Saturday, 20 August 2011

Bob Nosa-Uwagboe


Fresh Strokes of liberty
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE 
Sunday, 07 August 2011 00:00
 QUIETLY, the young representational-impressionist, Bob Nosa-Uwagboe is making his impact felt in the crowded visual art scene.
This, he showed in his just held solo show, Homme Libre, at the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The artist, whose form of expression dwells on stylised form, has gradually wormed himself into the hearts of those who are focused on radicalising the canvas.
He has also won followers across the shores of the country in the last three years, following the tour exhibition in Lagos and Cameroun tagged The Last Pictures Show.
Perhaps, his desire for more freedom informed the show, whose title in English language means Freeman.
While artists have the creative freedom or ‘licence’ to pour out their minds in images that deliberately blur the line between juvenile and masterstrokes, the environment in which Nosa-Uwagboe works is still far from liberalisation, as shown in some of the works.
From themes such as New Human Abattoir and The Patriots, wastage of lives, either during elections or through extra-judicial killings by law enforcement agents, come into focus. In fact, one of the works, the artist says, “is a tribute to the Youth Corps members killed in the North during the last general elections.”
For abstract or representational impressionists, there are usually quite a lot of ventilation to either provoke or distract viewers from the supposed theme. Uwagboe’s work breathes such styles, largely using the ape figures.
During the last exhibition tour to Cameroun, his works was the lighting rod of the show, which had over 10 other artists on parade.
One of the curiosities his work raised is the way the genitals are woven into the narrative, most times, in abstract manner.
Similar traces from the ‘genitalia codification’ could be found in Homme Libre, where the artist attempts to celebrate the virtue of womanhood, using the law enforcement agencies as subject.
Uwagboe argues, “though Nigerians revile the police force for misconducts, there are still quite some committed patriots among them.”

Whatever impact Uwagboe has made in the last few years, the Cameroun-tour surely plays an important part. This much is reflected in Music Man, which looks at a physically challenged entertainer in Douala.
His strokes and shades of brushes may appear too fragile to survive the challenges of established artists, who are thriving on the strength of their styles; however, the responses from past efforts are enough to carry him on. For example, at the former Sofitel, an expatriate visitor to his show had described it as ‘a fresh breath of Nigerian art.’
His show was the first of monthly outings, which had the works of Duke Asidere, the second artist to feature in the management’s plan of one-artist-a-month art show.
If Uwagboe has not realised his potentials, the assurance of Catherine Pittet, the Camerounian promoter that his work will gain more popularity among French art lovers must have thickened his palette. 
BORN in Benin, Edo State, in 1974, and trained at The Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Nosa-Uwagboe’s works have over the years, moved from impressionism to its current form.


Josy Ajiboye

Renaissance masters glow in Ajiboye’s People and Places

By Tajudeen Sowole
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 00:00
Anthill by Ajiboye (oil on canvas)
 FROM photo-finish realism, surrealism, to impressionism and abstract-impressionism, artists, in the last one century, have been injecting more conceptual contents, which, basically, have broadened the art landscape. However, in Ajiboye’s People and Places: Nigeria II, which opens at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos on March 12, and runs till March 18, 2011, bold attempt is made to wriggle through naturalism, while stirring as much dialogue and radiating conceptual characteristics. Some of the works reflected this conclusion during a preview recently in Lagos.
With over 34 years experience in art exhibitions, three solos may not, in numerical term, commiserate with his revered pedigree. However, the artist, ahead of his latest show, warned: “Good paintings are not done in a hurry. Art is far more than just poetic titles.”
Such warning is not, necessarily, an affront on the expressivity of those whose strokes have been described by critics as ‘mere splash of colours’; it further stresses the challenge to art connoisseurs and promoters, who wish to draw a line of value between naturalism and others.
In his effort at drawing attention to the resilience of naturalism, Ajiboye seemed to have found an ideal subject in the human and habitat elements, hence the title of his latest offering, People and Places: Nigeria II. It’s a sequel to the group exhibition titled Josy Ajiboye Art Family held in 2008, which he had with his wife and children, as part of the year’s independence anniversary. The commonality in the two shows, he explained, is his thoughts on what he described as “the glorious years of the country, the challenges of today and perhaps the prospects of tomorrow.”
Some of the images such as Yoruba Palace Maiden, Ori Olokun, Flashback, Boy in Fulani Costume and Fulani Girl extol the cultural value, while others remind the people of the political gains and the volatile pasts. In fact, Religious Politics, a conceptual piece warns that fundamentalism of any faith is as dangerous as the action being depicted on his canvas. Ajiboye, in this piece raises an alarm as he implores the concept of a burning cigarette, placed against the fragility of matchsticks.
The volatility for Nigeria, he warned “is as close as the burning cigarette and the matchstick box; it could explode and consume the nation.”

Quite of note is that Boy in Fulani Costume and Fulani Girl make one wonders: when did Nigerians lose the sense of unity in diversity? These works, Ajiboye, explained, are memories of his childhood in Erimope Ekiti.

Despite the near-magical and painstaking rendition invested in traditional realism painting, the market value, in Nigeria, through such outlets as exhibitions and art auctions, seems to be lower compared to impressionistic and conceptual works. In fact, most recent art exhibitions placed emphasis more on conceptual rendition. And for art auctions, top sales have been dominated by non-naturalism work. Behaviour of Nigerian art collectors, indeed, were not removed from others across Europe and Americas as recent sales suggested that non-naturalism, either in sculptures or paintings dominate world’s top ten sales.
Indeed, masterstrokes of great artists such as Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo of which Ajiboye’s work radiates, remain resilience, beyond art market value of auction and exhibitions.
A typical example is Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa: a portraiture painting of just 30 x 21 in., which, arguably, has been the main attraction at the Louvre Museum, in Paris for over a century. And when Columbia Pictures, the producers of the controversial Hollywood movie, The Da Vinci Code paid as much as $2m to Louvre just to film inside the gallery where the Mona Lisa painting is mounted, the message was clear that the value of an art piece transcends the purchase via regular art market.
Ajiboye’s works such as Ant-Hill, Aiye Koto (Parrot), which are expected to be on this show as well as some of his past works have the prospects of resilience value of the renaissance masters. African artist, by antecedence, Ajiboye argues, has what it takes to rule the world. He cited the example of one of the works for the show: a reproduction of the famous sculpture Ori-olokun, which he renders in painting.
As passionate as he is about representational, the cartoonist and graphic artist in him would make the show accommodate some works that are more conceptual and idealistic. These works, he assured, could include “some abstracts, possibly, few of my cartoons.”
For an artist who eliminates movement of brushings on canvas, it appeared that his image as a cartoonist has taken much of his glorious career.
Josy Ajiboye
Ajiboye became a household name as a cartoonist whose work Josy Ajiboye on Sunday featured, weekly, on the moribund Daily Times titles.
As a boy, his love for painting led to training from a donor programme, Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) and further education in Commercial Art at Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos.
Ajiboye had his first exhibition at the Gong Gallery, Lagos in 1977 and followed it up in 1979 with another one sponsored by the French Cultural Centre, but held at the French Embassy, among other shows.
His last solo show was held at the Didi Musuem, Victoria Island, Lagos in 2002.
He had earlier worked with African Challenge, Today’s Challenge, Yoruba Challenge and Champion Magazine published in French in Cote d’ivoire the then (Ivory Coast) and a Number of other Sudan Interior Mission Publications before he resigned his appointment in 1968.


Hope for brighter future in Green Summary

Sunday, 20 February 2011 00:00 BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Green
PERHAPS, the longest running show with the largest turn out of artists in Lagos, in recent times; the Green Summary, currently showing at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) could in a way be likened to an artists’ confab, as there were narratives of works, advisory notes and expression of discontentment.In Carbon Polytricks, Ndidi Dike, a multi-media artist, uses the jackboot to represent military dictatorship. And to think all is well in the country’s 12-year democracy, the artist says is to fantasize as there are still strong dictatorial tendencies of military rule in the nation’s democracy, though as undercurrent.
For Jude Anogwih, his mixed media, Green Nectar, projects into the future and sees a Nigeria without oil, but a country flourishing in human and other natural resources.
In Interlude, a work described as time-based installation, sound artist, Emeka Oghoh attempts to capture the crucial moment of the nation’s history. Complimented with images, the presentation engaged 50 figures.
Performance artist, Jelili Atiku, focuses on the depletion of the environment as a sign of a nation on the cliff. In the work, Who Knows, Who Cares, he notes, “growing up in Lagos and other parts of the country in the 1960s, the green atmosphere created freshness, vitality and thriving community consciousness.”
The absence of this natural ambience, he argues has denied the people intellectual development.

PERHAPS, most imposing of the installations is Taiye Idahor’s Untitled (mixed media). The glittering opaque work depicts class system, of which the artist notes has relative independence. “There are those who, through power, influence and class moved in a greater sphere of freedom.”
Equally occupying as much space and painted the ceiling of the gallery, are the impressionistic thoughts of Richardson Ovbiebo. Titled Green dreams, the work, among other motif-like images is the Independence building, apparently not in its current state. And as a sign of decay of the nation’s polity, the state of the building, according to the artist is more worrisome if visited. “On visiting the building, I was moved to think of the hopes and aspirations of a newly independent Nigeria.”
In attempt to redefine independent, Karo Akpokiere, with a graph, questions how independence could be attained.  The process, he stresses cannot be ignored in attaining real independence.
However, the graphic artist used the show as a platform to warn those engaging the services of graphic designers to note that they should not be limited to commercial or branding studios of Ad agencies alone. “I am deeply interested in challenging the notion that graphic design as a discipline, is solely for the purpose of passing commercial messages.”

INSTRUCTIVELY, erratic government policies that inhibit indigenous manufacturers, especially textile industries, are the focus of Victoria Udondian’s Lost and Found. That the fashion style of most Nigerians is patterned after western tastes, she notes, is to the detriment of local textile industry and economy.
Uchay Joel Chima’s impressionistic rendition simply says: “We are coming from … what we ought to do … and where we ought to be.”

Freedom in the eyes of Adeyemi

Sunday, 13 February 2011 00:00 BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Kunle-adeyemi
CONSISTENT trips to Sweden have afforded the printmaker, Kunle Adeyemi, opportunity to promote Nigerian art in the Scandinavia. While the two previous visits offered outlets to use his work as template in the mission, the artist, during his last trip late last year, added other artists to enhance his mission.
Adeyemi said that at Gallery Astley Museum, Orebro Art College and Vastmanlands Lanes Museum, Karisgatan Vasteras, he had presentation, “which was exclusively on the contributions of lives, times and works of Suzanne Wenger, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Nike Davies Okundaye.”
The Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) Fine Art teacher had earlier taken part in a show outside from being a resource person at Art workshops in Lindesberg and Orebro Art Schools, Sweden.
And with his solo show titled The Beauty in Freedom, he created nostalgic feelings in the minds of Nigerians residing in Sweden during the last visit.
He said the forum was opened by Nigerian Charge d’Affaires in Sweden, Mrs. Naomi Chukwumaeze, in the presence of art enthusiasts and patrons, which included former Ambassador of Sweden to Nigeria — Lars Owe Persson.
The show, whose theme leans towards freedom, Adeyemi noted, “brought the need to explore the visual language to portray the ills of my society, give succour to the hungry, the deprived, the tortured, the downtrodden and at the same time be contemporaneous with the happenings of the time.”
He therefore, chooses to communicate this through series of thematic works. It’s about looking at subjects from multiple angles because it is difficult and too limitless for me to translate the varied moods and connotations on a lone canvas, paper, or board. These series can be found in my recent female forms, democracy, traditional forms and motifs, wheel of fortune, success, dialogue, house posts, royalty, fragments of tradition, procession, ere ibeji and ancestral masks, to mention a few.”

AS a devout printmaker, working with new medium and ideas during that visit was also a highpoint for him. “It was a very good exposure to new materials and technology in serigraphy art of printmaking. And a total of 45 works, which include block print, serigraphy, mixed media painting, beadworks, ivories, plastocast, deep etching, plastography and additive plastography, were presented at the show”, he states.
Facilitated by Chief Oni Opaku, Chief Executive Officer, Quintessence Gallery, Lagos, the trip tagged Exploration Of The Swedish Creative Forge, he says, though was a resourceful kind, he however notes that the working environment there makes the Nigerian situation lamentable. “If the visual art is given the right orientation, support, patronage and funding, the art sector would become a major money-spinner, a mass employment generating venture and a cultural value enhancer for the country.”

BASICALLY, the lessons of his Swedish journey are numerous, noting that Nigeria could learn from such structures as special preparatory level of education (post secondary schools), solely dedicated to Visual Arts and Environmental Studies as foundation for a five-year Art training at the Art Academy, which is the highest institution for Art training in Sweden.
Adeyemi’s experimentation with Sweden has a link with the 2008 visit of a Swedish artist, Eva Zetervall, who displayed her works in a solo show at Quintessence Gallery, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos.

For Lagos artists, inspiration from British curator

Tuesday, 15 February 2011 00:00 By Tajudeen Sowole 
As most artists do not give special consideration to curator’s input in the staging of art exhibition, a Lagos-based art resource group, Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) – through its British partner, Kerryn Greenberg – few days ago, stressed the importance of curating in contemporary African art
Karryn Greenberg speaking at the event

ASIDE the large international annual or biennale art gatherings, in some parts of the world, curators are hardly heard in regular art exhibitions. This, apparently, cannot be removed from the fact that curating, arguably, is new on the art exhibition outlets across the world.

However CCA, Lagos’ participation in a symposium tagged Curating in Africa and held at Tate Modern, U.K., late last year, informed the Lagos gathering. This event, according to the director of the centre, Bisi Silva, “is our collaboration with one of the world’s leading museum of modern and contemporary art.”

At the well-attended gathering of artists, art promoters and connoisseurs, Greenberg, a curator at Tate Modern, noted that Nigerian, indeed, African artists have equal opportunity with others across the world to use the re-emergence of content consciousness to attain dynamism. Curating, she argued, is crucial to content development of postmodernism.  

Greenberg who was in Nigeria for a two-week residency programme at CCA – courtesy of The World Collections Programme – assured that Tate would be willing to work with Nigerian artists in the areas of content and visibility.

And when Silva noted that collaboration with museums such as Tate and other international groups should not leave out an important government agency like National Gallery of Art (NGA), this, however, raised the issue of the relevance of the parastatal in this context.  

In his response, Eze Obizue of Education and Research, NGA, said Nigerian artists had, in the past benefited from “collaborations” with international organizations, courtesy of government. Indeed, the NGA, in the last two years has taken artists to mainstream global gatherings such as ArtExpo, Las Vegas and Art Off the Main, New York. Abiodun Olaku, Tonie Okpe, Abraham Uyovbisere, Muhammed Sani Mu’azu, Ben Osaghae and Mufu Onifade were some of the artists on those trips.

Earlier in 2008, NGA had taken about 17 artists to the 2008 edition of Dak’Art biennale in Dakar, Senegal. Although the three editions-old International Art Expo Nigeria event, which debuted in 2008, offers little or no emphasis on the importance of curator in such a gathering, the African Regional Summit on Visual Art, (ARESUVA), seemed to have given curators a frontline role.

Tate Modern must have realised that there was the need to broaden its scope on African content. As a British museum, which opened just ten years ago in the heart of London, its experience in exhibiting African artists in Diaspora such as Chris Ofili and others appeared to have led to more interest, hence this event and the Curating in Africa symposium held earlier.
a section of the audience at CCA, Lagos.

If curating is so important, why are most artists so indifferent towards a curator
During a separate chat shortly after the event, Greenberg responded by noting that curating “is relatively new, not just in Africa, but around the world.” With more international curating projects and biennale, there would be better understanding of the importance of this area of art, she assured.

Greenberg cited another symposium held in South Africa as an example of such important gatherings. The event, which involved South Africans and Zimbabweans, she explained focused on areas such as national galleries and museums, quality and contents and the future of curators. She however warned that, irrespective of the suspicion over the role of a curator in usurping the creative authority of the artist, the latter “is still the one whose work is being projected; the artist’s name is in the front not the curator.”

African artists’ little regard for curatorial input, in the context Greenberg and apologists of content-change are preaching, is ironic: one of the world’s leading and most respected curators, Okwui Enwezor, is a Nigerian, though based in the U.S.

Enwezor is the first non-European artistic director of the much talked about Documenta 11 held in Kassel, Germany, 2002. He was recently appointed the director of German art museum, Haus der Kunst, Munich. And earlier, he had been saddled with the chief curatorial job of La Triennial, an exhibition, which holds in Paris in 2012 as well as advisory for Dublin Contemporary, which holds in September through October this year.

While noting that “curating is very complicated; requires skill,” a good curator, she argued “should be able to balance things.” And when a curator, on a subject is stranded between the public and the sponsored of a show as in Enwezor’s work for Documenta 11, the curator, she insisted, must not be crucified. In fact, she argued that critics of Enwezor “are unfair to him” if such criticism of the exhibition actually existed.
Tate, she stressed is well committed to African content, except that “opening an outlet in any part of the continent is not in our plans.”

Regarded as one of the world’s leading museum of modern and contemporary art, Tate Modern, in its first year, attracted 5.25 million visitors, which makes it the most popular modern art museum in the world and the third most visited tourist attraction in Britain. Greenberg, joined Tate in 2007 with a Master of Arts
Degree in Curatorial Studies from Bard College, New York. Recent curatorial projects include Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Francis Alÿs: The

Story of Deception; John Baldessari: Pure Beauty; Nicholas Hlobo:
Uhambo; Rothko: The Late Series; Juan Muñoz, A Retrospective.

Greenberg is currently working on a major exhibition of Joan Miró and had recently organised the Curating in Africa symposium at Tate Modern.

She writes regularly for exhibition catalogues and art magazines, including Modern Painters and Art South Africa.

A Cultural Palette of Promise
 BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE 
Sunday, 06 February 2011 00:00
  ART shows are often held in structure or organised venues, the recent group exhibition of eight artists titled Our Cultural Palette mounted in the lobby of Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos, created a wrong impression of another art-hawking situation because of its improper presentation.
For one of the artists, Oji Thomas, it’s a break from painting as he veered into photography with such works as landscape and human contents.
Whatever the thought of Oji might be in capturing the dual-face of water and dry land with erected high voltage power lines; the work brings to fore, the challenges of power generation.
Toeing the line of experts, it calls on government to maximise the potentials of water in this regard.
For Lagos art environment known for predictable bold colour expression, it’s quite a relief to see Adeniran David’s soft rendition titled Nature.
Rendered in particles of sand, the artist depicts his thoughts on the beauty of the sea. And that the youths are still keeping faith in the country, irrespective of the myriads of problems facing it is a sign of hope. This, David explains in Suffering and Smiling.
He says, “despite the sweat and blood shed for her (osuka) due to the adverse situation of the country, the people remain optimistic, believing Nigeria will some day be a better place to live.”
And that Thomas’s image captures power lines on water, indicates the seemingly and un-relentless efforts of the distribution system, even as there is little or no result to show for it.
The challenge of day-to-day, Oji notes makes photography a ready tool, though the medium, for him, has been a hobby for over 20 years. This, he has tried to explore by extending his creativity as art director for numerous production houses in commercial and short films, for TV.
Odiakose Greg Onyeka’s wide-angle view of houses or markets scene through a palette knife rendition stresses how space — foreground and background — enhances aesthetics.
The spirituality of light in the context of artistic expression is argued in the waterside work of Oludotun Kolawole Timothy, whose above-eye-level view plays around light, which divides the canvas into two.  “The essence of light and mood is what I seek to capture through my brush and lens.”
A metal artist, Folakunle Oshun, points out that in the resolve to seek relevance, hope beckons


Rhythms of the mangrove

Sunday, 30 January 2011 00:00 BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
THE environment, as it affects human and other inhabitants, was the focal point of the convergence of visual art and poetry at the just concluded Creations of the Mind show held at Port Harcourt, Rivers State.The yearly show had poets masterfully pour out the spoken words while visual artists complement the rhythms with paintings and sculptural pieces.
Organised by a Port Harcourt-based group, The 3rd Eye Impressions and Development,
the weeklong show had 20 artists  participating in different genres of the plastic art such as paintings, sculptures, textiles, ceramics and collages. It featured Okujor Odeh’s Pool of Lily (oil on canvas); The Sleeping Beauty (oil on canvas) by Timi Karkanda; Chienna Abara’s The Way We Are; Palmore Abassah’s Features and Nnenna Ndukwe’s The Struggle.
Pool of Lilly depicts the serene and infectious calmness of this mix of nature in water plants, which suggests the humane and pristine character of the earth. Ndukwe’s The Struggle brings to fore the challenges of fishing in the devastated region. The sun set at the background, which bounces off the water, explains this resilience of nature.
Other human activities that devastate the environment are also depicted in The Way We Are and Features. However, Michael Kpodoh’s Beside the Still Water completely deviates with Odeh’s Pool of Lilly.

JACK Daniels, coordinator of The 3rd Eye Impressions, says, “the gathering was aimed at providing a classic platform for intellectual observation of the environment.”
Sponsored by Hotel Presidential and ExxonMobil, the show, Daniels adds, was an opportunity for budding artists to meet art connoisseurs for mutual benefit.
The scope of the project include poem presentations in its traditional form and style; music, comedy and drama to spice the occasion.
Daniel’s hope is that the show will generate the desired awareness about the plight of Nigerian children, promote tourism, and also, begin to create job, a panacea for youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region.

THE poetry segment has similar themes to distil from the Niger Delta issue. This, Daniels says every artwork is a story; a poem.
That line of cohesion is bolder as one of the poems says: “The canoes and speed-boats sauntered through the creeks making aquatic creatures to flee. Children, women, men, dogs, goats, chicken, all in routinely assemblages. The senile and the blind led to answer nature’s call by riverside; teenagers play the games of ise – hide-and-seek.”
Titled Requiem From Odi, it further states the plight of the peasants in such line as “Fishermen and farmers gathered the vestiges of oil exploitations, making a trade amidst sunken treasured-gold.”
And as people become highly spiritual in their search for financial fulfillment, prayer, perhaps, is the answer, so suggests Nwanta Nwanyi’s The Lord’s Prayer.
Works of sculptors, Nwanta Nwanyi, Umoh Inyang and Charles Omuaro were also on display.

10 Timeless cheers for pastel

Monday, 24 January 2011 13:12 TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Pastel-1

THE yearly show of works in pastel has been the most consistent art event on the calendar in the last decade.In its’ 10th edition, and also, with Timeless 10th as theme, the show, which has been known for bringing young and old artists together, will end on January 28, at Mydrim Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. The maiden event tagged Velvety Dreams was held in September 2001.
With works of master and young artists such as Kolade Oshinowo, Edosa Ogiugo, to Sam Ebohon, Jefferson Jonathan, Stanley Dudu, Kazem Olojo and younger artists Kelani Abass and Christopher Ayaoge, the progressive vision was clear. Other artists include Duke Asidere, Ebong Ekwere, Alex Nwokolo, Segun Adejumo and Joseph Ajiloye.
And like some of the previous ones, it also offered opportunities to see some of these artists from another perspective. For example, in a female figural titled, Lady, Ekwere who is known for his sculptural skills than painting seemed to have sent out the warning that, even in painting, with less flexible medium as pastel, his skills remain as strong as ever.
Though not on the brighter side of pigmentation to stimulate immediate interest, this rendition of a topless lady appears too strong to be ignored — not for the sensual torso, but the nuance radiated.

FOR the gallery, ‘the show must go on,’ despite the challenges faced over the years in sustaining what has turned out a brand.  However, in the argument of the director and curator of the gallery, Sinmidele Ogunsanya, 10 shows non-stop, was not a matter of showing just to sustain that part of the facility, but a fulfilling one.
She states, “over the years, artists, irrespective of status have worked so hard to make their works qualify for the show;” it implies that selections were never based on names, rather the content.
Within this context, two works, each from Oshinowo and Aimufia Osagie offered an idea of the value of the yearly event as seen in the master’s Ancestral Mask and the latter’s series titled, Unnecessary Fears.
The interactive value, Sinmidele explains has enabled upcoming artists to aspire to feature with works of more established artists who are their role models.
Sometimes, the show allows artists to experiment with works that were successful in oil or acrylic.
While some of the works at the 10th anniversary edition showed lack of fluidity in the movement of colours, it however, did not remove the established standard of the event.

THE gathering made its second outing with Highlights, which was held in 2002 and probably had the largest display of works than its current outing.
Ogunsanya recalls that artists such as Lanre Ayoade and Ola Bisi had in 2001 hinted on the idea of a yearly show. “The two artists who were passionate about pastel wanted to encourage Nigerian artists to work in the medium.”

150 years on, echoes of slavery keep pulsating
By Tajudeen Sowole
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 00:00
one of the photos on display
Wounds from the transatlantic slave trade may have healed, but a photography exhibition revisits the Portuguese-influenced culture of affected Africans as well as the role of Islamic and Yoruba spirituality in post-abolition lives of descendants of former slaves.


ORGANISED by the Embassy of Brazil in Nigeria, and currently showing till next week Friday, among the works on display during the private viewing at Terra Kulture, few days ago, were photographs of different families, which are supposedly of Yoruba descendants and former slave returnees, living in Lagos Island.   
Families linked to the slave trade, five hundred years ago; adherents of Ifa divinity in Bahia, Brazil; old houses of Portuguese architecture in Lagos and Brazil were some of the exhibits.

Discrimination and suspicion of the post- transatlantic slave trade abolition, particularly, between the Saros (former slaves) and the natives in Lagos and Abeokuta, had in the 1850s, threatened the reintegration of the returnees. And sources had it that exclusive residential settlements – with distinct architecture – such as the Brazilian quarters in Lagos Island, parts of Ebute-meta and Yaba emerged from the efforts in the management of the conflict and reintegration exercise.

The photographs of some of the houses of these families, still standing 150 years after the battle for reintegration, formed parts of the exhibition. Recently taken, they are of such families as Cardoso, Faustinho, Hilario, Da-Costa, Da-Silva, De-Souza, Marinho, Antonio Lopez, Machado, Ganzalo, Sheteolu, Vera-Cruz and Marshado. Although from a different background, photographs of families of Dosunmu and Bangbose-Martins were also parts of the exhibition.

Although, the not-too-good presentation of the families section of the exhibition, suggested that these photographs were hurriedly put together and shot by a non-professional, for each of the family however, the show was an opportunity to tell ancestral story. For example, the Cardoso, in their photograph traced the family name to “Joco Antonio Cardoso who was born in Brazil.” Rafiu Cardoso, perhaps, the current olori-ebi (head of the family), according to the information, is “the son of Surajudeen Cardoso and grandson of Lamidi Cardoso who is the son of Joco Antonio.
And to underscore the Islamic influence, the information was also disseminated in Arabic texts.   

The Islamic factor, which was very strong among some of the returnees, according to another set of works tagged Timeline, also reflected in what has been regarded as one of the early mosques in Lagos. Built by Joao da Costa in 1894, the mosque has the typical Portuguese-influenced Brazilian architecture.
In contrast with the families section of the exhibits, images shot in Brazil, of Yoruba divinity and Portuguese-architectures, were better presented; bolder and properly labeled.
another work, among the pics on display

The exhibition did not separate or identify families with their background or conflict of the 1850s. However, photographs of Dosunmu and Bangbose-Martin families mounted among that of the Portuguese-influenced names, clearly showed that time had blurred the line of class.   

While the royal linage of the Dosunmu family, and their role in slave trade are well known, a source suggested that among the returnee former slaves of that era was Martin. This much, author, Siyan Oyeweso wrote about in his book titled Eminent Yoruba Muslims (1999). “In the1840s and 1850s, Lagos also witnessed the influx of Brazilian muslims like Pedro, Martin, Tiamiyu, Gomez, Agusto, Yahya Tokunbo, Salvador and da Silva,” Oyeweso explains in page 2 of the book, under the sub-heading “The Lagos Year”. 
However, the exhibition seemed to suggest that there is a link between the returnee Martin mentioned in Oyeweso’s Eminent Yoruba Muslims and the Bangbose-Martin. During the show on Friday, one of the visitors and first elected black Mayor of South London Borough of Wandsworth, U.K., Erelu Lola Ayorinde who said she is of the Bamgbose-Martin family argued that “we, of the Bangbose-Martin from the old Oyo were not slaves, but slave traders.” In white buba and iro as well some traditional office paraphernalia, the lady who disclosed her identity as Erelu-tunwase of Ode-Remo (Otun Iyalode of Somolu and Lagos district) stressed that the link between her family name and that of the former slaves has to do with the fact that in those days “when you bought slaves, you give them your name.” In May 1999, she was elected Mayor, representing the Conservative Party, but returned to Nigeria in 2006.

And as the Yoruba culture and traditional religion seemed to be stronger among adherents in some parts of Latin America, Oba Gbenga Sonuga (Fadesewa of Simawa, Sagamu, Ogun State) and former director of culture, Lagos State argued that Yoruba culture should transcend nation. During a chat while viewing the works, he stated that, “we must not have a Yoruba nation, but Yoruba culture” to engender resilience. Some of the exhibits, he noted, confirmed the extent at which the Brazilians “have taken Yoruba culture for granted, even after 500 years.”

That resilience, in the last few decades, and more than any other factors, has strengthened the relationship between Nigeria and Brazil. This much, the Deputy Consul-General, Embassy of Brazil, Ceasario Alexandria noted when he said that the show, sponsored by the Foreign Ministry of Brazil, was aimed at keeping the historical linkage between the two countries stronger. He noted that the similarity in assimilation has to do with the fact as most of the descendants of the former slaves here still keep their Portuguese names, also in Brazil, “inter-marriages” have collapsed racial differences and healed the wounds of the past.
Two years on, Wenger's work in preservation limbo
By Tajudeen Sowole 
Tuesday, 18 January 2011 00:00 

Susan Wenger house in Osogbo (2010)
THE AOT was set up to preserve her heritage such as works as well as the influence of her work and teachings, spokesperson for the trust, Robin Campbell said last week. Two years ago, the AOT has begun the preservation of the monumental works of art in the Groves, with financial assistance from the Austrian Government, Campbell explained.

Last week was exactly two years old Wenger died in Osogbo, on January 12, 2009 at the age of 93. Wenger, an Austrian-born artist adopted Nigeria as home and became a high priestess in Osogbo.

Campbell noted that though a major portion of the decorative walls were restored last year, but further restoration and preservation were required, she insisted.  

Also, not too long ago, one of Wenger’s trained artists, Sangodare Ajala had raised alarm over the condition of the works. The print and performing artist was worried that promises made by people — government inclusive — to support the restoration of most of her works were not fulfilled.

However, Campbell, last week, stressed that AOT was set for restoration of “her house and her personal art collection so that visitors in Osogbo can know more about Susanne and how she lived.”

Meanwhile, there is a plan to open a centre in her honour, in Austria before the end of the year, she disclosed. It’s known as The Susanne Wenger Center in Krems, Austria, Campbell said, adding that “The Austrian Government has funded a museum dedicated to Susanne.” And aside the AOT, Wenger also set up a trust in Austria to be responsible for her “portable” works of art (paintings, drawings and batiks).”  

So far, it seemed the only major event in her honour, since her death was the group art exhibition of the artists she trained. Held in October 2009 and sponsored by the AOT, the show tagged A Legacy of Susanne Wenger: An Exhibition of the Artists of the New Sacred Art Movement, released an aura of creativity from a natural and spiritual content aimed at stressing the link between art and African traditional religion.

Some of the exhibits were stone works of Buraimoh Gbadamosi; woodcarving, Kasali Akangbe, Rabiyu Abesu, and Owewale Amoo; bronze, Kasali Oladepo; metal from Ajibike Ogunyemi. Also on the show was Wenger’s eldest adopted son, Shangodare Gbadegesin Ajali, who worked with her on wax batiks, but developed his own identity in colour batiks.

About 50 years ago, it took the intervention of Wenger to develop the skills of some artisans and followers of the Osun deity in Osogbo and its environs. The artists whose works were exhibited last year are the beneficiaries of that informal training. On display at Quintessence Gallery, Falomo, Lagos Island, were native textile, sculptural objects and paintings of 18 artists, of which 11 are the pioneers who worked with Wenger.  

The show was also the first since the movement was founded 1995. These artists worked with Wenger in the Sacred Groves of Osogbo while she was creating most of the sculptural works.

The movement evolved in the 1960s when Wenger started working in the Groves with local artisans such as craftsmen, carpenters, carvers, bricklayers, blacksmiths and painters who were inspired by the late Austrian to become more creative in their own expression. However, Wenger, it was recalled by the artists “always insisted that she only inspired us and not taught us.” 

Osun Grooves (Iys Mopoo (renovated in 2010)
Speaking further on the two years anniversary, Campbell noted that Wenger in her joint roles as internationally renowned artist and protector of Yoruba culture spent more than 40 years of continuous work in the Sacred Groves of Osogbo. Her works, Campbell said have earned the Groves the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Highlighting the sojourn of Wenger in Yoruba culture, Campbell said one of the last Osun priests, Layi Olosun entrusted his children in her care. “One of those children is Doyin Faniyi. Wenger also adopted Ajala at the age of 5. Both are now major artists and significant personalities in the hierarchy of Yoruba Tradition.” These adopted children, she said are dedicated to the protection and preservation of Wenger’s legacy.

And when Ajala won the First Prize of the national art competition tagged Chronicle of A Great Nation at 50, organised by African Artists Foundation (AAF) and Nigeria Breweries Plc., that dedication was not missing. He said, “my feat was a victory for the artists of the Sacred Grove and Wenger.” Ajala won the first prize worth N1.5m and assured that “part of the prize money would go to repair of Wenger’s house and her art.”

Ajala started his art tutelage under Wenger in 1964 and made his debut show in 1971 and in 1988, had his first solo outing.

He said despite the challenges to maintain the Wenger’s studio, particularly, her works, the group remains united, which is one of the important things learnt from Wenger. She argued that “we are like children of the same biological mother.”

The special place of Wenger in Yoruba culture and traditional religion was also stressed by the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, who argued that years before Fela Anikulapo was nicknamed abami, “Wenger was the original, quintessential abami-eda of the Nigerian art scene, but most particularly of the Yoruba cultural community.” Soyinka made this known shortly after Wenger’s death and said “my favourite summation of her experience: she came, she saw and was conquered. An internal, as yet undefined spiritual quest, too personal for outsiders to understand, had come to fulfillment, and there was no turning back.”

Wenger, while training the artists also afforded Ajala, an opportunity of international exposure. He exhibited his batiks with her in some selected countries across the world at a period she was acclaimed as ‘the best batik artist of the century.’ In the 1970’s, through ‘80s and early 1990s, the movement, alongside Wenger, also exhibited widely in Europe.

Born in Graz, Austria, 1915, Wenger studied art in Graz and Vienna where she was part of the famous Vienna “Art-Club”. After the Second World War she traveled to Switzerland and had group exhibitions in Zurich. In 1949 she went to Paris, where she met Ulli Beier, a German linguist who later became her husband. Beier and Wenger came to Nigeria, settled in Ibadan and later moved to Ede where she saw additional love in Yoruba traditional religion.

Onifade... Whispering in Araism
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Sunday, 16 January 2011 00:00 
Arambara-In-One-Day
IT took a three-month residency programme in South Africa for the painter Mufu Onifade to improve on the 15-year old technique he calls Araism.That improvement formed the pedestal on which the artist mounted his recent show titled, Whisper Araism, at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Araism, a painting technique of masking an entire canvas and image contents with designs, formally entered the Nigerian art landscape with Onifade’s debut show titled Echoes of Silence in 1998. The technique, he, however, says was discovered three years before that solo outing.
For the show, just two paintings, among the over 20 works on display, explained what the artist describes as two level of re-development of Araism in South Africa.
However, these two works, Sweet Father and Dreamland, appeared insufficient to explore this improvement. “It’s a work in progress,” he explains. “In the next few years, many of my works will be executed on the new discoveries, which will further redevelop it to open new vistas in Nigerian art development.”
Aside the Caucasian features in the father and child images of Sweet Father, the drawing style employed seemed to make slight difference from other works on display.
And as Sweet Father lightly revealed the new improvement and explained little difference from the earlier works, this writer’s curiosity was heightened to confirm the artist’s statement, “in South Africa, I was able to re-develop Araism.”
That eagerness leads to another work titled Dreamland, which confirms the change and re-development. From Asunji (Dreamland), to three pieces titled Details of Asunji (Dreamland), the softness of images, as well as the designs, draw the line of difference between these and the pre-redevelopment works.

ONIFADE traces Whisper Araism to his debut solo Echoes of Silence, arguing that the concept evolved from silence to whisper. “Whispering its escapades as to how it has kept the Nigerian art scene aglow, especially with the emergence of the movement in 2006.”
In retrospect, works such as Ona Ofun; Ona Orun (Measure of Life), Layewu (Hunters Masquerade), and Pencil Studies of Layewu, offered insight into the built-up years towards the making of Araism.
For example, the Ona Ofun and Ona Orun (Measure of Life) were painted without masking the entire canvas, but just the images. These works, he says, were included to tell a story in concept.

WHILE art historians and scholars are still waiting for posterity to place the concept within or outside the context of art movement, some artists trained in Onifade’s studio in the past seven years have been exhibiting in group shows under the name Araism Movement. In fact, the fourth edition was held in Abuja last year.
At that show, Araism’s steady journey towards the path to resilience was stressed with 40 works from 14 members: Abiola Mautin Akande, Oludotun Popoola, Abolore Awojobi, Oluwanbe Amodu, Esther Emmanuel, Kesa Babatunde, Jimoh Saliu Babatunde, George Egunjobi, Bolarinwa Olowo, Jonathan Imafidor, Odumbo Adeniran, Olukotun Temitope and Adegoke Akinola
Movements such as Onaism and Ulism, in the past may have had strong footings, by redefining contemporary Nigerian art, but in Araism, it’s just morning, as it grows in strength.

For a patron, Promises Kept blossoms on canvas 
By Tajudeen Sowole  
Tuesday, 18 January 2011 00:00
EIGHT artists, from home and the Diaspora came together for the sake of Sefunmi Osioke Oyiofe, who, until her death last year, had quietly supported visual arts at both the mainstream and youth levels.

At Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos works of Olu Ajayi, Sam Ovraiti, U.S. based Pita Ohiwerei and Ehi Oninyan, Lekan Onabanjo, Enotie Ogbebor, Ohiole Ohiwerei, Gerry Nnubia and the late art patron, Oyofo opened last week as part of fund raising to keep her legacy alive.
Onuora (left) Lekan Onabanjo, Olu Ajayi and Enotie during the exhibition

And as the show comes to a close tomorrow, Tuesday, Promises Kept Foundation was officially introduced to the public at the same venue on Sunday.

The chairman of the exhibition, chief Rasheed Gbadamosi noted that the show, with the shades of art content, “is a poetry lamentation of the lady; it’s like she is alive today.”

Aside being a well-known collector among the artists, Oyofo’s company, Juno Foods, manufacturers of Tropi-conflakes, had supported some of Society of Nigerian Artists’ (SNA) events as well as organized art competitions for children.

For some of the artists, the show offered the outlet to introduce new look of their arts to the public. One of such was noticed in Onabanjo’s more ventilating use of space, contrary to compacting of images as seen in his past streetscape works. In fact, his abstract expressivity seemed to have taken a leap into some classic rendition.   

Also, Ohiwerei, another U.S.-based artist’s works were part of the works on display as the artist’s monochrome palette knife works added impressionistic flavour to the event.

Ajayi noted that at the time when corporate support was like a mirage for artists, “Sefunmi was always there, particularly on children art competitions, giving cash awards to encourage participants.”

The depth of Oyofo’s passion for art – beyond collection – was felt in her works of framed pastel such as Greenhouse and Still Life series, which stood out as the novelty part of the show. Ogbebor recalled that these works were her gradual process, through which she extended her passion into painting. “She would call on phone to ask ‘which colour goes with what?’ just to express her self in painting in the little way she knows.”

And more importantly, Oyofo, according to her sisters, Mrs Odio Oseni and Mrs Omo Akpata, died leaving under privileged children whose education “from primary to tertiary levels were funded” by her. In fact, currently, a Liberian refugee is studying abroad, courtessy of Oyofo’s support, Ogbebor said. Promoses Kept Foundation, they assured, will take care of these children.

Also, the foundation will extend support to the education and health care of women, the twin sisters added. Part of this, they said is that “some U.S. based supporters planned to bring machines for medical tests to be donated to major hospitals in Nigeria for free testing of women and children.”

And coming all the way from the U.S. to honour Oyofo was “a must” for New York based artist, Obinyan who disclosed that “Sefunmi encouraged me to remain resilience in my form art.”

The artist said the late collectors “used to buy every paintings I produced because of her love for my style.”


How Young artists expand art horizon in 2011
By Tajudeen Sowole 
Tuesday, 18 January 2011 00:00
FOR young artists, this year could just be an extension of their exploits last year.
It started at the Tate Gallery, London, U.K., when controversial artist, Chris Ofili, 42, last year, in a retrospective art exhibition of 45 paintings, as well as pencil drawings and watercolours proved that his skill was beyond the controversial Sensation group show of 1999, in New York.

Ofili belongs to a group of artists, mostly in their 40s and 30s, known as The Young British Artists (YBA) – with common background such as studying at either Royal College of Art or Goldsmith College of Art and passed through the revered Charles Saatchi collection.

Return of Ofili radiated, back home, a month later, when three young artists dominated the top five of ArtHouse Contemporary’s sales. It was the first time any young artist made the top five of the country’s leading art auction. Two artists below the age bracket of 45 years, were among the top five: Nnenna Okore’s Omalicha (clay and burlap, 40 x 80 in., 2009) at N2.8m and Chidi Kwubiri’s Night of Paradise (oil on canvas 78.5 x 63 in., 2009) at N2.7m were second and third on the sales.

Also, the first lot to hit seven digits at the auction was by pop artist, Diseye Tantua, who was in his mid 30s. Arguably, one of the most highly bid, the work titled Different Different Fever (acrylic on canvas, 60 x 18.75 in., 2009), a reminiscent of late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, took off from N420,000 asking price and ended at N1.7m.

Soon after that auction, also in April, Abass Kelani, 31, was declared winner of the maiden edition of Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF) Painting Competition. He won out of 30 contestants – including more experienced and older artists – from over 180 entrants. Abass got $20, 000 prize money from a total of $57, 000 shared among four other contestants: Adeoye Silas, Second, $15, 000; Folami Rasaq, Third, $10, 000; Moses Zibor, Fourth, $7, 000; Osagie Aimufia, Fifth, $5, 000.

Organised as a franchise from Florence, Italy’s yearly event, Caterina De’ Medici Painting Awards, the LBHF Painting Competition made that debut with the theme, Lagos, City of A Thousand Masks courtesy of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.

Few months after, African Artists’ Foundation/Nigerian Breweries Plc organised national art competition tagged Chronicles of A Great Nation at 50 produced one of the youngest, among the contestants as Second Prize winner. That winner, Stanley Dudu confirmed that indeed, it was time for young Nigerian artists to take their place in the visual arts scene. After Kelani, Dudu was the second artist of his generation to be among top three of a major art competition in recent time.

Another young metal-artist, Fidelis Eze Odogwu’s multi-ethnic images, One People won the Third Prize, N500, 000. The work, a sculpture from his People series was emphatic on the notion of unity in diversity.
Even, in the age group such as child art, the impact of young artists resonated in the U.K. when 13-year-old Johncross Omeke, “donated his work as part of the collections to the revered Buckingham Palace.” Omeke’s trip to the U.K. was part of the package for the first prize of the national art competition, Mirror the Master, a project of Access Bank Plc.

And as the future of regulating art, as proposed through a National Gallery of Art (NGA) bill sponsored by Hon. Tunde Akogun, remained uncertain, the young artists, mostly from the Lagos State chapter of Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) proved that indeed, leadership was not about age, but being assertive – perhaps doggedness too.
Whether or not the input of the Oliver Enwonwu-led group, during the public hearing of the bill in Abuja, on November 5, 2010, was on the wrong side of effort aimed at effecting the harmonisation of the differences among stakeholders remains an issue for posterity to assess. However, what turned out to be the storm of 028 Conference Hall, according to sources from the NGA, is, currently, stalling the progress of passing the bill into law. It was of note that the most contentious area, which was the headship of NGA, appeared to have divided the government and artists, so sharply that no harmonisation took place before the year ran out.

The last event of the year, which indeed confirmed that young artists had the art space in 2010, was the launch of a new book titled A Celebration of Modern Nigerian Art - 101 Nigerian Artists. Published by a U.S. based group, Ben Bosah Books, the book chronicled artists born after Nigeria’s independence (1960), despite the wider coverage suggested by the title. This perspective, the authors — Chukwuemeka Bosah and George Edozie — explained, was deliberate.

Older artists, they argued, “have been documented.” Perhaps, not enough, but most of the older artists have, relatively, enjoyed prominence and asserted their status on the art landscape over the decades.

From such issues as criteria for selecting artists featured, to the scope of contents, the book, however, generated issues. Irrespective of the rating of 101 Nigerian Artists on the shelves of art historicizing or documentation, the mere attempt by the duo of Bosah and Edozie has received commendation in the Diaspora and mainstream European art market: Prof. dele jegede in what looks like a prologue argues that, in “writing about the contemporaneity of Nigerian art,” the authors have asserted the empowerment value in art documentation.

Also, Giles Peppiatt of U.K-based Bonhams auction house stated: “It is delightful to find a publication of this nature in a rather under published area where there is a paucity of good reference material. This excellent research tool will complement existing literature on the subject and see good use in the Contemporary African Art department at Bonhams.”

And this year, with major art event such as African Regional Summit on Visual Art and Exhibition (ARESUVA), which is more of an academic gathering, the young artists, having made impact in the last 12 months could just be counted to make headlines at the forthcoming art show.

From abroad, art funding for Africa beckons
By Tajudeen Sowole 
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 00:00 
 In 2011, respite comes for under-funded contemporary African arts as a proposed charity, The African Arts Trust, an effort of Robert Devereux – former partner of Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic – offers grant to emerging artists.
THE sheer human resources in young talents as well as resilience of older artists in Africa always indicate that if given the right opportunity, the continent can compete with the rest of the world. This, and perhaps, other factors must have motivated Devereux, 55, to come up with an idea of the Trust in 2009.
In August 2010, Devereux who is one of U.K.’s leading art aficionados announced that he would part with 329 collections, which included paintings, sculptures and prints from leading British artists, to have the Trust take off. This, according to sources, was about two-thirds of his collections acquired over a period of 30 years.
And as the first fund raising was held towards the end of last year, sources said, grants to interested artists would start this year.

Shortly before Sotheby’s got embroiled in the current controversy over the proposed, but later-canceled sales of Benin artefacts, the auction house helped in selling the Devereux collections for the first fund raising of the trust. Tagged, The Robert Devereux Collection of Post-War British Art, the sales, according to the Senior Press Officer of Sotheby’s, Helen Collier, recorded a total of £4.7m ($7.6m), which represented 95 % of the lots on sale.

Being one of the leading art collectors in the U.K., shedding the weight of his huge collection, Devereux said, led to the idea of the charity. And in 2009 “I decided to establish a charity devoted to supporting the arts of Africa.” Devereux noted that Africa “has huge potential but very few resources to support its burgeoning talent.”

Although Collier, through email confirmed the first sales and fund raising for the African Arts Trust, the link: www.theafricanartstrust.org, which she released, was not fully ready. However, the Devereux’s charity or funding for African arts, is, perhaps, the first of such initiative, to go this far – started raising fund. Few details on the website stated that the Trust is being established to support the careers of emerging artists working on the African continent. Designed as a grant making, it is expected to work with locally managed agencies. “One of its main aims will be to increase awareness of African arts outside Africa.” Other areas which the trust would focus include “funding for whatever artists feel they need: from studio space to materials, bursaries, travel grants and exchange programmes.”

However, consideration of entries for the trust, it added, will not begin until September this year.
In most countries of Sub-Sahara Africa, funding for the Arts is still an issue of which government and corporate bodies hardly live up to expectation. In Nigeria, for example, the federal government’s proposed National Endowment for the Arts – a scheme expected to cover various disciplines of the arts and culture – has been a mere wish for nearly 20 years. Similarly, there is no corporate initiative for such fund in Nigeria, aside the crumbs being given through brand supports of arts related events.

And as the various government agencies such as National Gallery of Art (NGA), National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) appeared lethargic in funding the sector, within their various capacity, came the recent pronouncement of President Goodluck Jonathan. At the 30th anniversary of one of Nigeria’s leading entertainment companies, Silverbird Group, held towards the end of last year, Jonathan announced that the federal government would support the entertainment industry with $200m.  

And that the details of the funding was yet to be released three months after seemed to raise suspicion of a politically induced pronouncement, too orchestrated to be real. However, the excitement it has generated among practitioners confirmed that indeed, the sector was in dire need of such intervention.

For instance, while practitioners in the movie, TV and music industry were eagerly awaiting the fund, visual artists appeared to have excluded themselves from the proposed fund. This much was noticed at the launching of Celebration of Modern Nigerian Art-101 Nigerian Artists, when former Chairman of Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Lagos State chapter, Olu Ajayi disagreed with what he described as the exclusion of the visual arts from the presidential fund. Sources close to the presidency, however, explained that the president’s pronouncement was meant for the arts in general – visual arts inclusive.

Genuine concern and support for the arts, indeed, has a passionate link, not sympathy. Devereux’s The African Arts Trust, for instance, cannot be separated from his passion for visual arts. He had stated that “art has always been an obsession of mine.” Collection, for him, he recalled was a hobby as old as his teenage.
In Nigeria, art patron, Engr Yemisi Shyllon’s passion for visual arts also led to the setting up of Omoba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Foundation (OYASAF), which, currently, has funded two editions of a photography competition award and also sponsors foreign art scholars to Nigeria to study African arts in the foundation’s collection. For these two initiatives, no arrogance of branding attached as seen in most corporate groups’ supports for artists.

When Devereux’s The African Arts Trust takes off fully before the end of this year, Kenyan artists could be the first beneficiaries, so suggested the founder’s statement that “Through The African Arts Trust I’d really like to support local charities like the Kuona Trust in Nairobi.”

Interest in contemporary African arts, from the west, in the last few years, has been on the increase through several art auctions in the U.K. and U.S. And the trust fund of Devereux, according to Sotheby’s, attracted global interest during first sales for the fund raising.  

Frances Christie, Director of 20th Century British Art at Sotheby’s, stated that “the  interests in the sale has been phenomenal from start to finish and it has come from all over the world.”


My Mission Is To Document, Expose My Generation of Artists
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
 Saturday, 15 January 2011 00:00
George Edozie (left), Ben Bosah and the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka during the launch of the book A Celebration of Modern Nigerian Art - 101 Nigerian Artists
 IN the last two years, painter George Edozie’s efforts at promoting young artists, despite his commitment to full time studio practice has been something of a revolution. This was what attracted TAJUDEEN SOWOLE to explore the artist’s exploits on three international projects.

BETWEEN November and December last year, two art exhibition tours in Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana as well as a book on young Nigerian artists, opened a new page for George Edozie in contemporary Nigerian art scene.

When Edozie, during the launch of the new book titled A Celebration of Modern Nigerian Art - 101 Nigerian Artists, stated that he was scared that the gross under-documentation of older and departed artists could be extended to his generation, he radiated the zeal of an artist ready to make all the differences for young artists.

Few days later, he hurriedly took a break from his studies at Lagos Business School, Victoria Island, Lagos to highlight his other activities geared towards promoting young Nigerian artists. And, as the euphoria of the book launch is yet to die down, it’s an opportunity to keep the tempo on. He recalled that his co-author, “Ben Bosah and I met in Abuja and started talking about the book in 2009”.

If he thought that he was getting Bosah involved into a fresh idea, he got it wrong, “Yes, he told me that he and Jess Castelotte were already talking about a similar project”. However, somewhere along the way, Castelote could not work with Bosah and Edozie on the book.

That development, perhaps, paved the way for Edozie to convince Bosah about his format for a book project on Nigerian artists. He explains that, “we were going to do something just on a few selected artists. And because it suddenly occurred to me that artists, particularly the younger generation, needed to be exposed more, we decided on more elaborate and inclusive book”.

He stressed that, “If you observe very well, you would realise that aside Bruce Onobrakpeya, Ben Enwonwu and Yusuf Grillo, most Nigerian artists from that generation who were equally active are not documented. This is what I don’t want to happen to my generation”.
Exposing young Nigerian artists and their works appropriately, he argued, went beyond the regular art exhibitions and the accompanying catalogues. He asserted, “People outside Nigeria must be able to access our works, either through books, Internet or indirectly through international exhibitions”.

Published by his co-author’s U.S.-based company Ben Bosah Books, the book has since generated issue on the criteria used in selection of artists. While responding that one book could not have featured all the artists, the focus on artists below 50 years, he insisted, was the major criterion. He also disclosed that artists nearly frustrated the project because of what he described as the unfriendliness of most artists towards the book idea.

Edozie stated, “Despite sending out information for entries, it took my personal contacts through telephone, SMS, e-mail for most of the artists to respond. This was very understandable because similar projects in the past never saw the light of the day; artists thought this was going to end up as another unfinished business”.

Irrespective of whatever argument for or against 101 Nigerian Artists, Edozie said he took solace in the encouraging words of those who have said nice words about the book. He cited the example of Giles Peppiatt of U.K-based Bonhams auction house who stated that the book is timely and delightful “in a rather under-published area where there is a paucity of good reference material”. Edozie argued that if someone like Peppiatt, could describe the book as an ‘excellent research tool’ in the contemporary African art then, “it is very encouraging.”

Apart from the book, Edozie has similarly been part of two major international art projects aimed at exposing Nigerian artists beyond the shores of the country. Last year, he coordinated ‘The Last Pictures Show’, a tour exhibition earlier held in Nigeria and Cameroon in 2009. Organised by Cameroun-based Gondwanart, a promotion company of a Cameroonian Catherine Pittet, the shows, as in the previous year, were held in Lagos and Douala.

Also last November, he led Nigerian artists to Ghana for a group exhibition involving Ghanaian artists. As a full time studio artist, he may have longed for taking up the additional task of exposing young Nigerian artists through exhibitions abroad. However, meeting Pittet in 2004, he recalled, further energised his ambition. “Pittet was in Nigeria to research artists and their works. In 2009, I got involved in the organising of ‘The Last Pictures Show’ here in Nigeria. The show held at Civic Centre, Lagos and in Douala,” The show, according to Edozie, will continue this year; it is also scheduled to berth in France after showing in about four other countries across the continent and Europe.

Nigerian artists whose works have been featuring in the tour are: Tola Wewe, Abiodun Olaku, Alex Nwokolo, Duke Asidere, Gorge Edozie, Wallace Ejoh, Patrick Agose Babalola Lawanson Bob Uwagdo and Joshua Nmeshionye. Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin, Gabon and France were other countries represented. On responses to Nigerian art during one of the tours in Douala, Edozie noted, “our works attracted the largest crowd, and out-sold those of others at the event”.

However, the zeal to do more for his generation must have pushed him further as another show in Ghana was held simultaneously last November. “While ‘The Last Pictures Show’ was on in Lagos in November 2009, I got in touch with Lilly Sefa-Boakye, who works with Ablade Glover,” he said. “And early this year (interview granted last December), we started talking about the Ghana show. However, the date we chose coincided with ‘The Last Pictures Show’ in Douala.”

The exhibition in Ghana titled ‘Art On Wheels, From Lagos to Accra’, he disclosed, was built on the model of past musicians of both countries who used to travel through the West Coast. In Ghana, it was also designed to “break new ground as the show held in a car show room; a glass house to expose the works better”.

In an exchange-like pattern, the Ghanaian artists, he assured, “are coming to Nigeria in 2011 for another group show with Nigerian artists”.

From his art – style, technique and form – Edozie has some traces of radicalism. This is also extended to his attitude towards work generally.

He recalled that as a student at the University of Benin, “I was like a rebel. Teachers would tell you that certain colours don't go together, but I always differed and experimented”. Later as professional, that character extended into his practice with the belief that it is better “to survive to paint and not paint to survive; survival of the art is more important to me than survival as an artist.”

With over 20 group exhibitions in 15 years of post-graduate practice, and a solo outing, it seems the artist has sub-consciously been part of historical events. For example, he was involved in the maiden edition of the annual national art competition of African Artists Foundation (AAF) and Nigerian Breweries Plc tagged ‘The Unbreakable Nigerian Spirit’. And twice, he took part in the Greece Embassy organised art exhibitions ‘Hellenic Image and 54 Nigerian Masters in Translation’ in (2008) and ‘A Kaleidoscope of Nigerian Traditional Costumes’, Abuja.

In Okiy's lens, it's culture on motion
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Sunday, 09 January 2011 00:00  
Ebiware's capture of the Oba of Benin and his wives (2010)
 FOR its vast treasures, it would not be a surprise to see a photographer emphasise the Benin’s rich culture and tradition. However, the photo-artist Ebiware Okiy has gone further to create pictorial images, which amalgamate culture and colour.
This, perhaps, suggests the appropriate titling of his last show, ‘Col-ture’ in Motion, held towards the end of last year at Patsy Event Centre, Benin, Edo State.
Suffice it to say that the letters of the theme raised curiosity and questions among art enthusiasts. Many had querried the choice of word, Col-ture.
According to Okiy, the word Col-ture was coined from the merging of ‘colour and culture’. He says, “the word defines my new body of works.”
Though colour is synonymous with the diverse cultures of Nigeria, his immediate environment, Benin, he argues, comes to mind first.
This much, he stresses in works such as Oba and His Wives, a palace scene, which reveal the Oba of Benin and four women, ‘supposedly’ his wives.
Also, in the Igue Festival of this ancient city, Okiy’s camera captures colours as they help to relieve old traditions.
Having travelled widely, the show offered him an opportunity to display the colours of culture taken across Nigeria. Even when some of these pictures were reproduced in monochrome prints, for example The Snake Charmer, supposedly shot in northern Nigeria, the mobility of these diverse colours and cultures was not missing.
Still stressing this mobility, Okiy’s camera stopped over in Lagos to capture the Eyo masquerade.

WITH the recurring ethno-religious and political disturbances casting doubt about Nigeria’s survival as nation-state entity, Okiy uses the green-white-green, in an assemblage of masquerades, to stress the importance of a unified people, despite the diversity and adversity
For the cultural statements embedded in Colture in Motion, Okiy says, the show, most likely, will be taken beyond Benin to a place like Lagos before the end of this year.
Some of his earlier works also showed that the photo-artist is also involved in sports and political events. He runs what he claims to be a pioneer digital photo studio in Benin, Edo State, but believes that the future of photography is brighter.
Ebiware Okiy
Africa Cup of Nation, Ghana 2008; Abuja Carnival, FCT, Abuja; Itsekiri Festival; jubilant people of Edo State, when the current Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was declared the governor of the state, are some of his works that helped set out the artist as a documentarist, as against the Owambe kind of work he was used to earlier in his career. 

WITH a degree in Economics from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Okiy’s passion for photography lured into a crash programme in photography, training him under the seasoned photographer, Don Barber.
The experience, he recalls, strengthened his perception of photography from social to documentary.
That progress into his current state of his career appears to be yielding some professional dividends as his work has been part of a soon-to-be-launched book on photography titled Unifying Africa. The book, being published by a new group, Photo.Garage, features about 12 photographers from Africa.


 Aladegbongbe Aderinsoye
Mater, students in  Times of Life
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
 Sunday, 02 January 2011 00:00
 FOR the second time running, painter and art teacher Aladegbongbe Aderinsoye has held a show with his former students.Last year, the artist had one with Michael Fashakin who, then, just finished his HND at Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Lagos.

Aderinsoye's panting
 Titled, Times of Life, the artists dwelt on the theme, lack in the midst of plenty.
The last show, titled Love and Peace, which ended a week ago, at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, School of Art, Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) featured works of Ayoola Sodade, Saidi Adelakun and Adeyemi Kolawole.
The show, which came almost immediately after the art teacher's solo, A Visual Representation: An Anthropological Study Of Ilara-Mokin (Ondo State), provided opportunities for younger artists to benefit from the spill-over effect of the teacher's ‘successful’ outing.
Kolawole's figural paintings, Keregbe To Fo, (the broken Calabash)   — an effort aimed at encouraging Nigerian youths that irrespective of the troubles the nation is going through, especially, in the academics and other areas of youth developments, things will surely change for the better — seems to summarises all the works.
The young artist explains, “ Keregbe To Fo is about a palm-wine taper, who while at work lost both the calabash and the content.” This, he says, is interpreted to mean, ‘all is not lost for the country as there is hope at the tunnel.’
Aderinsoye’s shows with his students have always been fulfilling. He argues, for young artists who are just coming out of schools, group shows such as this means a lot for their career.
Interestingly, the show is organised by Taiwo Taire-Ban led-Love and Peace, a new art promotion group. Taire-Bank, states, “the show was the artists’ contributions in promoting peace in Nigeria’s 50th independence.”

SHORTLY before his last solo show, the art teacher, in the same context of peace and culture, notes that the show was a platform on which contemporary style could be used to represent cultural practices and beliefs of diverse groups in visual forms.  He emphasises, “apart from representing Ilara-Mokin and her history in visual form, a theoretical tool is employed to study her history.”
Though he left Ilara-Mokin as a boy of 10 to 11 years, “ he reasons, “now at 46, I should project the culture of the people, having a better understanding of certain history of the tradition.”
This, he continues to explain in paintings and drawings, such as Ajalemogun, Aporo Dance, Elerege, Idasu, Jele O Dun, Jubilation, Oberemoye, Odun Opa and The King.
Ajalemogun, a mixed media of oil, beads and horsetail brings a tradition, which the artist says is longer celebrated. The work depicts the importance of a central figure, a lady, which he explains was known for her Shuku (a native hair-do) and regalia that makes her as tall as an electricity pole.
“However, myth has it that celebrating Ajalemogun as a deity brings peace, joy and prosperity and adherents all over Yoruba land celebrate the festival,” he says.
Arts and Artists' launch... decline in studio revisit
By Tajudeen Sowole 
Tuesday, 04 January 2011 00:00
 THE lack of arts-focused publications in Nigeria, publisher and editor-in-chief of Arts and Artists, Dr. Iyabo Tijani explained, motivated the birth of the magazine. Expected to be quarterly, the magazine, she disclosed, was designed to cover other sub-divisions such as music, movies, literary and theatre arts.

And when the magazine was launched at Yusuf Grillo Auditorium, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos, her passion in uplifting the visual art profession, was reflected in the choice of the lecture - Challenges To The Practise Of Visual Arts In Nigeria – that midwived the delivery of the publication.

The guest speaker, Engr Yemisi Shyllon, an art patron traced the problem facing the profession to the academic environment, while emphasising the need to strike a balance between the academics of visual arts and studio practice as well as the post-graduation challenges of art practice.

He explained, “from available statistics, the percentage of graduates of visual art that exclusively practice art after school, is very discouraging: large percentage of young promising and talented artists that I have known for some years, are abandoning the profession.”      

He mentioned “self-induced and societal-induced challenges” as the banes of art practice in Nigeria.

On the academic challenges, Shyllon argued that the various departments of visual arts in higher institutions are expected to be generally practical, which “requires lecturers who practice what they teach and not teach what they do not practice.” The art lecturers, he added, are expected to be practical mentors of students.

He warned: “There is a dangerous trend gaining currency, in higher institutions, where visual artists are being pushed to ‘publish or perish’ at the expense of studio practice.”     

According to him, such policy is not in conformity with the goals of the founding fathers of technical tertiary institutions in Nigeria, noting that this places emphasis to writing.

“Consequently, students that graduate from this prevailing atmosphere would not be adequately imbibed with good professional practice experience and tutelage, but would unfortunately end up more as theorists; with little ability to produce good art works.”

While he believed acquisition of PhD by teachers in technical institutions should be encouraged, he voiced “against the absurdity of this whole scenario of having visual artists pursuing PhD in art history and anthropology to the detriment of studio practice and dexterity.”

Part of the internal challenges of the schools of arts, he noted, is the admission process. He argued that the admission of prospective visual art students should not be left entirely with JAMB. Talents of the aspiring students, he advised, should be crucial in consideration for admission.

On self-induced challenges, Shyllon traced artists’ inability to face the rudiment of evolving to what he described as shortcut artistic career by young artists who hide under abstract expression. “Thus, there is the need for artists to prove their draughting competence before escaping into abstractions.”

However, in one of the early pages of the magazine, Tijani, under the heading, Issues in Art Education: Cooperative Learning Strategy and the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Schools Implication in Lagos State traced poor draughtsmanship of some artists to the method of teaching at the early stage.

She noted: “Most art teachers are all levels persistently use: lectures, projects and demonstration methods. However, these methods are not appropriate, but also teacher-centred.” She argued that to achieve the objectives of the UBE, the outcome of what she described as recent studies could be applied. 
“Some of the strategies, so far suggested include: Interdisciplinary approach, Ulbricht 1998, Jacobs 1989; Visual Culture, Duncan 2001, 2002; Multicultural approach, Stuhr, Petrovitch-Mwanniki and Winson, 1992; data based art education (DBAE), Eisner 1880.”

Responding to Shyllon’s observation of the imbalance in art and academics, within the context of ‘publish or perish’ policy, the Registrar of Yabatech, Mrs Biekoroma Amapakabo drew no line between studio practice and research. She said, “in any tertiary institution, research is very important; exhibition is part of the assessment for art teachers.”

On MFA as the terminal degree in visual art, the Dean, School of Art, Design and Printing, Rukeme Noserime explained that in the last few years, artists have been acquiring PhD, in visual arts from Nigerian universities.

Perhaps, evaluation of art works, as noted by Shyllon has been part of the challenges of artists, particularly, the younger ones. The chairman of the event, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi and a strong art patron noted that “pricing is forever subjective,” and could be difficult to regulate or grade by any professional body.  

Earlier, Shyllon has suggested that the art market should be organised. He noted that Nigerian artists sell their art in an unorganized art market. He recalled that in one of his past presentations, he had suggested mechanism through which rating and valuation and quantification of contemporary works could be achieved.

Mufu Onifade, a member of the editorial board of Arts and Artists reeled out the contents such as features/interviews on renowned printmaker, Nike Okundaye; top Nollywood actress, Joke Silva; painter and gallery operator, Biodun Omolayo; architect, Dapo Oladimeji-Hannah. There is also an elaborate coverage of the Felabration event, a tribute to the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

One of the special guests, Prof. Pat Oyebola who noted that the magazine was coming out at a period “there is huge interest in Nigerian art,” promised to help promote it abroad. In fact, she assured that copies would be sent to Dubai.

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