Skip to main content

LAGOS – Nigerian artist Olufela Omokeko carefully arranges fresh peppers on wooden boards hanging in a bare room. Instead of providing spice in a meal, he wants them to encourage people to obey measures that will stop the spread of the coronavirus.

His pieces, comprising of red, yellow and green peppers mounted on boards and tomatoes hanging from nets, will rot during the lifespan of the exhibition in Lagos. The decay reflects the food wasted during lockdowns last year, said the 30-year-old artist.

“I created this art space as a reflection of the scarcity… and numerous challenges that we experienced at the early stage of the pandemic,” Omokeko said.

Lockdowns were imposed from late March until early May last year in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub and the capital, Abuja. The restrictions, coupled with a ban on nationwide interstate travel, disrupted supply chains which led to widespread hunger, while food rotted in fields or at depots.

Nigerian artist Olufela Omokeko sets up an exhibition of fresh pepper motive at a gallery in Iwaya, Lagos

“I don’t want us to go back to that stage again and my only advice is for the masses to use their face masks just to avoid another lockdown,” he said.

He fears authorities may enforce more restrictions as the country grapples with a second wave of COVID-19 infections that has seen the number of cases rise sharply in recent weeks.

Public health officials have repeatedly warned that Nigerians are failing to heed guidance on observing social distancing and wearing masks. Many opt to wear masks around their chin, rather than over their mouth and nose.

Omokeko hopes the sight of his rotting peppers, oozing liquids and giving off a pungent smell, will provide a visceral warning of what may happen if safety advice is ignored.

“I’m not wasting this material,” he said. “I’m using it to raise the consciousness of the masses.”

Source: Nigerian artist creates rotting exhibit as coronavirus warning

Close Menu

Random sensory quotes

The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about – or as a ritual like filling up a car – but as something else that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon

— Anthony Bourdain