Where did she get the strength and energy to carve such magnificent works? Why chose to be a sculptor, a rather back-bending career? These are few questions that will run through your mind when you encounter the works of Veronica Otigbo-Ekpei.
Otigbo-Ekpei is a perfect example of “what a man can do, a woman can do even better.” Like many artists who use various media to tell stories and express themselves, she is a female sculptor, who chose to express herself through wood.
From the wood, Otigbo-Ekpei has been able to achieve inward view by balancing a realistic sculpture technique with addition of symbolic allegorical elements. Her works can be seen as a form of visual storytelling, with each work suggesting a narrative and emotional quality.
One of her works, which was on display during her last solo art exhibition titled: Broken Dream; portrays her view on the controversial issue of Child Bride in Nigeria. ‘My works speak volumes about my thoughts and feelings from the sketches and the finishing work’, she informed.
She exhibited eye popping sculptures and button art in her last solo art exhibition, theme: Echoes from the Wood, at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.The exhibition to her was “an attempt to share the thoughts in wood; what has become my voice and language that are clearly translated through my sculpture works’, she said."
She uses captivating titles for her such as: “Out of Waste, Something Beautiful; series. “These are woods with natural formation that I saved from burning to ashes following the outcry by the wood. I painted the wood with acrylic paint to breathe life into it, to show that out of waste, something beautiful can be achieved.” This, she said aims at supporting the ongoing global campaign against deforestation and bush-burning.
But for African Lady, Flower, Sunset, Dripping Colour, Teenage and lot more are created out of trial according to her. ‘Each time I visit the market where I purchase materials for my sculptures, I found lots of bright-coloured buttons staring at me in the face, and I could not resist the temptation of making experiment with them.
“The buttons are of diverse colours, shapes and sizes; they are made of plastic, glass, metal, clay and rain. I use them to transform a plain surface, to an original work of art using adhesive to fasten them together.”
According to her, ‘the world of the woods, a world offering perfect quiet and solitude, exists side by side with the realisation that there is also another world of people and society’s obligations. They try to reach-out, to speak to us and sometimes even make suggestions, but are not heard because they speak with their mystifying whispers through sound wave and chemical reaction.
‘The unseen forces in the wood are yearning for attention, incidentally and on five years interval are inching to express themselves through my works.
Otigbo-Ekpei has been an active force in this male dominated field of contemporary Nigerian art. She has been practicing and creating amazing works for more than years. This conveys that she does what she is doing not just for storytelling or to express herself alone but due to her passion for art and sculpture.
“It gives me joy and satisfaction seeing wood in its rough and shapeless form being transformed into an unbelievable object of communication”, she said, adding that it is what keeps her practicing.
She has held five solo exhibitions, ten group exhibitions, and seven commissioned works, calendar illustrations, including books, which she authored. Otigbo-Ekpei is a 2005 master’s degree holder (Sculpture), from the University of Lagos.