“Multifaceted practitioner Tayie Ojo unfolds the tools of poetry and visual art to generate compelling and compassionate visions of belonging and interconnection. The project AND IF WE OBSERVE THE PRESENT aims to addresses through poetic, visual and sonic landscapes the toxic legacy of oil pollution and neocolonial practices in Ogoniland, simultaneously calling to account those large, systemic forces at play in this environment, as well as bearing witness to the intimate, human-scale stories and realities of being there.”Jury Statement
My creative practice combines art and research carried out in the environment of the Ogoni communities in the Niger-delta region while raising awareness of its socio-environmental interconnections and the impact of human actions on nature. For this project, I will develop a new body of written work (with visual, sonic and interactive elements) that explores the toxic legacy of oil pollution in Ogoniland. I will capture a selection of poems that confront, via an intersectional lens, endemic abuse, the architecture of exploration and exploitation, the culture of silence and denial, and the effect of neocolonial politics, commerce, and military adventurism.
This project is concerned with the notion of futurity or ecological futures, including but not limited to: Anthropocene and climate futures, ecofeminism and queer futures, black futurity, post-pandemic futures, the effect of subsidence on coastal oil communities, and a focus on remediation, reconciliation, militant conflicts, and public health crises. I will also delve into cultural (food) practice and related emotions because the Ogoni landscape is deeply connected to the locals’ firsthand experiences, and the plummeting state of the creeks resulting from oil spillage. I am interested in asking how I can highlight the way the creeks and the inhabitants influence each other. I will reflect on the local significance of this work as an act of activism and, at the same time, as an opportunity to become a participant in the universal dialogue about the environment.
The aim of this series is to bear witness to the intensity of destruction in this “zone of sacrifice,” this place that provides fuel for the carbon bloodstream of our society and yet is so forgotten and ignored by the same people who benefit from it.
Ojo Taiye is a Nigerian artist, eco-activist and writer who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society. His practice is collaborative and often draws from personal experience or interpretation of climate change, homelessness, migration, as well as a breadth of transversal issues ranging from racism and black identity to mental health. His current project explores neocolonialism, institutionalized violence and ecological trauma in the oil-rich, polluted Niger delta. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Mycelia, The Spectacle, Salamander, Consequence, Stinging Fly, Rattle, Cincinnati Review, Banshee, Willow Springs, Lambda Literary, Fiddlehead, Puritan, Frontier Poetry, Notre Dame Review, and Strange Horizon. Taiye worked on the Future(s) 2021 with Catalyst Arts and Belfast Photo Festival; 2021 Sustrans Black History Month Art Project, 2021-22 Scene Stirling COP26 Climate Commission and switch art project 2021/2022.