Background & Inspiration
An important theme that subtly reverberates within the essence of Nya’s oeuvre is identity. This work, “Spiritual Purifiers,” removes this world’s veneer that reduces the subject of identity to a mere matter of geography, skin color, language, religion, tradition and culture.
In 2011, Nya’ began to highlight the eminence of identity in an exhibition entitled “When identity is unknown, authority is forfeited.” The artist stressed how every human being’s desperate search for purpose, power, significance, value and meaning in life through discovering his innate gift and assignment or his inherent position of leadership creates a fervent and unquenchable desire to seek the answer to the question: where did I come from? He then went on to define leadership as every human being’s past which we all lost when our forefather or the first human on the colony of earth (Adam) authorized the spirit of fear to become his master upon his disobedience to the sovereign authority that gave the spirit specie of Man rulership and custodianship over earth.
Nya’ then stated how a Man's true identity does not come from his biological parents, his kinfolk, ‘motherland’ or the land of his ancestors but from his source of origin, his creator and manufacturer, God. This, therefore, implies that Man's leadership spirit comes from the Spirit that created him from whence he naturally obtains his identity. However, if Man is not aligned to the Spirit that created him or his true source of identity, then his leadership spirit is perverted by the same spirit that his forefather, Adam, in ignorance, legally authorized or gave permission to master, rule and govern Mankind – the spirit of fear.
In essence, this composition, “Spiritual Purifiers,” attributes the perennial woes in the world, particularly the dearth of true leaders as inherently linked to an identity crisis that births, maturates, perpetuates and celebrates a gross misconception of leadership.
According to the artist, identity is not merely a mental comprehension of a Man's pedigree or a pompous oration of his achievements, titles and ancestral lineage, but rather, a result of character birthed and developed by the revelation that he was created in the exact image and character of God. Nya′ then defines character as the aggregate embodiment of the inestimable virtues of a true leader. Namely, integrity, trustworthiness, sacrifice, principles, responsibility, respect, honor, compassion and righteousness.
Executed in two continents over four years, the imposing figure in “Spiritual Purifiers” who appears to be in an ambivalent state of either carnality, alchemy or chimerical transcendency figuratively depicts this world’s systems of government as a king whose ignorance of the purpose of his authority and power renders him utterly blind to the inestimable and imperishable worth of his domain. Consequently, he debases himself to a vagabond despot, a restless wonderer, a perennial complainer, a religious chauvinist, a self-exterminator, a generational mutilator and an irresponsible potentate severely plagued with the jaundice of impatience, the cancer of covetousness, the gall of greed and the bile of pride.
The cow dung paste, ashes, discarded metal and fiery pigments of scarlet, yellow and orange crudely employed in the composition reflect the burning anger of the following lines from the verse written by the artist to accompany the piece;
Infants of kings
From the goblet of covenant, you nursed
The royal scepter of dominion you cradled
The scepter of heir-ship you embraced
Yet you meander in desolate oblivion and in bleak despair
Asphyxiating your loins with treachery
Burdening your being with bitterness and obliterating your posterity with hate…
With emphasis on the word “dominion,” the sentence… “the royal scepter of dominion you cradled” is important to highlight as it is the key to understanding how the dearth of identity is the root behind the decadence and confusion beleaguering the painting.
By definition, dominion is the legal power to produce and establish order. It is essentially conferred power and granted “authority” to produce and establish order through prudently managing or protecting, developing, cultivating, replenishing and preserving an assigned domain, territory or area of gifting. The highlighted word “authority” connotes the personal or individual right to exercise the power granted through alignment with the constitution of the giver or the source of power.
Authority is the key to dominion and it is established by the revelation of the irrevocable truth of one’s identity. Faith or the capacity for Man to believe is only possible where authority is present and when Man is oblivious of his identity, faith is stillborn and authority is denied. Man's abuse of his leadership position due to ignorance of his true identity is evinced in the artist's final preparatory drawing for “Spiritual Purifiers” which shows a nameless and genderless figure using a sword and Scriptures verses to manipulate, control and prevail over the same people he is supposed to be leading to a better future (see fig 1).
Heir of Inheritance X-Ray 69
Nya’s obscuration, disfiguration, and arrangement of physical components comprising the figure in “Spiritual Purifiers” in a burlesque manner akin to the Japanese ancient tradition of hara-kiri is important to note.
Foremost, the stretched-out neck and split head of the figure represents how Man will figuratively live his physical body to go and search for his identity. In a quest to know his roots or origin, he will physically leave his country and town of birth to the continent, country or village where his father or grandfather was born. Still not satisfied, he will send his DNA and other pertinent records to multifarious professionals to help him in this search. To that end, while the architectural lines marking the boundaries of the canvas depict the earnest journeys a Man will take in search of his identity, the prostituted line, rendered recklessly, continually breaking and with no end or beginning allude to the internal turmoil that perennially plague him as his factual findings fail to bring the abiding peace his spirit yearns for.
In other words, as illustrated by the prostituted line’s capacity to distinguish the African drum, Roman spear, Asian crown, oceanic beads, South American textile pattern and Australian Aboriginal mask designs, while the Man's journey to search for his identity succeed in gathering facts about his family tree, genetic background, biological traits, beliefs and traditions, the answer to the burning question plaguing his every breath, WHO AM I, still remains a mystery.
In fact, the various stations grouping the elements around the canvas, from the beads and adornment station, the motifs, patterns and symbols station, the ceremonial instruments station, the orthodox religious artifacts station, the bleached skin and garment station and the colored parchments station depict how identity cannot be discovered on the altar of religion, the shrine of tradition, the hallways of education, the prestige of titles, societal privilege and positions of influence. In essence, as alluded to by the strewn body parts of the figure on the canvas and represented by the blunt, crude and fragmented head of the Roman spear in its hand, any Man, society, community, kingdom or empire that obtains its Identity and self-worth from its own glory is bound to destroy the moral campus of its unborn generations before it fragments, disintegrates and disappears into the annuls of history.
Furthermore, when Man upholds tradition, exalts religion and prides in his systems of government in the bid to preserve his dominion and authority as portrayed in the painting by the raised spear in the figure’s hand, its bleached face, and the severed head exalted like a sun god above every element in the composition, he is guaranteed to corrupt his custodianship rights over his domain of influence as portrayed by the blood soiled foot of the figure dislocated from its torso and aimlessly wandering across the picture plane.
In his initial preparatory drawing for this “Spiritual Purifiers,” Nya’ portrayed a figure with a crown and facial features that defy geographical borders, ignore racial lines, disregard ethnic divisions and spurn religious perimeters. His intention, as stated in the notes accompanying the drawing, was to express his revelatory conviction that true identity that restores any human being to his innate leadership position in his field of calling on earth transcends skin color, eclipses carnal perceptions, exceeds stereotypical assertions and surpasses human purview (see fig 2)
Restoration of Zion Sketch 69 | ©Nya’ 2020. Seed Gallery, New York
While the scattered ashes and grotesque body parts strewn across the foreground of “Spiritual Purifiers” conjure up abominable pictures of voodoo ceremonies, ritual killings, pagan worship and human trafficking prevalent in various parts of Africa, Asia, North, South and Latin American countries, it is the huge-eyed exalted caricature of a human head with gigantic teeth comprised of twigs that heftily adds to the painting’s somber mood.
In essence, as the crudely painted patch of gold upon which the head is resting suggests, when a leader is ignorant of his identity, he uses his title as the scaffolding to elevate himself to a lofty position where he begins to use fear as a weapon to control and manipulate people in order to consolidate and preserve his power. To that end, not only do the overgrown teeth represent the insatiate greed produced by a misconception or complete ignorance of identity, but how the leader’s irresponsible character becomes the model of emulation in the family, community, and country as alluded to by the exalted position of the grotesque head.
According to the artist, the abject poverty, economic mayhem, inexplicable corruption, unimaginable greed, dearth of corporate governance, lack of fiscal discipline and moral decadence besetting a plethora of African, Caribbean, Latin-speaking and Asian nations and many other people who were once oppressed, colonized and enslaved is a symptom of the dearth of “true” leaders plaguing the entire world.
The highlighted word “true” is crucial to underscore as it is the differentiator between this world's notion of leadership which emphasizes control due to its oblivion to the five original principles upon which enduring leadership is established: namely identity, authority, faith, purpose and vision.
Described in his Kingdom Lexicon as a universal commodity ‘who’ delivers the same value in every nation on the face of the earth, truth is incorruptible, immutable, timeless and fearless. Furthermore, truth cannot be civilized, modernized or improved upon because The truth is not a respecter of races, peoples, ethnicities, offspring, clan, lineage, folk, tribe, bloodline or family.
The reference to true or truth as “who” and placing a definite article “the” before the word so that it reads as “The Truth” makes it clear that Nya’ is referring to the source of all truth, God. In essence, He is The Truth who created Man in His perfect image and unless a leader has a revelation of who he is in God or possesses his purpose, character, faith, vision and identity from his Creator, his reign is bound to be a barren endeavor, a carnal voyage and a social, humanistic and intellectual escapade remotely orchestrated by the spirit of fear hence replete with divisions, confusion, strife, prejudice, partisanship, suffering and torment as depicted in “Spiritual Purifiers.”
In conclusion, despite the harrowing mood and bleak portrait of the general state of humanity, “Spiritual Purifiers” is an important reminder that Man was created to reign and have dominion. However, when he is ignorant of his royal lineage and identity as a “son of God” hence an ambassador, priest and king on earth, his divine inheritance granted by his deliverance from the spirit of fear remains a religious cliché. And as the strewn body parts depict, a carnal lifestyle of worshipping his own body and other humans he deems “important” continues to crown his existence. Furthermore, erroneous philosophies, ideologies and theologies from disparate religions, vile educational systems, dishonorable political leaders and influencers from different fields continue to be the source of his concepts of identity, authority, vision and purpose.