Aloka Aloka – Emotional Suicide.

Aloka Aloka, Emotional Suicide.

The series Emotional Suicide by the artist Trevor Aloka currently showing at the Xenson Art Space in the group exhibition Look One, it is four photographs depicting a suicide by hanging, the scene is disturbingly colorful it is as if Aloka is reminding the person seeing the artwork that it is still beautiful regardless of what is happening, a beautiful suicide. Aloka says this artwork for him is symbolic, it is his message to the art world at large, this is his critique of what he calls the western standard that artists are expected to aspire to while creating art, and the hurdles that are set by the art gatekeepers that are sometimes so high and insurmountable that artists end up committing career suicide and give up on art entirely, Aloka’s visual rant also extends to systems of knowledge, he says ‘’creatives lose passion for art (whatever their area of interest) because of the toxicity of the knowledge searched and acquired hoping to better themselves, not knowing that in the long run, it will serve as a pedestal for their emotional suicide in the creative sector’’

Aloka Aloka, Emotional Suicide.

And yes the work is rife with symbolism depicting the celebration of the death by suicide from a pedestal made with books fronting a western ideologue, Aloka says that abandoning the traditional knowledge is the reason for the decline of what he calls traditional culture among Africans, but this gets problematic and I think it’s because he conflates the two ideas of tradition and culture, and for an artist to proclaim that tradition has declined is understandable, it is their opinion but to merge the two ideas and say that traditional culture has declined is something so profound, by this the artist is basically saying that the way we perceive and create cultural experiences is declining (and I’m unsure how the decline may manifest here) and that they have observed and understood this phenomenon, that would be a study that would be immensely intriguing but for this series the artist does not fully develop his philosophy.

Aloka Aloka, Emotional Suicide.

And I feel that is because in this work the artist is expressing fear, the artist looks around and what he sees is not his idea of the African and he is afraid, it’s his African construct that is on the pedestal and it is that construct that must ultimately die.

Tradition is simply culture from the past and culture is dynamic it changes, it is created by those that live in it and that is a responsibility that artists have to come to terms with, whether they know it or not what they do is actively participating in constructing and deconstructing culture and tradition. The African is not a singular construct, and for any artist to claim that they represent Africans is to make a very profound statement.

I included Aloka’s work in the show I curated because it aptly captured the fear that Aloka has, the same fear I sometimes feel but what dwarfs that fear is the knowledge of the diversity and richness that is in the African and the idea that I don’t and never will know the entirety of the African gives me such a rush that I am now not afraid to kick the pedestal under the feet of the construct I have made, I now watch it hang and I’m not sad or angry, the African is not this, the African is alive somewhere else.