Gele is the headpiece usually worn by women across Africa for day-to-day activities and on special occasions. O. Yemi is using “GELE – Vintage and Modern” as a metaphorical image to spotlight changes in African culture in this modern day. The art of tying Gele is disappearing like other traditional skills and many modern African young ladies are disadvantaged.
As in his recent painting, looking through the window, O. Yemi placed the Nigerian National Theatre building, one of the noticeable landmarks in Lagos, Nigeria, where Gele is popularly worn at the background of this painting. On the foreground is the picture of the artist’s mother on the left side of the table which is archetypical of the vintage era when ladies took pride in having the skills to tie their own geles literarily and figuratively. It was an era when women took pride in been able to feed their family. On the opposite side is the image of a modern lady made up in O. Yemi usual style of Rose and thorns dressed in modernised Africans’ wear.
Few modern African ladies have learnt the skill of tying their own Gele. In front of this modern Lady on the table is a tablet with a Pinterest fashion page from which some African ladies choose their fashion styles. The blouse of the modern lady in this painting is less than half the size of the blouses worn by African women in the vintage years. The skills of tying Gele as well as other cultural attributes that used to be the pride of African women are disappearing.
This painting is a homage to the artist’s mother and to all the industrious African mothers of the vintage years. They spent quality time with their children while working to support their families. They carried their children on their backs while working on the farms or managing their trading stalls. The artist’s mum carried her child on her back and on her head is the tray of fabrics she sells from door to door to provide for her family.
It is great that modern African ladies could boast of having billions of followers and likes on social media but the only sincere followers and likes that really count are those of the members of their families. Modern African women, be virtuous women. Embrace the modern trends but don’t neglect the rich virtues of African heritage.