Statues Also Breath: Obafemi-Awolowo University and Prune Nourry

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Statues Also Breath: Obafemi-Awolowo University and Prune Nourry
Statues Also Breath, Obafemi-Awolowo University and Prune Nourry. ©Prune Nourry Studio. ©Dohdohndawa Photography/DDD Studios.

LAGOS, NIGERIA.- On November 19th an exhibition opened in Lagos, Nigeria, unveiling a major project by the sculptor Prune Nourry and the Department of Fine & Applied Arts of the Obafemi-Awolowo University in Ile-Ife undertaken in collaboration with the families of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria in 2014. Inspired by the ancient Ife terracotta heads and titled Statues Also Breathe, this collaboration aims to raise awareness about the plight of the girls who are still missing while highlighting the global struggle for girls’ education. The project was unveiled on November 19 at Art Twenty One in Lagos, Nigeria, before traveling to Africa, Europe and America.

After meeting the Chibok families to conceive the project, Nourry was entrusted with portraits of their missing daughters, which she used as inspiration for 8 heads sculpted in clay – creating portraits of the high school girls imaged in the style of iconic ancestral Ife head of the region. From these 8 original sculptures then molded, 108 heads were casted in clay sourced from Ile-Ife, by potters from a female potter’s community in the Yoruba town of Ilorin and students of Obafemi-Awolowo University. On September 30th of 2022, a 1-day workshop was held at the university; 108 students sculpted and transformed each head into unique sculptures using portraits of the missing girls. A delegation of mothers of the Chibok girls and girls who managed to escape Boko Haram captivity were also in attendance, honoring and remembering their friends and loved ones depicted in the sculptures.

This “army of girls” is indivisible and must remain together as a complete artwork. The 108 heads which were all signed by the respective students are to be exhibited in Lagos, before traveling around the World to remind of the rich and diverse history and culture of Nigeria, and the present day challenges that we must all address collectively as a global community. Upon completion of the tour, they will return to the permanent collection of a museum in Africa.

A documentary movie will be exhibited with the sculptures in the Statues Also Breathe show, as it enables all the collaborators to include their own voices and unique perspectives be they teachers, students, or parents of the missing girls, everyone is a participant in the creative process. The foundation of the project is built on conversations with mothers of the 8 models and their desire to ensure the world does not forget the girls; each element of Statues Also Breathe works towards bringing continued attention from the wider world.

Also in progress is a podcast that will provide listeners with an intimate look at the events that took place before, during, and after the kidnapping, as recounted by the women who experienced it firsthand and the people who contributed to making their involvement in ‘Statues also breathe’ possible. Lola Omolola, founder of Female IN (FIN), will be the host.

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