Get to know ili, an expression of culture by Mary-Jane Minika Ohobu & Hakeem Salaam

ili - mary-jane minika ohobu

The ili exhibition runs from May 30th to June 12th, 2022.

ili - mary-jane minika ohobu

ili, a visual exposé of artistic expressions in Nigerian textiles, is an augmented reality of the beauty in our culturally rich fabric. A creation of visual artist Mary-Jane Minika Ohobu and photographer Hakeem Salaam. ili pieces use the human form as a canvas to tell the Nigerian story through distinct markings on the subject’s body, resulting in a skin-deep illustration of the body and the fabric working in tandem.

ili also means ” cloth” in Idoma, a tribe in the middle belt of Nigeria, Benue.

The middle is significant because it is the point that connects all parts of the country. ili explores the many colours and artistic expressions in the daily and social endeavours of Nigerian ethnic groups where there is an underlying connection deeply rooted in the various cultural, ceremonial, and even spiritual fabrics in these parts and their diversities.

Beyond the relationship that exists between the cultures and fabrics, ili wants you to just enjoy the beauty and intricacies of the fabrics as expressed by the cultures. ili draws attention to instilling values which translate and affect the fundamental sense of self. This promotes a sense of ownership especially to the younger generation as they get to know their origin. It also develops an emotional connection and balance amongst people.

This collection promotes harmony and unity as it showcases the common techniques and ideas that go into the creation of fabrics from the different regions explored. ili, a visual expose of artistic expressions in Nigerian textiles is an augmented reality of the beauty in fabrics rich in cultural heritage. Using the human form as a canvas, these pieces present the Nigerian story through distinct markings on the subject’s body, creating a skin-deep illustration of the body and the fabric in unison”.

About ili

ili - mary-jane minika ohobu

Africa is rich in culture and diversity. Her indigenous art speaks of her history and tells the story of her journey globally. In her diversity, Africa possesses an obvious unifying artistic theme when considering how different cultures on the continent are presented. In Nigeria, like it is in other parts of Africa, culture is viewed through art and folklore while drawing its inspiration for art from the heritage of the region.

Sculpture, architecture, stone carving, textile making, pottery, glass blowing, and bronze casting are notable art forms across Nigeria and for more than a millennium, this has formed part of the culture of our people. Textiles, as one of Nigeria’s traditional art forms, have a wide range of different fabrics from various ethnic groups. Each of these groups has its unique techniques for creating these fabrics to blend with their cultural heritage and this has been passed down from generation. This wide blend of techniques and cultural heritage in Nigerian textiles as an art form is what has given birth to the project ili.

About The Artist – Mary-Jane Minika Ohobu

A visual artist and expressionist, Minika grew up surrounded by nature and its many elements. Driven by passion and innovation, her artistic and cultural upbringing inspires her work and are heavy influences on her creative expressions which feature a lot of play with lights and shadows. Growing up in Calabar, a society rich in colourful and flamboyant cultural experiences, was indeed a great influence.

She started exploring art from an early age and fell in love with that form of expression. Discovering more about art drew her into the beauty industry where she rose to become one of Nigeria’s top makeup artists, her style of make-up ranging from soft to expressive and artistic looks. Minika is constantly exploring life’s journey and sharing it through various media. She considers the human body as one of her canvases to share these stories. Her art is bold, colourful and reflective of her rich African heritage. Minika captures history and heritage and shares the idea of a world of possibilities. She speaks of love and hope.

About The Photographer – Hakeem Salaam

One of the most imaginative minds working the camera in Nigeria today, Hakeem Salaam began making images in his mind as a child and started capturing them in 1989 when he bought his first camera, a Pentax point-and-shoot Obscura. His fascination with still images grew, but he remained in his darkroom making private photographs until 2001 when he began shooting real people with a Pentax SLR.

Hakeem, a widely published photographer who is interested in documentary, travel and landscape, portrait and fashion photography, is the recipient of the Fashion Photographer of The Year Award. His most recent work was at the 2019 Ake Festival held at the Mike Adenuga Center, Ikoyi, Lagos. Hakeem owns and operates a photography gallery in Abeokuta Ogun State. He is widely travelled and has been involved in various photography projects chief of which are: a coffee-table book on Abuja, vitiligo portraits, beautiful Nigeria (ongoing), and foreigners on Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa.

He is a Canon Influencer and trainer.

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