There are many incursions in Tarfa’s Rituals—incursions like rain, like memory, like the first consciousness of love. From every page, incursions rebound; and all buried waves of the fugitive mind come alive in a flight of recall. Much of the photographer’s compilation in this book is blunt and retrospective. There is imagistic poetry of an altogether reminiscent kind, fortified by landscape and portraits to create part of a Nigerian life with a haunted beauty, as Vanessa Winship so habitually does with America.
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In view of the photobook as an art object in itself, the emergence of Tarfa’s work advocates miscellany for the contemporary Nigerian art-mosphere, for the vibrant aesthetic ground capable of harbouring—and even more essentially, worthy of—the omnivorous creative. And the core of that message is photography—narrative photography, pragmatic photography, poetic photography — photography where brittle things soar; for, indeed, they do soar in Rituals.
Tarfa’s work is an incursion of brittle things. The first is in a “Lone house,” a fine building lost in thoughts, in forest seclusion – a resolute struggle between the teeth of severance and relevance. That aesthetic battle, whose noise resonates through a major part of the book—either in form of a forgotten “Deity” or a withdrawn “Kite” or lone petal in a silent “Meadow”—seems to pass an opinion about solitude and the culture of solitude in a world constantly afflicted by the wanderlust of peoples.
It is tempting to think that the manner with which Tarfa’s photography evokes the prettiness of solitary things and spaces is linked to his likely penchant for solitude. With one “Verdant” undergrowth poised on the threshold of grass or another happy human being against an “Entire” expanse of the sky, it is hard to ignore Rituals’ subtle primacy on solitude. And such focus is well developed to touch on the idea of a bond with nature as a bond with everything.
Yet, smoke, also, is incursion. The book is full of it – immortal smoke assailing an immortal sky, like curiosities assailing miracles, memories assailing mortalities, peoples assailing landscapes. It is freedom’s brave bugle, and intimations dawn on the viewer as cool water on arid rockface: you must set forth at night, like “Donga” does… and find solace in the space of solitude.
DOWNLOAD: Rituals by T J Benson