A monochrome shaman
The artist is of Nigerian origin Jelili Atiku, for Manifesta 12, crossed the city of Palermo with the Festival of the Earth performance, informing the people and the world about the theme of the encounter between rituals and cultures.Expert of Western art, Jelili is the pioneer and founder of the performance art biennial in Nigeria. He is one of the few artists who achieves monochrome performances (for example The Red Series #13). In the Festival of the Earth, the participants covered the face, the arms, hands, legs with green pigments, referring to the nature which is the connecting element of all cultures.
The event was inspired by celebrations for Saint Rosalia in Palermo and traditional Yoruba histories, people of Nigeria and Western Africa deported in United States during the period of slavery. The work integrates procedural rituals with plants and sculptural objects that have been brought to the Palazzo Costantino where they will be exhibited for the period of Manifesta.
I experienced his work directly, taking part in all the phases with which it was composed. For me it was a gradual awareness of what was happening and changing between us.
I felt that everything he taught was very balanced and placed the elements on the same level as a proposal meditated according to a philosophical-poetic vision.
The performance of Jelili Atiku throughs the real objects existence, of learned life over time. These elements offer themselves as a manifestation of space, but they are not part of that space. He chooses the elements, geographically and temporally distant, to enrich the new story that is created with the Festival of the Earth.
In other performances he has sustained the narration alone by overloading body with objects, identifying with more violent perspective. In artwork for Manifesta 12, 60 people responded to the appeal and participated from all over the world. The project design has constructed vertically, a sort of sublimation of the encounter. The role of artist inside of performance was between different words with the body covered with shrubs and twisted thorny branches! All the objects, from the cart, to the clothes, to the signs, to the Sekere instruments to mark the rhythm, are works of art with a precise common meaning.
The use of green color have a particular value in addition to the reference of nature.
I asked if he has used white monochrome in the performance.
He wrote to me:
“Yes I have used white in my many of my performances as a symbolical contents of positive and creative energy, which I hope will influence the feelings of openess, welcomeness, humility, cleanness and purity, possibilities and vitality, and of course, protection. Bringing to the colour into my performance is also to reference the Ideals and values of “Obatala”, the creative energy and source of embodiment in Yoruba traditions.”
In the meeting at the Theater Garibaldi the artist created a similarity between the history of man’s movements and that of plants. This has been a innovative reading of this historical moment. Some of Jelili performances are led by nostalgia, by the memory of “having to leave”. In this last work is the representation of a world that advances almost with an initiation rite of sacrifice. We can we say that Festival of heart acts a metamorphosis, a go beyond memory, in a common path, where the acceleration or termination of some relationships, makes everyone free and a little bit shaman.