Artist and graduate student in Art & Design Joseph Obanubi discusses his work and the thinking behind his Global African Community Forum visual identity.
By Joseph Obanubi | October 2023
The notion of restitution is complex and subject to considerable variation contingent upon historical legacies, political intricacies, and localized priorities. It seldom unfolds in a straightforward manner.
A myriad of ethical, environmental, and legal facets necessitates thorough consideration. Cultural restitution, specifically the repatriation of historically or culturally significant movable objects to their countries of origin, requires nuanced and careful treatment.
Creating a visual identity that symbolizes Africa in the context of cultural restitution can prove to be a formidable task, given the wide spectrum of representations attributed to the continent. My exploration ventured into the realm of symbolism and imagery, centering on the symbolism of fish and their relevance in African contexts. Historically, fish have connoted notions of fertility and creativity, each new generation symbolizing a distinct phase of existence. Moreover, fish carry an inherent association with the element of water, signifying stability, equilibrium, and tranquility.
I began drawing metaphoric parallels between fish and the concept of migration. My examination of iconography found on various objects, particularly African masks, led me to the lungfish. This freshwater species, renowned for its ability to survive on land for extended periods, sometimes years, resonated with me.
To underscore duality and the combination of human and animal features, I envisioned a fish with an African Bantu knot coiffure crowning its forehead. This choice served as a gateway to articulating themes of movement, displacement, survival, and contextual relevance, all integral to the discourse on cultural restitution.
In my design, I juxtaposed this concept with the modern symbol of a restart, drawing inspiration from the iconic image of a postage stamp. This choice metaphorically reinforces the central theme of "return," which stands as a cornerstone of the broader conversation surrounding restitution.