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MosesLe Voyagé: Moses Bariki’s exhibition in honour of his father, Prof. Bariki

Renowned scholar and translatologist, Professor Isaiah Bariki, last Thursday, presented the 201st Inaugural Lecture to his colleagues, family, and friends at the Main Auditorium, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, to commemorate his attainment of a major milestone in the academia. He tagged his lecture ‘Power Dynamics in Translation and Allied Issues’.

Prof. Bariki is the first doctoral degree holder of Translation in University of Ilorin; the third Professor of French in the Department of French after Professors Tunde Ajiboye and Matiu Nnnoruka and currently the only professor whose area of specialization is Translation.

Having taught French and contributed immensely to the field of French and translation for several decades, he offered the audience at the Inaugural Lecture, a privileged insight into his journey thus far. He recalled that growing up in the riverine parts of the Niger Delta presented very challenging and unfavourable conditions for intellectual pursuit, noting that he was however “a lucky beneficiary of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s free education policy in the late 1950s in the Western Region of Nigeria. At the end of my primary school in 1963, all hopes of furthering my studies appeared shattered.

I thought I was condemned to palm wine tapping or small-scale fishing, two of the readily available occupations of the time. But Providence had pleasant surprises for me.” According to him, he got a glimmer of hope when in 1962 or thereabout his maternal uncle promised to take him to Ghana.

His father would not release him because he had lost five children in quick succession and therefore wanted young Prof Bariki around him for a while. His uncle came from Ghana again in 1964, very eager to take him along. Unfortunately, however, his father was not available to give his consent, having travelled out of town earlier. So came that fateful day when Prof. Bariki’s uncle was to return to Ghana without him. As he jumped into the outboard engine boat en route Warri through the Forcados River, a “word” purported to have originated from a god was urgently relayed to him publicly.

The message or “prophecy” which was relayed by his maternal aunt went thus: ‘’Take the boy along with you to Ghana or else he will be sick”. Prof Bariki relayed further that “as my uncle hesitated, the village crowd chorused in unison ‘’take him to Ghana, his father won’t be angry’’. At that point I dashed to my room, took my wooden school box and sped off to join the waiting boat, bare-footed. Our engine boat got to Warri after some six hours or so. Then came the event that constitutes one of the most joyous moments in my life: for the first time in my life I saw a car. The thought of riding in one the next day sent great emotions through me.

I knew there and then that I would be successful in life.” He attended St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, Accra – Ghana, later went to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) for his first degree and obtained his Masters degree in French in University of Ibadan. In 1992, Providence was at work again in a unique manner when Professor Tunde Ajiboye, his supervisor and mentor invited him to University of Ilorin to take an offer as a lecturer.

Prof Bariki also notes that “in my father’s town Ogbein-ama in Delta State, I am the first university graduate, the first Ph.D. holder and the first Professor – a Professor of French.” Responding to the question on why he studied French,’ he notes: “French for me at times serves as a trampling, a stepping stone towards a better understanding of human and linguistic behaviour. With French as my base, I had a smooth sail to the shores of Translation as a field of study.” The erudite scholar’s journey into the world of translation was sparked by his encounter with Professor Joe Ukoyen during his days as a master’s Professor Isaiah Bariki student at the University of Ibadan.

He was fascinated by Professor Joe’s condemnation of translation as an impossible task, given the structural and cultural differences that exist in language. Being a dogged intellectual himself, instead of shying away from translation and its complexities, Prof Bariki chose it as an area of specialization.

To clarify between Translation and Translatology, Prof. Bariki explains that “translation in its primary sense means the transfer of a message from one language into another. It is an applied Translatology and does not fully take care of all that Translatology stands for. Translatology is an academic interdiscipline rooted in a systematic study of translation, interpretation and localization, while consciously drawing his strength from aspects of linguistics, culturology, philology, neuroscience, history, comparative literature, philosophy, semiology, mathematics, computer science, and a host of other fields – all in a bid to give translation the support it needs.

After the Inaugural Lecture, Prof. Bariki and all the attendees, alongside the Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin, Professor Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, were treated to a surprise exhibition by Moses Bariki Ebi, the son of Professor Isaiah Bariki. Moses is a sculptor, painter and an art instructor. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria; a Postgraduate Diploma from the University of Pretoria, South Africa and a Master’s Degree from Durban University of Technology, South Africa.

The exhibition which was titled ‘Le Voyagé’ was curated by Kehinde Christopher Adewumi. Moses utilised his artistic skills in staging a pleasantly surprising exhibition for his father and mentor – Professor Isaiah Bariki. According to Moses, over a period of 14 years, he tried to make portraits of his father severally. I explored different materials, from pencil to pastel chalk, pen etc. “I realised that I was never satisfied by any of these at comtempts. It wasn’t that the work weren’t great but I always thought it wasn’t sufficient. I’m yet to create the perfect portrait of him I hope for, I hope I do someday.

In the meantime, I’ve been able to put these together, hoping that it portrays in bits the essence of this man I love and admire so much. I have decided to render in abstract those traits of his I’m unable to capture in realism. It’s his journey but captured through my lens,” Moses said. The works presented in this exhibition are majorly two-dimensional in orientation. However, the exhibition was an admixture of different media.

The choice to present these works in a multiplicity of media and approaches was informed by a few conceptual thoughts. On one hand, the different renditions of Professor Bariki’s image allude to his identity as an expert in language and translation. Accordingly, the artist chose to present Professor Bariki in different visual translations. On the other hand, having trained as a Sculptor at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and Durban University of Technology, South Africa, Moses has, through this exhibition, established his painting prowess. Thus, in capturing the essence of Professor Bariki’s nature, Moses exerts the different dimensions of his painterly propensities.

Through the lines, brush-strokes, shades and hues that make up the commemorative pieces, Moses expressed his love, pride, respect, and gratitude to Professor Bariki, who due to his belief in his son’s creative abilities, supported, sponsored and encouraged Moses’ decision to choose art as his career. From the pre-colonial era to the postcolonial, art has always served as an effective tool for celebration and commemoration. Hence, the exhibition embodied the different facets of Professor Bariki’s achievements as an academic, a religious leader, a husband and a father.

Adewumi, a curator and art critic, is the Curator-in-Chief and Co-founder of NowExpressions, a curatorial collective.

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