“When oil actually becomes a commodity, an incredible visual drama unfolds.”
“Nigeria, with a population of about 140 million people, depends solely on oil, which constitutes 95% of the country's foreign reserve, yet proceeds from oil revenue do not reach the local people from the oilproducing area.”
”I always wanted to be an artist, to be creative, and to be useful to my society.”
–George Osodi, interview at Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany, 2007
Photojournalist George Osodi spent five years photographing the oil-affected areas of the Niger Delta to expose the injustice and devastation caused by the oil industry. Using his preferred wide-angle lens to get close to his subjects, he captures dramatic scenes of people living in a seriously compromised and seemingly uninhabitable landscape. The man in the lower right corner of Oil Spill Near Farm Land Ogoni moves briskly into our space, and away from the burning oil wells and oil-polluted waters surrounding him. Osodi's disturbing imagery echoes the voices of the Delta inhabitants as they protest against companies such as Mobil and Exxon, whom they blame for destroying their environment, and stealing their resources.
The reference to Ogoni in the title has particular meaning, for here Ogoni environmental activist and writer KenSaro-Wiwa was hanged with others in 1995 for protesting the Ogoni’s environmental destruction by multinational oil companies, whose operations are sanctioned by the Nigerian government. Since then, Saro-Wiwa has become a cultural hero for the inhabitants of the Niger Delta, and Osodi’s photographs act as chilling reminders of the circumstances leading to his death.
From the exhibition: Environment and Object
Recent African Art (February 5 – July 31, 2011)