There are many ways to interpret a work of art, and the museum’s Label Talk series encourages visitors to reflect upon and voice their own interpretations of specific artworks, such as this photograph of an oil spill by Nigerian artist George Osodi. Several members of the Middlebury community have offered their personal or professional reactions to this photograph, and those reactions are displayed adjacent to the work on the wall in the galleries. In publishing them here in this post as well, we hope these perspectives will inspire you to share your own responses to this work of art in the comments below.
We look forward to reading your responses.
In his series “Oil Rich Niger Delta,” photographer George Osodi documents Western oil corporations’ exploitation of the vast region in Nigeria where the Niger River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Oil slicks, burning gas, and massive pipelines destroy cropland, displace communities, and poison the air, water, and soil on which the native populace relies. Osodi deftly captures the desensitization of local communities to the hazardous conditions: life continues, even amidst seemingly post-apocalyptic orange skies and swaths of smoke.
—Laurel Rand-Lewis ’19.5
Looking at this photograph taken in Niger Delta, Nigeria, I see a land that is so devastated that there no longer remains the hope of salvation. The vegetation is long gone, the wildlife is decimated, and the air and land beg for a release from all the pollution that overwhelms them. Likewise, this photo tells a story of a negligent government and money-hungry companies who have ignored the damage done to the land—a land that was once the largest wetland in Africa—all because of profit-making. So by photographing this land, George Osodi takes up the responsibility of holding the culprits accountable. He says, “I will let the whole world know what you have done to my land”.
—Ife Onuorah ’23
dear swirling rainbow slick,
dear drowned birds, dear sick,
dear protesters shot on rigs,
dear dead pigs, dear end of dawn,
dear women drying tapioca
by twenty-four-hour flare,
dear bunkerers wanting a fair share,
dear oil well with shaking head,
dear ancestor spirits, dear dead—
how to loose the hangman’s noose,
restore rivers their fish, let that black snake
languish, smoke its own pipe?
hear the white man, guns to his head
in the middle of this watershed,
change his well-oiled tune, croon:
they wanted us to look—
—Spring Ulmer, Department of English & American Literatures, Middlebury College