on-going killings on the herdsmen crisis across communities in Nigeria, and a burial ceremony for the thousands of people who have died in the process. This becomes more important in a country where the dead are often not acknowledged and the government doesn’t declare national mourning on the victims of these attacks.

#CowLivesMatter is both an installation and a performance piece. The installation consists of a sculpture piece wrapped in a Nigerian flag placed inside a coffin filled with “blood”. A sound piece, which contains an excerpt from audio recordings at newspaper stands on the crisis, is installed inside of the coffin. A sculpture piece is holding a 5-litre fuel keg filled with some “blood” while 5 other grave signs are installed with sand, tyre.

A final piece in the work is the “Condolence Register” created for the viewers to put down their commentary on the state of the nation. As a performance piece, #CowLivesMatter becomes a material for other performers during the festival to use for their various projects.