Boys Play War: A Tradition of Uprising (2016)
This installation, like most forms of artistic practice, began with a series of questions: on power and place, gender and race—often finding substance in the disquietude that lies at the intersection of these topics. With each question serving as a doorway to the next, the dialectical conception of "Boys Play War" eventually came into harmony with the works on view upon arrival at one particular question:
"Who says power is a concept limited to men?"
This is precisely the same question posed by the initiators of the Aba Women's Riot of 1929 and the Abeokuta Women's Revolt of 1940. On both occasions, over 10,000 women stood together to challenge the colonial ideologies imposed by the British. These uprisings were notoriously more successful than previous insurrections led by men—like the Bussa Rebellion of 1915, where rebels armed with bows and arrows attempted to undermine the policy of indirect rule in British-controlled Nigeria.
Over a century later, the protagonists in "Boys Play War" have picked up the bow and arrow again, but this time in rebellion against pre-imposed ideologies of what constitutes African art—a testament to the longevity of the quest for an authentic expression of autonomous African identity.