‘Eko Moves’ comes to Lagos

Eko Moves, an exhibition of 25 photographs by Yetunde Babaeko, a German-trained fashion and advertising photographer, which captures the beauty of dance, movement, time and space within the vibrant, always thriving megacity of Lagos, opens at the Wheatbaker on December 1.

The body of work is a visual chronicle of a two-year journey during which Ms. Babaeko challenged dancers of the Nigerian dance group, the Society for the Performing Arts of Nigeria (SPAN), to leave the comfort of their mirrored studios and expertly lit stages and dance through the markets, the bus stops, the beaches, the under-bridge-spaces, the water highways and shanty towns of Lagos.

“I want to portray Lagos in a way we have never seen it before,” says Ms. Babaeko, 36, who runs a professional photography studio in Lagos.

“It is almost like the dancers’ jumps elevate the spectator from the hard realities of life in Eko making the viewer feel weightless and bringing a sense of hope to a sometimes seemingly hopeless situation.”

Born in Enugu to a Nigerian father and a German mother, Ms. Babaeko studied advertising photography at Studio Be in Griven, Germany.

In EKO MOVES, Ms. Babaeko showcases iconic images such as the famous Obalende bus stop, the bustling Balogun market, or during sunset at Sandfill beach by having dancers silently pose in classical ballet attire, or whiz through the scene with Hip Hop speed.

“Dance had never been to me than a fun thing to do on a Friday night. But the day I went – or rather dragged by my sons who desperately wanted to learn Hip Hop – to see a group of dancers, I was inspired,” Ms. Babaeko says.

“I needed to photograph them. And the good thing is, that they are artists too. Talented, passionate about their craft, brave and able to think outside the box. There is something special about artists of different art forms coming together and having a common goal.”

To experiment on a fusion of different art forms, Ms. Babaeko enlisted the SPAN dancers to dance through her photo-shoot locations to the curiosity and admiration of onlookers.

“It was amazing how the dancers’ performances on the streets were able to build bridges,” she said.

“During our photo-shoots, which often lasted numerous hours in a single location, we were not harassed by anyone.”

Sarah Boulos, Chief Executive Officer of SPAN, said Ms. Babaeko’s images, using accomplished and novice dancers from her organisation, highlights the importance of training talented youth on various arts.

“These images are also an important step in opening our Agidigba Community Centre in the heart of Lagos Island, within which some of the images were shot,” said Ms. Boulos, who founded the not for profit SPAN ten years ago.

“Besides fundraising for a state of the art performing arts centre and academy, we are building a community skills centre to reach out to talented youth who might not realize they can dance and don’t have the opportunity to follow their passion and talent.”

What makes Ayeni-Babaeko’s photographs “unusual” is that she captured both the dance and the unassuming audience gathered to watch the spectacle of performance, according to Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, the exhibition’s Curator.

“Eko Moves is a beautiful convergence of two different art forms, photography and dance, against the ever moving backdrop of urban growth and challenges,” Ms. Mbanefo-Obiago says.

“When we see the haunting and stark images from ‘Dustbin Estate’, an underserved shanty town where SPAN has started dance classes for talented youth, we realize that this exhibition showcases both photographic and performance artistry, as well as delivers a strong social message on the need for equal educational opportunities for all.”

EKO MOVES is funded by Deutsche Bank, the Wheatbaker, and Ruinart, and the exhibition runs at the Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, until mid-February 2015.

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