Rele gallery opened ‘What’s Cooking?’- a culinary art and photography exhibition last Sunday, the 15th of May 2016. I will refer to this as an exemplary answer to a question that was raised at a ‘social-tech’ discourse in February.
Earlier on in the year, Rele gallery hosted one of the Social Media Week events specially for creative artists on the ABCs of networking online. During the panel discussion, the audience challenged a representative of one of the technology giant in Nigeria on the reason for a missing-link between the arts and technology. In response to the question, Emmanouil Revmatas, Director IT & Mobile, Samsung Electronics West Africa, was of the stance that artists and their representatives were not initiating new approaches to work together; that is creative and innovative ways to collaborate with different platforms. Months after, we see a collaboration between Rele, Samsung Nigeria, Nigerian chefs and photographers. This is what I suppose is a response to bridging that disconnection and finding ways to make technology useful in the world of art.
‘What’s cooking?’ shows the possibilities in combining technology with different field of art using food and photography. This is not exactly a new initiative in the US or Europe, but it is an unusual collaboration in Nigeria. For the food part, chefs selected were Tiyan Alile, Dunni Obata and Ozoz Sokoh, and the photographers selected were Kelechi Amadi-cooked and photographed ahead of the exhibition opening. A video documentary of the process was however recorded by Samsung and through virtual reality stands connected to the new Samsung Galaxy S7 series smartphones. These units provided visitors the opportunity to watch behind-the-scene clips of the making of the food that were photographed.
An interesting part of the technical process worth noting here is that the images were photographed with Samsung mobile devices. Kelechi Amadi-Obi, praising the device at the opening, stated, “I did not have to edit a single image.”
For an art lover, it was quite a visually pleasing environment, from the exhibition, we agree that creativity can be expressed through Nigerian foods. Each chef was given a separate room to show off their re-imagination of a place, figure or anything abstract on platters within a Nigerian context. For Instance, Tiyan Alile, reimagined a black girl in a work titled “Girl Uninterrupted”. Black coloured spaghetti were carefully placed in spirals like the kinky hair black girls are identified with in the media. She also recreated the landscape of the area called Marina on Lagos Island with yam slices. Tiyan Alile, was not the only one who created landscapes, Ozoz Sokoh also reimagined a waterside and the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge in her creations. Not forgetting Dunni Obata, who is a personal favourite, she imagined food art in the simplest way. While, other the chefs explored with many bright colours that gave a vibrant shine to the room, chef Dunni and Ade Asiko won my visual senses over with a monochromatic background theme and simple representations. An example is the work titled “Sheltered”. I would place several of those in my dining room if I could buy one.
In a conversation with guests at the exhibition opening, most of them expressed that as foodies, they would have preferred a more realistic feel to the food- more like a performance art, with the food placed in trays and lined on long tables people can see and smell. To that, however, I will say that was achieved with the food served at the exhibition and also, the essence of it being called art is that collectors can go home with a piece of the innovative photographs.
The opening had in attendance some of Lagos’s artists(e), foodies, chefs, collectors, enthusiasts and members of the city’s culture scene. The winner for the TechMeetsArtNG competition for 2016 was unveiled at the opening. The selected winning work was no surprise as the image of a woman created with the ingredients for Ogbono soup already went viral on Twitter and Instagram where it was first shared. Haneefah Adams’ image sits proudly under the TechMeetsArtNg Winner caption in the gallery along with the main exhibition and she was given a special prize of Samsung S7 Edge. The second and first runner up were also acknowledged and rewarded with other Samsung devices. They however didn’t get the chance to show their images in the exhibition.
‘What’s Cooking?’ exhibition remains open until Friday, June 10, 2016.