Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm, curated by Moyo Okediji, PhD for WÁKÀTÍ:Time Shapes African Art, OSUMA, Stillwater, OK
Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm speaks also as lamentation for my father’s burned fruit tree orchards and the forced dispersal of my family. I remember over and over the charred piece of wood, not even 2 feet x 2 feet, what’s left of our village drum, once a huge tree trunk carved and used to carry messages and to celebrate, all that remains: violence-blackened whisper of a sound that used to transfer across verdant farmlands of Benue. In Tiv, my paternal language, “wan” means child and “chuku” means little. Something or someone really small, a tiny child or baby is “chuku chuku.” Tiv are also the yam farmers of Nigeria, located in the fertile farmlands of Benue State.
Wan Chuku and the Mystical Yam Farm references the idea of being in a mystical wonderland, connecting to Amos Tutuola’s book My Life in the Bush of Ghosts about a boy in colonial Nigeria who becomes lost in the mythical bush of ghosts and all of his wild adventures there. It also connects to the seed reference in Afro-Futurism, full of all possibility to build a new and healthy future. The black and white stripes for the abstract, ornamental tree forms rising from each yam mound are based on Tiv anger cloth (pronounced “ahn-gair”)–a mark of prestige that reflects Tiv loom-weaving traditions. They also reference “dazzle camouflage” used for wartime ships to confuse the enemy via optical illusion.