Roar writer Cristiana Sandeva on the opening of INxSANIxTY by Sani who held his exhibit at the start of Black History Month in Copeland Gallery, South London.
“Gidan Tunani – House of Thoughts,” physically took place between 1 and 5 October, and has proven to be an everlasting inner experience for everyone who was there. Sani is the genuine human behind this project aimed, in his words, at “putting together humanity, history and the thoughts of all viewers.” He was born in the UK to Nigerian parents, lived in Abuja during his childhood, eventually returning to the UK. His brilliant brains got him all possible college grants. He studied engineering, architecture and economics. He initially wanted to join the Air Force, but gradually started getting into art. He ended up putting all his soul and talent into art, the one thing he never formally studied, but taught him the most.
He took us through his sculptures and paintings, recounting himself through his art and encouraging us to do the same. To start off, Sani never “starts off”. He gets inspired from outside, allows a feeling enter him, creates. When the feeling has exited and he has exited the creation, he then steps out and investigates what he has done, how and why.
To better help us understand this process, he showed us to “the mirror painting”, pictured below.
“What is the first thing that comes to your mind?” he asks me.
“Romance. He is leaving for a long journey and she wants him to stay,” I answer, quicker than I would have even expected from myself.
“Welcome to social open painting. The idea is that people project themselves onto the painting; your answer is directly linked to something about you and your current mindset. Someone just before told me that these two people are fighting, and she is angry at him. Even if I were now to tell you the meaning is different, it would still hold the initial one to you, innerly. This is a good thing though, it means you are able to react to art!”
This takes us to Sani’s core view of art and its purpose. His art is aimed at three scopes:
1. Teaching the audience about themselves (as was the case just above)
2. Teaching the audience about himself
3. Pushing the audience’s creativity
Illustrating this, he swings towards another painting in the gallery, entitled “knowledge of self.”
The painting behind is that of a man holding a bowl in his left hand, his head a blurred blend of all the colours in the painting. “This is who I am, but at the same time it is also who I’d be if I didn’t know myself. The story behind this is that I was slightly angry when I painted it. When Black Lives Matter became massive earlier this year and a lot of people went outside kneeling, it angered me a little. I don’t believe in begging people to treat me how I deserve, in this whole thing of having to love each other at all costs to be respected. You do not have to love me to respect me. If you have knowledge of self, you wouldn’t beg anyone to treat you better and you’d respect everybody the way you respect yourself.” He moves to another painting, rapidly but calmly. He puts food for thought on the table, and keeps flavouring it further. By the end of the exhibition, you are both satiated and have developed a sharpened appetite for art.
He takes us onto the next painting, starts taking it down and explains as he flips it over.
“This is about gender roles and traditions. It has got a father painted in the centre, a big man in his turban. Now let’s turn it around. If you look close enough, you will see that there is a woman standing there actually. The idea is that, going forward in the exhibition, you will start looking for deeper meanings and twisted angles and you will come out with a more creative side. This is goal number three of my art, as I said.”
Eventually, Sani concludes, he is both the creator and spectator of his art. His purpose is to communicate and stimulate. “When I put more concepts from different domains into a piece of art, I think they become easier to grasp, digest and discuss. The more people become sensitive to art, the truer they become to themselves.”
You can find Sani on all social media platforms under his artistic name INxSANIxTY and follow him to keep up with his work, upcoming exhibits and generally great content he shares with the world. Make sure to not miss out on this exceptional human, as his art will make you learn and question at the same time, deeply but without ever being heavy.