By Osa Mbonu-Amadi
Tobi Adebule is a photographer whose art transcends beauty and reaches into the spiritual domain. His interest encompasses metaphysics and other deep issues of life.
In his first solo exhibition, which took place in 2015, Tobi explored the issues of terror, grief, loss and aesthetics of human existence, which were inspired by the Jos crisis of 2010 in which churches, houses and mosques were razed and more than a thousand lives lost.
The works in his recent exhibition titled “Tales of the inner man”, which ended last week, were, in the other hand, inspired by a spiritual encounter he had in 2021. “After my first solo exhibition in 2015,” Tobi said, “my aim was to have an exhibition every year, but I could not do that between 2016 and 2021 due to lots of factors. I fell ill at the time and the encounter with my spiritual self happened in the process.
“The research, planning and conceptualisation of this exhibition therefore began in 2016, and that was when the direction to use my work as evangelistic materials to bring the spectator to the realisation of self and discovery of purpose, came to be.”
The Curator, Mathew Oyedele, explains that “Tales of the inner man interrogates the nuances and intricacies of the correlation between the physical and spiritual self, marriage, opportunities, competition, support system, birth and destiny, through photography.”
“Man is born free but is in constant competition with people he may or may not know,” says the curator. “He is presented with opportunities to scale, expand, enlarge and grow but he also has the tendency to miss and squander those opportunities through ego, laziness, arrogance, procrastination and ignorance. These tendencies are what the artist refers to as Ìbòjú Ókùnkùn (The dark veil) that cover the eyes of man from seeing and identifying golden opportunities.
“He also took a tour into the nuances and intricacies of marriage in Yorubaland where the bulk of prayers, advice, faults and counsel usually go to the woman. She is usually the first to be tagged barren and encouraged to invoke the spirit of children through the romanticisation of baby dolls, in the case of infertility in the marriage. She is the one who hears “ilé oko, ilé èkó ni (The husband’s house is a home of knowledge)” in times of challenges. She is also the one who is told “èyìn ìyàwó ò ní m’ení (The wife will not be barren)” on the wedding day. Here, the spotlight is on the woman, to interrogate our perception of marriage in Yorubaland.
“Tales of the inner man” is an exhibition of cumulative stories that emanate from the artist’s encounter with his spiritual self, scrutinisation of his environment and by extension, investigation of social construct. By merging sound, photography and objects of representation, the artist invites the audience into states of retrospection, epiphany, enlightenment and awakening of self that exalts the necessity for questioning and connection with one’s metaphysical self.
“The works also serve as a connection between metaphysics and the reality of the human mind where the audience will have a spiritual connection that searches their thoughts. This proves that my works are not just art but visual evangelistic materials,” the artist said.
Tobi has worked as an official photographer for Guinness Nigeria, Etisalat, Malta Guinness and Haier Thermocool.