By Anote Ajeluorou and Kehinde Olatunji (from Ibadan)
AN accident sparked off the direction in which the fifth anniversary celebration of Ibadan-based arts gallery, Treasures4life, took this year. Its director, Emmanuel I.M. Silver had a broken ankle last year to necessitate a metal object being inserted in it to aid full recovery. That experience set Silver’s mind thinking about the plight of persons with one form of disability or another face considering how harrowing his own experience was.
This was why Opeyemi Adedeji was picked for the month-long celebration of Treasures4life to exhibit and speak about his works. Adedeji is a hearing-impaired visual artist’s teacher at the Osun State Secondary School for the Handicapped, Osogbo. Venue of the ongoing show is 9, Fagbamila Street, Agodi, Ibadan, the gallery’s new studio and exhibition offices.
Adedeji’s works, entitled: ‘Ireti: Hope for tomorrow’, are, indeed, a celebration of life. His abstract painting style reveals an inner mind in a flux in its keen observation of everyday life. But it is Adedeji’s use of colours that most eloquently captures the thinking of the artist. It shows just how much he loves life and is willing to share it with his fellow being.
His works are devoid of those dark outlines that many a disgruntled souls would ordinarily have, who, despairing with the world for their plight, paint to show their pain. But Adedeji is apparently a happy soul, and is willing to share his inner joys with the rest of humanity. So, his colours are bold, bright and in continuous motion like the ever-changing world he shares with others. Even his images, too, share in this celebration of a soul at peace with itself.
And, as the Treasures4life states in the exhibition brochure, Adedeji is “a gifted artist, with special needs; his ever-inquiring mind connects his audience to a visual dialogue in each piece of art. His use of colours and patterns communicates his thoughts and feelings to the rest of the world.
“Rendered in oil and acrylic on canvass, Adedeji cleverly hides his subjects (in his abstract paintings) in a maze of sparkling patterns of colours. A second look is almost inevitable. More interesting are his themes, taken from everyday occurrences; they give us a glimpse into his own powers of observation and experience. The few pieces that are somewhat realistic show vivid emotions”.
It is also the hope of the boss and curator of Treasures4life, Silver, a fervent art promoter and documentarist, that exhibiting Adedeji would give an uncaring public “an opportunity to connect better with people with special needs, an occasion we may not experience often. It is also hoped that it will enable humanity to appreciate the beauty that lies deep within other individuals, especially those with special needs.
“What Treasures4life has done is to lend its resources for Adedeji to explore his techniques and talents and so carve a niche for himself in the art landscape with the hope that he will be a source of inspiration for many”.
Adedeji also addressed the gathering of arts lovers in sign language. He affirmed that since having hearing impairment since childhood through illness, “I have not allowed my disability to hinder me from achieving what I want to achieve in life… Therefore, I like to encourage you that being disabled only makes you special. Don’t concentrate on your weakness, but on your strength. You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it, and with God’s help, you can do all things”.
Having fractured his leg and undergone a surgery to correct it, Silver was constrained to have a different perspective. It was what informed his choice of subject and artist, “My schedules, responsibilities and ambitions had to be reviewed. For the first time, I had a feel of what people with special needs go through. I realised that I needed to see beyond me and mine. I was much grateful for life’s opportunities and began to see the larger picture.
“Hence, we’re celebrating Adedeji, who, in spite of his challenges, has forged a path of success for himself. With the assistance of his immediate family, he has become a source of inspiration to many. We just worked to improve his innate talent and equip him with entrepreneurial skills to operate better in the marketplace. His resilience has borne fruits…
“I wish to appeal to those in the private and public sectors to consider people with special needs and make adequate provision to cater for them. Our ability to integrate vulnerable groups and ensure their wellbeing is an indication of development in society”.
Isioma Diji, a medical student at University of Ibadan, and founder of Diji Isioma Foundation (DIF), a charity group that celebrates the talents of people living with special needs, appealed to people with disabilities to keep hope alive. She urged them not to let their situation bother but to forge ahead nonetheless.
Also, founder of Independent Living for People with special needs, Mrs. Foluke Idowu, said it was ironic that art, which people tended to relegate, was what had come to the aid of people with special needs to bring to them to the fore. She said there had been geniuses the world over among disabled people and urged those with special needs not to allow their condition to limit them.
Adedeji’s mother, Mrs. Comfort Adedeji, narrated how her son had hearing impairment. She recalled, “At one year and four months old, Opeyemi was a beautiful baby already uttering baby words: ‘Baba, mama…’. But one day, I woke up to discover that my baby had fever, a cough and a reddish blotchy skin, a condition which was later diagnosed to be measles. He was taken to the hospital and medication was prescribed.
“A few weeks later, the measles was gone but no sound came out of his mouth again. Everything appeared blank to him and at that tender age, he lived in a silent world, being able to say nothing and hear nothing.
“The doctors at University College Hospital, Ibadan (UCH) continued to assure us that his condition would improve but nothing happened. We were even told to buy him hearing aids, which we did, but it didn’t change his condition. I almost lost my senses then. I just kept crying”.
Mrs. Adedeji, who was almost in tears while speaking at the son’s exhibition, said that she couldn’t recollect how her son was eventually taken to a special school for the disabled. But at the exhibition, she was full of pride and in joyous mood.