Culled from an essay titled ‘Yesteryears – Reflections through the Lenses’ by the same author and published in The UNION Newspaper on March 2, 2014.
An admixture of colour and Black/White images brought alive from times past, was the tone set in the ever friendly ambiance of the National Museum (Lagos) exhibition hall, where the Photographer, Segun Taylor poured out her feelings in thematic visual offerings.
Sometimes her sojourns in foreign lands brought against the backdrop of her Nigerian experience, has indeed welled up a unique energy in her sobering reminiscences. This makes one able to draw inferences for constructive comparisons regarding the various and diverse cultures and environments from which she has freely tapped inspirations for her works. Sometimes also, her experiences have tended to bring about eloquent conversations and dialogues relating to the realities and challenges of a festering social milieu.
Segun Taylor captures especially the variegated, albeit predominantly sombre sights and sounds of both modern and even ‘yesteryears’ Nigeria. She does not mince words in her predilection for capturing the need for a social rebirth. Her lenses have traversed and travailed across the vast landscape – like a woman with child; she groans and bears our collective pains rising from her tripod. From the rustic landscapes, to the rural and even sub-urban reflections of poverty and squalor, to the picturesque country, and down to the city hustle and bustle, this artiste draws visuals bearing so many tales too much for a writer to put down.
None of the photographs on display have a title, neither is any dated - intentionally so; for doing otherwise Segun reckons will only go to restrict and diminish the interpretation as well as the ongoing conversations: How could an impoverished haggard looking old guy sitting in front of his lonely thatched mud hut tucked away in a rural wilderness be calm and smiling at you? The wardrobe of rags and litter hang right there in your face, and his kitchen all bare with sooth and burnt soup, and he smiles at you still; he is not afraid for himself or anything, not even for the little kid who stands by, looking on – talk about he that is already down. Is this contentment or insanity, when ravenous politicians are still killing each other over the next elections? There must be a lesson to take away from all these.
In contrast of some sort, another picture which by reason of happenstance perhaps hangs on the opposite side of the hall: Melancholy is the story of this one; this young man sits with his back against the wall – perhaps pushed against the wall too. We all should therefore fear for what can result from his frustration later because all hope seems lost – empty plates strewn around as two kids at the fore ground gaily prepare (elubo) yam flour for the family oblivious of what tomorrow may hold.
What message can you draw from a squalid settlement set against a set of high rise blocks of flats in a high brow residential neighbourhood? This I guess was in the (old) Bar Beach on exclusive Victoria Island. Why was it rendered in black and white; is it not a reality of our social contrasts, the truth of our horrendous socio-cultural duality? This same quagmire hunts all of us in our brazen urge to make ends meet while neglecting every sense of order; and the failure of state generally.
Fuel crisis, an ever recurring decimal in our jagged polity, hits the city and students all disembark from their bus and begin to push in the suffocating heat of the mid-day sun, amidst bustling Lagos, a vehicle marked Lagos State University Students’ Union Government. Some other time, it may as well be on the popular Apongbon Bridge in contrasting black and white, another exodus-like movement in the heart of Lagos, be it night or day, the sleepless mass of scrounging folks continue to trudge.
But is Eldorado in sight; will we ever get to the Promised Land? Segun Taylor seems to be hopeful – after all it is not a common sight to see cat and dog playing. At least twice I saw it! I completely share the author’s sentiments and philosophy in the power of the good old traditional black and white medium of expression with which she conveyed most of her encounters by lens, but I still think that those memorable pieces ought to have titles for better identification and documentation. Also, they could have been better presented if mounted before hitting the frames or going behind the glass.
By Morgan Nwanguma