Sunday, 26 June 2016

From Elusive To Reality Of Nigerian Pavilion At Venice Biennale

By Tajudeen Sowole

A Nigerian Pavilion at the ongoing 15th edition of Venice Architecture Biennale 2016, breaks the elusiveness that has been haunting the country's participation at the global gathering in Italy every two years.
Installation work ‘Diminished Capacity’ by Ola-Dele Kuku for Nigerian Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architectural Biennale, Italy
 While Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa among other few countries in Africa have had pavilions at the over century-old visual arts exhibition at the Venice Biennale, a Nigerian pavilion remained elusive. More worrisome, many failed efforts in the past appeared to have been an impediment for subsequent attempts. In fact, the jinx breaker, Diminished Capacity, works of artist-architect Ola-Dele Kuku - currently showing as Nigerian Pavilion till November 2016 - nearly went the path of other failed attempts. It took the doggedness of Kuku and intervention of government to rescue the exhibition from being confined to 'another failed-attempt.'

 Ironically, Nigerian artists and other art event creative professionals have contributed to the success of quite a list of biennales and other global gathering of art in Europe, Middle East and Africa. It is however perspicuous that, within and outside Nigeria, the vast potential of these art professionals have not directly benefited the country, in the context of national profile. For examples: a Nigerian based in U.S., Okwui Enwezor was the director of 56th edition of Venice Biennale Art Exhibition, last year, perhaps, the first Black person to be so privileged, yet Nigeria had no pavilion at the same event; and Bisi Silva, a home-based curator and founder of Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos was the creative director for the 10th Bamako Encounters, a biennale of photography in Mali, last year, in addition to having been on the Selection Committee of Art Dubai, UAE for many years as well as a jury member at 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. These potentials, and similar others, have not produced a Nigerian Pavilion at any major global art biennale nor generated any yearly art event or biennale in Nigeria.
The Venice event, which has been hosting countries from across the world is art and architecture equivalent of the Olympics, showcasing creative identities of participating nations. The Visual Arts exhibition, last year had 89 countries participated with some individual Nigerian artists showing under non-national pavilion platform. 

In separate, exclusive chats with me, the two individuals behind the success story of a first Nigerian Pavilion at Venice Biennale: the artist-architect whose work is being exhibited, Kuku and director of International Cultural Relations, Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr Nkanta George Ufot explained the hidden facts about Nigeria's fragile route that made the current effort a reality. From his Brussels, Belgium base, Kuku shared his journey towards making Nigerian Pavilion a reality at the ongoing Architecture exhibition of Venice Biennale, which ends in November 2016. For Ufot, the much talked about attempts that did not generate any pavilion for Nigeria in the past, perhaps, never really existed in the thinking of government.

 In his effort to have a solo exhibition in Rome, Kuku, last year had a discussion with an Italian curator, Camilla Boemio. But to Kuku's surprise, Boemio wanted to know why it was not possible for a Nigerian pavilion to be implemented at the Venice Biennale on two different occasions. Kuku recalled that on one of the two failed-attempts, Enwezor was the artistic director of the Venice Biennale. His findings showed that the organisers of Venice Biennale had placed Nigeria among countries in its black book of unserious speculators. "I later found out the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia had blacklisted Nigeria (together with some other countries in Africa and Asia), due to failure of adequate funding, national acknowledgment and support, as well as non conformity with the requirements of the Fondazione Biennale." Not satisfied, he wanted to know what went wrong. 
A section of the exhibition

Whether art or architecture, dearth of professionals that are capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the bests from around the world is not the issue with Nigeria, Kuku agreed. But the problem, he noted, is that most countries in Africa "lack" fundamental "cultural infrastructure and affiliated institutions that make such activities economically viable, which in turn stimulate multiple potential possibilities both nationally and internationally." Nigeria, he cited, has the highest number of profound art professionals outside the continent. 

 Worried by the wasting potentials of Nigeria, Kuku shelved his proposed-exhibition in Rome and made attempt to get Boemio curate Nigerian Pavilion at the 15th Architecture Venice Biennale. 
 "This brought about my contact with the Charge d'Affaires of Nigerian embassy in Brussels H.E. Mr. Ibrahim. B. Rabiu in March 2015. " Rabiu would later suggest the involvement of the then Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, in Abuja.  The suggestion led to the involvement of Ufot.

 Whatever led to the two failed-attempts at staging a Nigerian Pavilion, Kuku wanted to know from Ufot, perhaps to learn from the past and avoid possible mines ahead. Surprisingly, Ufot, according the artist-architect, denied federal government's involvement in the two botched attempts. "His reply was that there has never been a proposal to implement a Nigerian pavilion allegedly presented to the ministry of culture by institution or individual," Kuku disclosed.

 One recalls that in 2013, a process was being started by actress, Ego Boyo-led Temple Production, in collaboration with the British Council Lagos to have a Pavilion titled Nigeria Rising: Journey to Venice Biennale at the 2015 edition of Venice Biennale Art Exhibition. During the first public forum for stakeholders, held at Moorehouse in Ikoyi, Lagos, the National Gallery of Art (NGA, which was represented at the forum, appeared not not in full support of the process. 

But in Italy, two years after, Kuku was determined to change the narrative. He was delighted that the International Cultural Relations office had determination "to intervene in order to change the negative attitude assumed by the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia." Kuku's proposed exhibition in Rome, would later be converted into contents for the Nigerian Pavilion. With the effort of Ufot, a team, Kuku stated, was raised to ensure that the Nigerian Pavilion flies. An architect and director - Creative Intelligence association, Lagos, Mr. Koku Konu; and CEO Arthouse Contemporary Ltd, Mrs. Kavita Chellaram were the two individuals who worked behind the scene with Ufot.

 However, the change of government back home nearly led to another botched attempt as the delay in ministerial nominees by President Muhammadu Buhari caused a friction between the ministry and the Venice Biennale organisers. "The Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia had insisted that for Nigeria to receive an official letter of invitation, the ‘proposal to participate’ letter was to be signed by the minister of culture, and the commissioner for the pavilion should also be from the ministry," Kuku said. Trouble started when the signature of the Permanent Secretary at the ministry appeared on the proposal for participation and  was rejected by Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia.  The organisers had insisted that only an acting minister’s signature would be accepted.

  "But after a series of heated exchanges between Mr Ufot and the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia for not accepting the signature of the Permanent Secretary, Lai Muhammed was nominated as Minister of Information and Culture." Kuku recalled how Ufot's "relentless efforts continued immediately after the nomination of the new minister by presenting the letter for the minister’s signature." 

A national Pavilion is the responsibility of governmental agency of home country. For an individual to have initiated the idea and brought the government into in midway, perhaps, created some challenges for the ongoing Nigerian Pavilion. "The 15th International Architecture, Venice Ma-November 2016, was actually introduced to the Ministry through the effort of Architect Kuku," Ufot stated via email. But government's involvement, he added, was mere endorsement, regretting the ministry's inability to support Kuku's exhibition financially. "While we have been able to support the administrative and political process of being part of the Exposition, it has not been possible in the area of financial support as the project was not included in the 2016 budget," Ufot explained. "We genuinely appreciate the brilliant effort of Arc kuku and his team in making it possible for the country to participate in this important international outing."
 Perhaps, in the future, a Nigerian Pavilion would enjoy the support of government.  "It is our fervent hope that the Nigerian Government will support more adequately future exhibitions in this direction." 
Architect Oka-Dele Kuku
Specifically, what actually went wrong in the failed attempts of the pasts? "I have no comment," Ufot replied.
 Quite amazing that in the year of Nigeria’s first showing  at Venice Biennale, most remarkable achievements came from the Diaspora. While Kuku made history mounting the first ever Nigerian Pavilion, another architect, Kunle Adeyemi who is based in The Netherlands was given a Silver Lion Award for his Makoko Floating School work at the same event.

 About Kuku’s Diminished Capacity: The theme, according to Kuku is aimed at highlighting awareness of the contemporary global phenomenon of 'Socio-Cultural Conflicts', with specific focus on the role of 'Information Communication' and the 'Mass Media.'
  “The contemporary sociology of mass media communication reveals a consistent presentation of agendas rather than reports which are illustrated by selected interest in particularities, focus and oversight.’
  “The main statement of the exhibition was a text written in neon -  'Africa is not a country'! This was to serve as a reminder to Nigeria, that the perception of the continent is not consensus with what we are!
 “When there was famine in Ethiopia, it was United Supports of Artists for Africa (USA); when aids was rampant, it was aids started in Africa and so on. That is diminished capacity! Hence, is Nigeria part of the assumed country called Africa, or is Nigeria the leading country on the continent called Africa?”
 International support for the Nigerian Pavilion came from two galleries in Brussels, (LMS Gallery and Philippe Laeremans Tribal Art Gallery) and The University where I teach the international masters programme (KU Leuven - St Lucas Architectuur, Gent).

Expanding Art Appreciation With Sterling One

By Tajudeen Sowole
Whoever is still in doubt of the changing face of Lagos art appreciation circuit, may soon get stranded as the resilient conservative window of many decades is gradually paving way for fresh outlets.
Art display at the ongoing maiden edition of Sterling One Art Exhibition

Courtesy of new generation art administrators and gallery business managers, the new face of art appreciation and business in Lagos, has been, quietly, breeding fresh collectors who are being introduced into art collecting, newly. Among such outlets is a group art exhibition, currently showing at the  lounge of Sterling One, a private banking and wealth management group, in Lekki, Lagos. 

Few days after the exhibition opened with paintings by Tolu Aliki, Olumide Onadipe and Ufuoma Evuarherhe, the rays of new dawn continued beaming on the top floor of the lounge. A midday visit to the salon-like display, barren of visitors though,  exposed how relatively known names of the Lagos art were in sync with emerging, perhaps, future art collectors' modest and unbiased tastes. These young patrons were not visible in the traditional sense of art exhibition. But nearly all the works on display were already sold, a guide said to his visitor, even as the exhibition still have over a month before closing.  

Designed as series and to be shown quarterly, the Sterling One Art Exhibition, according to the curator-consultant, Rele Gallery, is aimed at adding art contents and value to the leisure time of the bank's customers who visit the lounge. But the leisure comes with art economy value being introduced to the customers, most of whom are becoming art collectors for the first time.

 The the maiden edition, it's a feminine affair; each of the artists profiles ladies in their elements.  Musical note from Aliki's Ode To Joy, figure of a lady with violin, against sunny skyline, continues the artist's pop-like painting style.

And in a group of three, titled Different Strokes, dilemma of a lady making critical love decision is highlighted. In this exhibition, Aliki expands his signature with works such aa Different Strokes, Diana, Antonia, Anabel, Summer Queen as well as some streetscapes in high rise buildings.

 In leafy technique of loud-in-your-face style,  but poetically textured, Onadipe shows Model, a profile view in red dominance with yellow spot; Thinking Boy, a piece more creatively painted for its patterned in yellow and white than the artist's leafy identity; and Man and Wife, defaced couple, again with loud leaves. 

 One of the most profound artists with portraitist identity, Evuarherhe, brings contemporary contents such as mobile phones, fashion, beauty and romance to define ladies' obsessions. This much radiates in Such works as My Selfie, representing ladies' addiction to all kinds of selfies;  My Time To Shine, Party Queens, ladies at social gathering, mostly adorning geles; and a romantic piece, The Way I Fell About You

With diverse styles in different tones of impressionism and sometimes cubic in texture
Ufuoma's eclectic presence adds tone of excitement to the walls at Sterling One Lounge.

The space is a deliberate concept aimed at generating "a curve in which art can represent an investment to the customer," Sterling One stated.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Faces and Phases of Refreshing Canvas

By Tajudeen Sowole
In its fourth edition, Adekusibe Odunfa-led series themed Faces and Phases, which opened yesterday at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos and showing till next week continues its focus in highlighting progression of select artists.

The Chase by Donald Ekpo, among works showing at Faces and Phases.

 Started over three years ago with Odunfa's collection shown alongside works of few other artists, the 2016 edition of Faces and Phases confirms that the event is gradually becoming a regular feature in art calendar of Lagos.

 More interesting, the series is attracting increasing number of artists every year. From few artists at debut to nine last year, the exhibition is currently showing 15 artists, including new entrants.

  The regular artists Oluwole Olufemi and Ade Odunfa are joined by new entrants: Adeleke Olajide, Arikpo Godwin, Bolaji Ogunwo, Babatunde Ogunlade, Chucks Okonkwo, Donald Ekpo, Durudola Yusuf, Henry Chigbo , Ibrahim Afegbua, Jonathan Ikpoza, Opedun Damilola, Uzoma Samuel and Sophia Igbinovia who is the only lady ever to show in Faces and Phases.

 In the era when contemporaneity is expanding the scope of art and collapsing barriers, the tradition of fine art is hardly making any sharp changes in Lagos. This much has been upheld, even by young artists of Nigerian postmodernism, so suggests some of the works at viewed ahead of opening. 
Add caption

However, in Free Spirit,  a painting by Ikpozoa, the artist's sense of surreal combines well with three layers of the composition’s texture. A greenery background, reddish foreground and heavy mid-space where the subject is centralised are what make the artist a potent material in the bridge between modern and contemporaneity.

 Also confirming artists’ escape into contemporary period is The Chase by Ekpo, another surreal piece. Even in Odunfa's Gele Dun, a portrait painting of an unidentified figure, there exist a texture of contemporaneity, which finds collaboration with traditional style and forms. 

 Recalling how the series started as an experiment with few works from his collection, Odunfa enthuses that "today, Faces and Phases has become a forum for young artists to express themselves." The focus, he adds, remain the same, stressing how it helps artists to increase their skills by showing new works. And the increase in interests among artists, he discloses, has brought in entries from Port Harcourt and Ibadan.

 Support for the exhibition comes from design genre, Makadel School of Style and Design, a fashion institute based in Lagos. The expansion of the exhibition with more artists is the attraction for Makadel, explains Nita-Nkese Ephraim, CEO. The fashion house's involvement in the exhibition since last year has generated exposure for it's design pieces, adds Ephraim. 

  Curatorial statement: "Odunfa with subtle minimalist approach saturates his works with obvious brush strokes that are gentle and aggressive as his mood dictates. He create works in which a fascination with clarity and an uncompromising attitude towards conceptual and minimal art becomes found. Olajide’s paintings are mostly night scene of landscapes. He illuminates his scenes to change the stereotype effects of unreliable supply of electricity in Nigerian streets. Godwin’s use of alternative materials are highly innovative and surpasses routine techniques. His works are multi-sensual as he creates solid ground for love, unity and peace.

  "Ogunwo ventilates loudly via rich texture created by his pallete with aims at addressing the social-political issues ranging from corruption and moral deficit in anticipation that Nigeria will be a giant nation again. Okonkwo’s Paintings though drawn from emotion, memories, nature, event, experience etc., are mystical as you will keep gazing to find more personal meaning. Chigbo presents an adventure of feeling subjects as seen by the artist. 
Yusuf’s works are visual interpretation done with dexterous experimentation fuelled with expressive drama. Ibrahim Afegbua approach his sculptures with process that are unconventional, he explores different materials and methods with passion for use of found objects, inter playing them in his works. He uses binding wires and rods in creating indefinite forms suggesting movement, shapes and forms."

Three Join Art Dubai Committees

Three new members have been added to Art Dubai committees: Glenn Scott Wright (Co-Director, Victoria Miro, London) and Isabelle van den Eynde (Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai) will join the Selection Committee for Art Dubai Contemporary while Cornell University’s Iftikhar Dadi is a new member in the Advisory Committee for Art Dubai Modern.
Glenn Scott Wright, Isabelle van den Eynde and Iftikhar Dadi.
A statement from Art Dubai management, noted that all the three additions have strong ties to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia art scenes. The announcement came ahead of the competitive gallery open call for the fair’s 11th edition, taking place March 15-18, 2017 at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai.

   Wright and van den Eynde will join longtime friends of the fair Andrée Sfeir-Semler (Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg / Beirut) and Ursula Krinzinger (Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna) on the Selection Committee for Art Dubai Contemporary, while Dadi adds to the group of renowned curators and art historians Savita Apte, Catherine David, Kristine Khouri and Nada Shabout on the Advisory Committee for Art Dubai Modern, which remains the only gallery programme of its kind, presenting works by the modern masters of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

  The organisers boasted that Art Dubai has become known as a global meeting point in the art world, one that each year draws a distinct constituency of artists, curators, collectors, institutional directors and gallerists with a special interest in the art scenes of the region and beyond. The fair remains committed to a rigorous selection process and thoughtful curatorial approach across its gallery programmes: the Contemporary section includes two gallery programmes (Solo, for one or two-artist presentations, or Collective, for more than two artists) while Art Dubai Modern keeps its intimate and highly curated feel, with up to fifteen select presentations.

  New Fair Director Myrna Ayad said: “We’re delighted to welcome Glenn and Isabelle to the Art Dubai Contemporary Selection Committee and Iftikhar to the Art Dubai Modern Advisory Committee. Their renown and expertise in the international art world, coupled with their deeply personal commitments to the region’s art arena, make them exceptional additions to the fair.” 

 Last month Art Dubai announced Ayad as taking over from Antonia Carver as Fair Director for the eleventh edition. She is to work alongside VIP Relations Director Lela Csáky and International Director Pablo del Val.  

 For the new director, she is responsible for developing Art Dubai’s programme and the fair’s relationships with collectors, institutions and partners, maintaining and growing Art Dubai’s position as the world’s most global art fair.

“I am overjoyed to be joining Art Dubai which – thanks to the ambitions of Antonia and the team – has become the world’s foremost platform for the art communities of the Middle East and South Asia," said Ayad,  "Having attended and worked with the fair since 2007, I’m excited by the opportunity to work with the team to build on this success.”

Saturday, 18 June 2016

For Idonije, Music Meets Art At Living Legends

By Tajudeen Sowole
Octogenarian music critic, Benson Idonije who turned 80 on June 13, 2016 had a fresh experience outside his 'sound and screen' terrain when six artists mounted their easels before him at Freedom Park, Lagos Island.
Benson Idonije as a sitter before Living Legend artists at Freedom Park…recently.

 Under the Olu Ajayi Studio initiative of Living Legends - a documentary in portraiture - of iconic personalities, the Idonije sitting event was strictly in drawing. Artists who rendered Idonije's portrait included Ajayi, Duke Asidere, Dr Emmanuel Irokanulo, Theo Lawson, Ademorin Aladegbongbe and Bolaji Ogunwo.

 Started in 2008 with Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka as its first sitter, Living Legend has documented other personalities such as master painter, Yusuf Grillo: master printmaker, Bruce Onobrakpeya; literary icon, J.P. Clark; late Oba of Benin, Erediauwa; and General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) in that order. 

For Idonije, the new sitter at Living Legends, his spot in the documentary appeared clear enough as a journalist whose works cover the print and electronic media for over five decades. Sitting on a red seat and adorning two-piece buba and sokoto in green ankara print, on a wet day with music of Victor Uwaifo playing in the background, Idonije was captured by the artists from an arc of a circle angle. The renditions, naturally, vary from full to close up views, depending on the choice of each artist. And quite of creative advantage, the daylight - despite low illumination from the rainy cloud - complements the composition in providing high key lighting. 

The uniqueness of the Idonije portraiture as strictly drawing would no doubt place it as a resource outlet in Nigerian art history, given the caliber of artists involved. Among sitters in the creative profession that have been documented by Living Legends project, Idonije, comes into the documentary as the first personality from the music genre. 

 Music critic icon as a sitter before Fine artists appeared like a new experience, isn't it? "Yes," Idonije agreed. "It's a strange experience to me; interesting to see all these artists come together just for me."

  Shortly before the artists started the drawing session, a member of Benson Idonije at 80 Committee, Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo noted that Living Legends has become a major effort in art history.

 Anikulapo argued that no Nigerian newspaper columnist of Idonije's generation has as much energy as the music critic who, until few years ago, was writing three columns for The Guardian newspapers every week.

 Anikulapo stressed that Idonije has given so much to the arts and "we have so much to give him." He disclosed that a re-issue of the book, which Idonije wrote on late Afro beat music legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti will be launched as part of event marking the critic's 80th birthday.

 The Idonije sitter also brings into focus the challenge of Olu Ajayi Studio in articulating who fits into the documentary's definition of a legend. "That's partly legendary in his contributions in writings and this celebration further probes his career," Ajayi stated later during an exclusive chat with me.

 Idonije holds the honour of Fellow of Adam Fiberesima School of Music and Conservatory, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State; and Life Time Award for Journalism Excellence, courtesy of Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism. 

  Born in 1936 in Otuo, Owan East Local Government, Edo State, Idonije, after his Cambridge School Certificate at Holy Trinity Grammar School, Sabongida Ora, studied Communications Engineering at Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) Lagos.

 Idonije became Engineering Assistant at the defunct Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC, now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN) in 1957. 

 In 1960, he became a producer and presenter of many popular programmes such as The Big Beat and Stereo Jazz Club, among others that gradually set his career on the path of excellence.

  For eight years, he was Principal Lecturer and Chief Training Officer, Programme Production at FRCN Training School, when he made his exist from civil service.

 In retirement, he extended his career into writing about music as a critic. From mid 1990s, Idonije joined The Guardian Newspaper writing, weekly, three columns: Evergreen, on Wednesday; Sound and Screen, Fridays; and All That Jazz, Sunday. His critiques are till date, reference points in African as well as African-American music.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Artists Of Faces and Phases Return

Adekusibe Odunfa-led Faces and Phases art exhibition, which featured his works and that of others opens on Saturday at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos,  showing till next week. Other artists include Oluwole Olufemi, Adeleke Olajide, Arikpo Godwin, Bolaji Ogunwo, Babatunde Ogunlade, Chucks Okonkwo, Donald Ekpo, Durudola Yusuf, Henry Chigbo , Ibrahim Afegbua, Jonathan Ikpoza, Opedun Damilola, Uzoma Samuel and Sophia Igbinovia who is the only lady ever to show in Faces and Phases,   
 The 2016 edition, fourth in the series, continues its focus in highlighting progression of select artists.

Started over three years ago with Odunfa's collection shown alongside works of few other artists, the 2016 edition of Faces and Phases confirms that the event is gradually becoming a regular feature in art calendar of Lagos.

More interesting, the series is attracting increasing number of artists every year. From few artists at debut to nine last year, the exhibition is currently showing 15 artists, including new entrants.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

At 50, Nnubia Reveals His Role In Colourists '80s

By Tajudeen Sowole
 FIVE decades old, 28 years post-training career, Gerry Nnubia, who is one of the artists known as ‘Colourists’ in the 1980s undertakes self-appraisal and discovers that he has outlined the current state of his art right from the time he began art practice, professionally.
The Monarch by Gerry Nnubia
As part of activities marking his 50th birthday, he reconstructs the walls of art gallery and shares his art’s trajectory.
For about three weeks, at Terra Kulture Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos, the artist has been showing Gerry Nnubia @ 50; A Retrospective Exhibition of Remarkable Paintings that reflect his character of "creating and not representing." 

 An artist with core level of abstraction on canvas, Nnubia, over the past two decades of his career had mapped out, consciously, the current shape of his art. He has a radicalised process of creating forms, in a sharp deviation from the norms. Among the results of his experimentation is his current period coined Acrylic Flow - a process that eliminates building contents on foundation of forms.
  For the first time, in 2012, Nnubia showed the style and technique in a solo exhibition titled Unlicensed at Omenka Gallery, Victoria Island.

 Four years after, the concept has been elevated to a state of spirituality, so suggests the artist's expanded adventure in acrylic flow

  His philosophy of art, which draws line between creating and representing idea would always attract attention in any encounter with the painter.

  Rendition or communication of idea in whatever forms is basically representing something, isn't it? Every work of art, he argues, "is spiritual and philosophical." Nature, he explains, has given "every artist space to expand; take the opportunity and add creativity to it," stressing that "recreation on the blank space provided by nature has been the bedrock of my practice." 

 For an artist who has put into studio practice as much as 28 years, showing 32 pieces of paintings in a retrospection would mean that the bulk of the exhibits come from collectors who part with the works on loan agreement. But Nnubia is a different kind of artist; most of the retrospection pieces, he discloses, are from his private collection.

 Indeed, over two and half decades in practice is quite a long space for an artist to use the period of his 50th for a retrospection. However, Nnubia's modesty and humility on the Lagos art space seemed to have blurred his spot in the history of contemporary Nigerian art. For example, perhaps quite a number of art followers did not know that Nnubia was among the popular 'Colourists’ artists of the 1980s whose exploits added glitter and glamour to the Nigerian art landscape.
Rage II by Gerry Nnbia
Revisiting the Colourists era, Nnubia underscores how the liberalist ideology of Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu where he had his training played a vital role in his career later as a teacher at Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State. "I brought my IMT freedom into Auchi, which gave me the strength I have now." He notes further, "I am the brain behind everyone's rebellious way towards the contemporary period."

 There was no doubt that his Colourists colleagues such as Sam Ovraiti, Olu Ajayi, Toni Okujeni and Pita Ohiwerei, among others led a fresh path for new generation of Nigerian artists over 25 years ago. But in the current face of contemporaneity, how relevant are the canvas and signatures of the Colourists? "Very relevant," Nnubia responds sharply. "You can't really express much without brilliant colours," he argues, adding that till date "a lot of my works still come with brilliant colours."

 Beyond the Nigerian space, Nnubia appears to have won the hearts of some collectors outside the country. "Surprisingly, my work is appreciated more outside Nigeria," he discloses and attributes the international attraction for his work to, perhaps, freedom "not to paint in a particular way people expect."

 Looking ahead into the next 28 years of his career, Nnubia hopes to continue proving that African or Nigerian art should not always be about commercial value."  

 He would not for any reason deny his African origin or expression on canvas, but warns: "I am an African artist with universal view." And being "born and bred" in eastern part of Nigeria, he says, gave him opportunity of being close to nature. By extension, he has also imbibed "environmental activism."

 Curator of Gerry Nnubia @ 50..., Luciano Uzuegbu states that the exhibition "is not just about the artist's past, but his recent as well."  On sorting works for the exhibition, he agreed with Nnubia how it was made easier "because Gerry is an artist who enjoys collecting his works."

BORN in 1966 in Enugu, east of Nigeria, Nnubia
studied Visual art at the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) Enugu, where he was not only taught the fundamentals, but how to improvise in communication. This laid the foundation for what would become the hallmark of his art–the tendency to deviate.
 Nnubia is a member of The Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) and currently the Social Director of the esteemed Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA).