WHAT'S COOKING? A REVIEW

You’ve probably heard of “iPhone Photography”- a concept popular among self-made photographers famous on Instagram for capturing sunsets, empty streets, brunch meals with their phone cameras, making the best of 12 filter options and five-step editing tools to brighten or lighten.

But what about Samsung Photography?

Yes, you’ll find that on Instagram too, but also in contemporary art galleries on art works going for 120,000 - 150,000 Naira a piece.

Our latest exhibition at RELE Gallery titled What’s Cooking? in partnership with SAMSUNG Mobile Nigeria, is a leading example of this phenomenon out to prove that life can imitate art when it comes to creative presentation of traditional Nigerian cuisine and local produce.

Using a SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 Edge to capture the works of Nigerian culinary artists Tiyan Alile, Ozoz Sokoh and Dunni Obata, Nigerian photographers Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Ade Asiko Okelarin helped open an exhibition that has become popular among family, friends and school children as a must see. 

Photographer, Kelechi Amadi-Obi taking a photo of Ozoz Sokoh's Yellow Lagos (22 x 36) using a SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 Edge phone.

Photographer, Kelechi Amadi-Obi taking a photo of Ozoz Sokoh's Yellow Lagos (22 x 36) using a SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 Edge phone.

For food blogger and exhibit presenter, Ozoz Sokoh, also known as Kitchen Butterfly, it all boils down to using food to re-create popular Lagos scenes. Her unconventional background as a Geologist comes into play in her food selections of just-ripe pawpaw and tomatoes which she uses to evoke the same vibrant colors of the city, re-create earth tones and textures and present local produce in a sophisticated manner. In Bridge of Textures, (23 x 36) Sokoh recreates the Lekki-Ikoyi link-bridge with birds in the environs using ingredients such as cucumbers and pawpaw chutney, plantain chip crumbs for river silt and layered earth and efo riro as grass. Photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi captures this and Yellow Bus (22 x 36), another one of Sokoh’s creations, in which she uses sugar, green cardamom pods and fresh ginger to depict Lagos’ popular yellow Danfo buses: “Everywhere you go in Lagos, you see yellow,” she said. And Sokoh re-creates these symbolisms in other art pieces such as White Island (23.5 x 36) using smoked fish and shredded cassava and in Yaji Atlantic (27 x 36), using Suya Spice and Garri.

While Ozoz went for the nitty-gritty in her pieces, President of The Culinary Arts Practitioners Association, Nigeria, and also Executive Chef of Tarragon restaurant, Tiyan Alile, went for the more abstract and conceptual understanding of Nigerian food as art.

“Food has always been art,” said Alile. “Food has gone from being just a staple on the table to something that’s creative, something that’s even a sport, something that’s artistic.”

One of Alile’s most eye-catching work is Girl Uninterrupted (28 x 36). A piece that recreates a face using pancakes, eggs, squid-ink spaghetti, pork foot. While this has been a scary piece to guests, Alile hopes to hang it up in her restaurant. Her other work, Heat Wave (36 x 36) looks at the brighter side of things as she very creatively places vibrant yellow, white, red colors against a blue background, uses tomato paste to create thin wave lines and places an egg, sunny-side-up, in a bed of carrots and purple cabbage. Her depiction of a popular Lagos view, Marina, (36 x 36) using yams has already been sold.

“A lot of time people complain that Nigerian food, it tastes really good, but they don’t make any effort to make it look good,” said Photographer and publisher, Kelechi Amadi-Obi. “This will change that impression, I hope.”

For London-based food blogger and cook, Dunni Obata, popular on social media as Dooney's Kitchen for her artistic representation of food in unconventional ways, it is all about the element of surprise in #DKRedefining Nigerian cuisine. At first look, you might think you’re looking at a Pasta-based dish when you see Shelltered (34 x 36) but Obata instead created Eba and Efo-Riro by adding gluten and molding garri into Pasta shells.

In On The Move (24 x 36), traditional Nigerian meal, Moin Moin with Eggs, typically wrapped in uma leaves are presented baked from a rectangular pan and decorated with eggs to represent bus seats. Photographed by Asiko, a London-based visual artist, light, texture and placement all come into play to convey movement and present food as a subject worthy of admiration and one that should be consumed with full awareness of it’s glory.

The only advice given from the gallery and participants is to come with an open mind to see this exhibition. This means coming prepared to understand how varying sectors in society: the culinary arts, photography, technology, all intersect with culture and can create something for all of us to visually enjoy.