Hanson Okere is one out of many talented, self-taught artists in Nigeria, one can say he stands out through his unique and not too common way of birthing nouveau art pieces.
Through the medium of wood burning, Hanson Okere, a master of his art uses his perspective to narrate the place of women in the society through his collection of art pieces titled “Ecstasy of Womanhood” series. The “Ecstasy of womanhood” series feature the coming of age and the continued growth of the female gender. By infusing his cultural background and experiences of women around him in his works, Hanson emphasize the theme of hope, freedom, meditation, and muse. Each theme tells the strength and the stories behind every significan event in the life of human focusing on women.
The themes portrayed by Hanson are also evident in the events that took place in Ben Okri’s “The Famished Road”. This is a story about Azaro, a spirit child, who is fatigued by his constant “coming” and “going”. He eventually decided to stay back as he struggled with the resistance of his companions who are not in support of his decision.
…hope has to do with things that are not at hand.- Thomas Aquinas.
This theme as portrayed by a lady standing in the dark with light shining on her face, as she crosses her arms over shoulder, reassuring herself that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. This reflection is the beacon of hope with her head in expectation.
This resonates with Ben Okri’s “The Famished Road”, where the energetic Black Tiger dreams and hopes for a future where beggars will enjoy their fundamental human rights. The beggars especially the beautiful blind girl, follow him because the believe in his hope for a better tomorrow. Azaro’s father symbolizes a beacon of hope in the midst of the misery of the masses.
FREEDOM I & II
Society does not interest itself with people who thirst for freedom, it only makes laws to punish obvious offenders.
The subject of the painting bent over and tied strongly with red rope indicates that she will only be free when she fights.
Freedom will be demanded aggressively by the oppressed because the oppressor will not let go of his powers. This generation is a proof that the female gender did not inherit the silence of their mothers. The becoming of young Nigerian women and men is beautiful to watch in the current protests against police brutality and indiscriminate killing of Nigerians. Demanding freedom will continue to linger in this generation.
By comparison, The Famished Road by Ben Okri portrays the women in the neighbourhood having waited a long time for the fulfillment of the empty promises made by the hired political thugs who joined Madam Koko’s mysterious celebrations also attended by other scary looking thugs and rich men and women. Whenever Azaro’s mother joined Madam Koko and the other women in cooking and preparation for the constant parties, Azaro and his father looked for her, hoping she will come back home but unknown to them, her desire is to be free from the struggles of daily survival. They found her dressed up, putting on blue glasses hoping to fit in and be free. The freedom that was never permanent.
The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.- Stephen King.
A portrait of a young woman, lowering her gaze looking into emptiness that is her own muse. Taking a delve into our inner minds can encourage and bring to light hidden virtues.
Being female is recognizing serenity, grace, femininity, and simplicity. The world has enough of bold and famous women, but it needs women and men who are morally right rather than being socially correct.
The night after Azaro’s compound was razed down in an inferno, as Ben Okri wrote, their lives were changed forever. The whole neighbourhood was awake, with lit lamps in their hands. Azaro got missing. He was lured by his spirit companions, walking down the road into unfamiliar places while searching for his mother.
His mother, in her own stead, took all her savings and borrowed more money as requested by the herbalist so as to offer sacrifices to the spirit children who made him wander far. She searched far and near for Azaro in the rains. Her only child had been trapped by a couple who lost their son. And they were either going to keep him as a replacement or kill him for rituals. She found the road Azaro had gone through, and stood at the doorway of the couple drenched in the rain. She carried her son on her shoulder walking home fearlessly amidst the strange beings after she retrieved him.
She was Azaro’s muse.
To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.- Jiddu Krishnamurti
The subject of this painting is in deep thought Rubbing her left fingers on her right palm is an unconscious action that lets out the exhaustion and the distraction of the outer world as she meditates.
In Okri’s piece, Azaro’s mother became distant rescued from Madam Koto’s parties and shrine, Her mind wandered off and she went in search of it. She was silent, mysterious and beautiful. She was in deep meditation and her body experienced peace.
The artist’s attempt to portray the vulnerabilities, strength and troubles of being a woman also reveals these same qualities inherent in every human.
The ecstasy of humanity?