Friday, 19 August 2011

Olu Amoda, Lemi Ghariokwu, Ayo Aina, Chinwe Roy, Tosin Jgede, Uche James Iroha, Nsikak Essien, Billy Omabegho, Akin Ogungbe


Painful, parting with Wotaside metal studio
  - Olu Amoda

First published November 27-December 3, 2005
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
THIS is not the best of times for home of metal art, Wotaside Studio, Majaro, Yaba, Lagos even as it stages its last exhibition from that end.
Having reeled out breathtaking works on metal and steel from the Lagos studio since 1989 when he moved in, sculptor, Olu Amoda has to relocate as a result of a loss legal battle over his possession of the building, which houses the studio.
  As he mounted works at Didi Museum, venue of his exhibition titled Objects of Art, which opened Thursday November 17, 2005, Amoda could not conceal the trauma of having to part with a beloved place. Even though the development was not sudden, the sculptor finds it a biter pill to swallow. "Yes I had it coming," he admitted, disclosing that it’s been a three-year legal battle with the owners of the place.
Amoda’s genre of mixed media of metals, over the years, has matured since he staged his maiden exhibition at the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, in 1984, a year after he finished at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State.
Evaluating the mental and other resources invested into these Amoda’s kind of artistic exuberance, one wonders if the end appreciation by the public commiserates with this artist’s efforts. Appreciation, Amoda noted, is relative across the board. Having exhibited vastly at home, and few occasions abroad, he said his kind of art is better appreciated in Africa. "In United States, they like my work, but collection is far lower than in Nigeria and South Africa."
  For the sculptor, collection and other form of appreciation is not really a priority but the joy of the work. "I enjoyed what I am doing. I am happy doing it, welding those pieces together. I think that’s the satisfaction for me," he stressed.
It takes a stronger will to drop softer form of arts such as panting and settle for heavy metal art. At school, some lecturers, he recalled, had noticed his flare in metal art, “but I didn’t really pay more attention to that until my debut exhibition in 1984." At that show where he said varieties of works in different media and mixed media were presented, the metal works, he noted, attracted more attention than others. That revelation, must have given him the lead into the future. Amoda’s metal idea was also fuelled by his observation that sculpture, as at then, was moribund.
  "Metal came as a rescue to sculpture because other form of sculptures were becoming less interesting," Amoda argued.
 As an ‘apostle’ in this form of art, he also has the opportunity as a lecturer at Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos to create a stronger followership for art historians to have enough to chew.
  While agreeing that it will be great to have a stronger future for metal art, Amoda however said it’s not in his character, even as a lecturer, to intimidate students into taking up that form of art in future. "I teach metal in school, but I don’t go all out to ensure that people end up doing what I do as professionals after graduating," he said.
  Still on appreciation, one is surprised that in spite of the uniqueness of his metal forms, Amoda is yet to add to the nation’s landscape of moments. This he attributed to the way things work in this part of the world. "You know that to get certain things done here, you have to be in the good books of someone somewhere," he said. Apart from the two pieces, each at the gate of Yabatech and the French Cultural Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, Amoda disclosed that he sometimes avoid commission works because "they come with more pains than gain."
  Metal installations, he observed, are largely affected by the works of other professionals like bricklayer or carpenter who would have done their jobs, most times badly, before a metal work is installed. "Because these other professionals are not under one’s supervision, it makes nonsense of the final end," he argued.
As he searches for another studio to continue his metal mission, Amoda’s attachment to the Yaba environ could be an obstacle for earlier result. "It has to be Yaba again, somewhere close to my school", he insisted.
What is however striking about Amoda’s heavy metal mission of art form is that his work challenges any softer medium in the field of creativity.



Chinwe… Brushing Kings and Lords 
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published, January 8-14, 2006
WHAT does it really take to get the Kings and Lords sit before a painter?
Nation Builders by Chinwe, (Oil on Canvas 53'' x 45'')
 United Kingdom-based Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy, a native of Awka, Eastern Nigeria, Chinwe gives an insight into her approach when working on a portrait at that level of commission: "It is not something to be undertaken lightly and a successful commission will involve time and effort on both sides, as well as establishing a good personal rapport." She has a way of putting her subjects at ease adding that she likes to chat whilst working so that she can study and record how a face animates and changes during conversation, for instance.
  The commissioning process begins with a meeting between artist and a sitter (the subject),  (or artist, sitter and commissioning committee), to determine what type of portrait is required, she states.
  "The next stage is the first sitting. A pastel study may be completed in one sitting, whereas a full length oil portrait will involve several sittings, sometimes involving the artist in making drawings, working on preparatory studies in oils and pastels and sometimes taking photographs to be used as a source of reference for the final work."
  But the approach is a bit more challenging when it comes to group portrait, she explains. Chukwuogo-Roy recommends making individual studies of each sitter before gathering the group together as a whole.              

  She is a leading portraitist and one of the Nigerian artists in the Diaspora who are making strong impact across the world. has exhibited widely and her works are represented in public and private collections in America, France, Grenada, Holland, Kenya, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, U.A.E. and the U.K.
 Chukwuogo-Roy has made name in painting portraits of leaders across the world, the list of which include portrait of Her Majesty, The Queen of England and Head of The Commonwealth. Some of the high profile portrait commissions in her credit include that of President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Norwich City Football Club, Mr Geoffrey Watling; Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Secretary-General of The Commonwealth; Lord Mayor of Norwich, Cllr Derek Wood; Kriss Akabusi, athlete and TV personality, for whom she also undertook a series of large paintings on the theme of the African Diaspora. She was also commissioned by Martin Keown to paint Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium.
 Chukwuogo-Roy 's portraits vary widely. These range from formal boardroom and academic portraits, to private commission such as family.
  She uses a range of media, but prefers to paint in oils on canvas or drawing in pastels on coloured paper.
A recent biography of the painter, published by Tamarind, is now part of the National Curriculum by children in the UK.
   In 2003, Chinwe addressed the European Council Committee in Paris on Contemporary African Art and Artists. Later that year, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of East Anglia.
 Chukwuogo-Roy was born in Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria and moved to the UK in 1975. She took up painting as a profession in 1988 and is now based in Suffolk. Much of her work is in oils, etchings, monotypes and pastels. Her subjects range from portraiture, still life and landscape, to pictures, which capture the traditions and cultures of the African continent.
  Her recent work culminated in two exceptionally successful events in the last 2 years: the Celebrate art exhibition specially organised in December 2003 for the Queen's visit for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGOM) in Abuja for which she painted a portrait of Chief Obasanjo. Along over 60 pieces of her works, Chinwe displayed the works of six other Nigerian artists. She also started a major educational programme to encourage art in Nigerian schools.
  In September 2003, the artist was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of East Anglia.
  few of her exhibition include a major solo exhibition at Didi Museum, 2000 Lagos; solo exhibition at Trinity College, Cambridge University, Cambridge 2004;   Seeing in Colours, a major exhibition of new works at The Gallery in Cork Street, London, UK,
2005.   
  In 1975, she left Nigeria to study in the UK and in 1988 began professional career as a painter.




Nsikak Essien…
Staining the glass
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
December 11-17, 2006
Ziun 145 by Nsikka Essien (2005)
ASIDE the galleries and public installations, works of art in private homes suggest that artists commit more creative attention into these private collections.
  Sadly, such investment in creativity – a crucial part of documentation for most artists – are hidden in private homes for a l
ong time, while the public is deprived the taste of history.
  As an interior decorator and one of the most vibrant mixed-media artists, Nsikak Essien, has such hidden art value with strong potential in history books. The artist, has, recently "stolen" from the house of God, hidden beauty, and perhaps, a new concept waiting for wider acceptance in interior decoration.
  Stained glass décor are known as exclusive beautiful designs of the church over the centuries, ever since one of the oldest known multiple pieces of coloured glass used in a window were unearthed at St. Paul's Monastery in Jarrow, England, 686 AD.
  In his book, Stained Glass of the Middle Ages in England and France, Hugh Arnold writes that: "The making of stained glass windows is one of the arts that belong wholly to the Christian Era. Its traditions do not extend back beyond the great times of Gothic architecture." But latter writers had challenged that position arguing that it is difficult to say that stained glass is a purely Christian art form, either at its beginning or in its current usage.
  And over the decades, stained glass has, sparsely, found its way into secular settings in parts of Europe and America. But Essien, a former lecturer at the Fine Arts Department, Institute of Technology, Enugu, has adopted this as a new art form in home décor.
  At an undisclosed private residence, the artist just completed an interior decoration using stained glasses with embellishment in this mosaic medium.
  In this experimental work, which has the similar high headroom as that of a church, the painting on the glass are not as the same as that of the church which depicts biblical history. Essien has variety of subjects to play with, using the mixed media of oil and metal on glass.
  The metal in the artist’s work are not just there to hold the pieces of glass together, but as part of the embellishment. He uses them to depict branches of tree, silhouette and more.
  But in employing his creative licence to stamp his authority, and perhaps impress his client, the artist said, he ran into a conflict of idea with the one who pays the piper.
  Explaining the reason why he has two versions of a particular stained glass, Essien said he has created a silhouette scene of a beautiful sunset using the metal, naturally, as the black part and depicting a kind of high ground. But the client felt otherwise and wanted the thickness of the black, which represents the high ground, removed. " I had no option but to let my client have his way," Essien disclosed.
  However, between the two, the artist’s version tells a convincing story of an interesting silhouette scene. Even though, that of the client, the eventual installed version, lacks the complete story, but it also has an edge in the area of illumination.
  As a back-lit, the rays of natural light on the stained glass animates the features of the silhouette scene better in the client version compared to the artist’s.
Zion 176

  Stained glass as a décor in the church, Essien disclosed, had always fascinated him, long before he had the opportunity of experimenting with this debut. "Stained glass as a décor also makes for a good window blind," Essien argued, adding that he is further making research on more application of this old décor into contemporary setting.

Born in 1957 and studied at Institute of Mnagement Technlogy, Enugu, Nigeria from 1975 to 1979



Billy Omabegho… Monuments man
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published November 20 – 26, 2005
Billy's abstract sculpture at the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex
 
HIS signature is synonymous with onumental sculptures home and abroad.
Trained in fabrication and casting, artist, Billy Omabegho's antecedence, in symbolic art is intimidating.

  He is acknowledged as the first Nigerian sculptor to design and execute modern large scale monumental works at strategic public places.
  Omabegho's works include the famous oval-shaped symbol of the Lagos International Trade Fair, towering sculptural memorial of the late head of state, Murtala Ramat  Mohammed, in Benin City, Edo State and the sculptural piece in the garden of the State House, Marina, Lagos Island as well as a revolving bronze tower in the lobby of the national headquaters of the NET-Necom House.
Outside the country, his commissioned works include a large scale environmental sculpture in the United States,  21feet Corten Steel work  placed in front of Council House, Johnson Company, Racine, Wisconsin ,USA. And perhaps, the most symbollic of his works in that part of the world is the Zuma sculpture at the Nigeria House in New York.
  Having shown flare for arts early in his growing up age, Omabegho was to later trained as artist and graduated from Cornel University and New York University.
Though known to be more of an abstract artist, Omabegho was also commissioned to reproduce some selected ancient arts treasures of Benin and Ife in collaboration with US based museum, Metropolitan Museum of Arts.
 The ancient works he was commissioned to reproduce were three cold cast bronzes, Acrobats Plaque,  (16th century Benin), Obalufon Mask, (Ife 12 -15th century) and Queen Mother known as Queen Idia mask (Benin, 16th century).
Acrobat Plaque is a rectangular-shaped bronze and is used to decorate the wooden columns supporting the roof of the Oba's palaces. Rare in African art, the rectangular form was traced to the influence of the then Portuguese traders.
  One of the most popular art pieces of the Benin culture is the Queen Mother, a symbol of Queen Idia, the mother of Oba Esige. The Oba, during his reign was the first monarch to confer the title of Queen Mother on his mother three years after accession of throne.
  Obalufon Mask, another popular mask in African antiquity is believed to represent the royal head of Ile Ife, the Ooni. Ife arts are widely regarded as one of the greatest artistic traditions in black Africa.
  Having established as one of the most creative artists to have emerged in contemporary Nigerian art scene, Omabegho taught fabrication and casting arts at Rutgers, New York University and Queens College of the City of New York.


Akin Ogungbe:Old Actor Never Dies

BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published October 30-Nov 5, 2005

HE belongs to the pioneer generation of theatre art practitioners, who, indisputably, take credit for today’s home video and television industry.
With the demise of note able directors of different taveling theatre groups in the country, he remains the only surviving Thespian to have acted and produced
in all the outlets of dramatic art: was on  stage for over two decades from the 1940s to 1960s and on TV screen between 1970 and 1980s and an actor/producer in the
glorious days of cinema. With the home video taking over, he is not left out both as a producer and an actor.
Akin Ogunfbe

 
 If Chief Akin Ogungbe 71, founding father of the nation’s oldest actors’ group, Association of Nigeria Theatre Art Practitioners, (ANTP) were not an artiste,
he, most likely, at his age, would have been stretching out in a deck chair as a retiree. But the Egba-Lagos man still shuttles between home-video locations from
Lagos to Ibadan and Abeokuta.
The actor’s abode, which is the family house in Iberekodo, Abeokuta, had earlier, before this visit, undergone a face-lift. The one storey building stands out among the lot in the traditional agbo-ile structure of most ancient settlements across Yorubaland. Ogungbe’s family house was re-painted as part of the celebration of the actor’s 71st birthday
that was marked earlier in the year.
  As the reporter entered the ground floor, the silence which confronted him and lack of response to his greetings confirmed his fear that this could be one lost gamble visiting an actor on a weekday and
without an appointment. The staircase on the right of the lobby led upstairs. As he completed the ascension,
the atmosphere changed. Reminiscence of the old Yoruba
travelling theatre atmosphere, the setting in
Ogungbe’s house had boys and girls, (apparently
actors) relaxing before a television screen  watching
a movie. 

  As he registered his presence, the sharp relief on
the faces of the actors that welcomed him, however,
disappeared with the speed of light. Oh! Not some
producers or casting agents in search of actors, but a
journalist.
The home-video phenomenon, over the years, has made
travelling theatre irrelevant. And that the traces of
those play-house-like atmosphere are still noticed
today is curious. This subject was the first shot of
the chat with Ogungbe.
"Yes, training of actors on the job still exists," the
actor stated, noting that the major difference now is
that actors do not get quality training as they used
to have. Lack of plays on tour otherwise known as
travelling theatre has denied today’s actors enough
exposure. "In spite of the revolution video has
brought into the industry, inadequate training of
actors remains a negative in the final presentation,"
he explained 
  Recalling his travelling days over 50 years ago, he
said he trained for three years under his theatre
master, the late G.T. Onimole in central Lagos,( Isale
Eko). "I had always wanted to be in the theatre. While
growing up in Isale Eko, I once went to watch Onimole
and his troupe perform at Tom Jones. It didn’t take
long before I joined them. However, among the large
number of people who trained under him, I cannot
recollect any one that made as much popularity in
theatre as I did," he stated. Having completed three
years of training and resolving on  the need to set up
his own group, which involved great financial
commitment, he revealed that he had to work as a
carpenter in a factory. "I worked briefly with F.A.
Motors in Lagos, as a carpenter building Police buses
before I retired in 1961 and immediately started with
my own group." 
Between 1963, when he formed his group and now, the
group  had undergone great changes. Different names
have been given to the organisation suggesting the
eras, of particular significance in the political
development that influenced the earlier names.
  The operations of theatre groups in the 1960s to
early 1970s was heavily musical in content. For
example, Ogunde’s troupe was more popular for its
reach musical exploit than drama. This gave that group
an edge over others, particularly on tour. While the
travelling theatre culture, on which these early
practitioners built their audience, cannot be taken
away from one of the achievements of the leadership
quality of the late theatre icon, Hubert Ogunde, he
said: "He (Ogunde), showed the rest of us the way when
he embarked on tour, next was Ayinla Olumegbon. I was
the third. Not really in terms of financial returns,
but the joy of being appreciated by the
ever-increasing audience."
In his twilight years, Ogungbe said he has every cause
to glorify God having used me to breed generations of
theatre practitioners. "Theatre trainees under my
tutelage include Jimoh Aliu (1960 – ’66), the late
Ishola Ogunshola, I-Sho Pepper (1959 – ’66) and
Charles Olumo (1961 – 63). The dates I cannot
recollect now are those of the late Afolabi Afolayan,
Jagua, and his wife, Wuraola."
Some of the nation’s second generation actors trained
by me equally created strong impact in the film and
television industry. It is on record that the late
I-Sho Pepper was the first producer to adapt the
classic Yoruba story Efunsetan Aniwura for a motion
picture and made a huge success of the 16mm gauge.
Jimoh Aliu would forever remain a rare TV veteran for
creating the dare-devil character, Fadeyi Oloro.
  Stretching almost two decades, the notorious Fadeyi
character was played by three actors who became
popular through the Fadeyi, role. First was an actor
simply known as Oginni, next was Egbeji and the last,
indisputably, the most popular, Ojo Arowosafe, who
played the role between 1985 and early 1990s when the
long running TV series ruled the television broadcast
air waves. Under such titles as Arelu,  Ajalu,
Fopomoyo etc. Aliu who became more popular playing
Aworo, in the same episodes, also made a household
name of beautiful actress, Folake, his wife who played
Fadeyi’s antagonist, Orisabunmi.
Ogungbe’s works on stage included D.O. Fagunwa’s
classic Olowo Aye Lo Si Igbo Eledumare. "That
adaptation of Fagunwa’s book was my first play on tour
in 1963. Next was Ireke Onibudo which I later adapted
for television on Ogun State Television, (OGTV) in
1980. The same work was later produced and directed by
Bayo Aderohunmu for celluloid in 1985."
  His celluloid credits also included an epic on one
of the 17 century Egba warriors, Lisabi.
The film, Lisabi Agbogbon Akala was one of the
biggest productions of that time. It was produced in
1987/88, and had the largest star cast ever assembled,
and perhaps the biggest budget of his time.Regreting
the demise of the cinema days, he contended "that the
coming of home video was like a double edge sword,
which though created more awareness, and faster but
affected the celluloid producers because people
stopped going to the cinemas." In spite of that
lamentation, he has produced some videos, which
included Asiri Baba Ibeji.


Lemi Ghariokwu
Ghariokwu Lemi's Ayakaya, designed for Puma's Jump n' Funk
Ayakaya Swells Lemi’s Afro-Beat Arts
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published, October 23-29

  Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s artist of over two
decades, Ghariokwu Lemi, made an in-road into the
American Visual Arts scene when, in 2003, he led an
exhibition entitled Black President: the Art and
Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

  The success of that exhibition, sponsored by The New
York Museum of Contemporary Arts, Broadway, New York,
venue of the premiere show has since opened other
doors for Lemi in United States of America (USA).
One
of such opportunities came recently when the artist
got the popular sport kits manufacturer, Puma’s offer
to paint a concept for a branded concert sponsored by
the sport kit giant. The concert called, Jump  n’ Funk
is a regular event in USA.
  Back home, Lemi’s Lagos studio conspicuously
displays the original artwork of that concert. The
piece of work is that of a lady dancer, done in watercolour, and entitled, Ayakaya. A one-piece art, and isolated in mild light background, it however answers
viewer’s questions of scene and mood as Lemi’s
application of colour and curves explains that
curiosity.
  At a glance, the blurred look of this work quickly
reminds one of a typical nightclub scene where the
multi colour lights flash repeatedly concealing
identity of figures.
  This typical night club lighting is pronounced on
the face of Ayakaya as Lemi’s mixture of processed
pink and red colours on the face of the dancer
reveals. Still on the scenery, the arms, laps and
groins of the dancer radiate the environment through
this creaative combination of colours.
  "With or without a model or any guide I could still
paint that piece, it’s one environment I’m used to
over the decades," Lemi said of the nightclub scene.
Physically, the typical objects and other images one
sees at such a club need not be painted with the
dancer, he explained. "Any other images would be
competing with her. I think the colour combinations of
red with other primary colours slightly in focus are
enough to depict the night club environment."
  Similarly, the artist’s source of title for the work
is one he would not link to any particular incident or
personality.  It is familiar, isn’t? "It
sounds afro beat," that’s the only explanation Lemi
could gave.
  Next, is the mood of the figure. She could have been
just another model posing for the canvas or camera.
But again, the curves and movement combined, further
completes that conviction of a dance action.
   Continuing, the artist takes one to the dance floor
with Ayakaya’s flattened belly, shooting out the torso
and exposing the midriff as the artist’s strokes of
colours moves downward from right to the left.
Between the torso, (particularly of a busty lady),
and the waist, down the hips, lies the real dance
action, Lemi stressed. But there appears to be less
movement around this area, one observed. For example,
Ayakaya’s waist beads are resting. "They are not," the
artist argued, adding that the shaded part of that
area conceal the movement of the beads.
"Don’t forget that she is under-illuminated. We are
not really seeing everything about her movement. Even
the bangles too are moving, but we don’t get to see
all because it is a night club action," he explained.
  As regards the branding, one is curious ; What has
Puma, a sport brand got to do with music, and
afro-beat for that matter? Afro-beat, Lemi noted, is a
growing consciousness in America, "not just among
blacks, but across races as well." Continuing, he
said, his American and U.K. tour of the Fela
exhibition in 2003 must have created some awareness
and attracted Puma.
  In Lemi’s Ayakaya, Fela and his legacy drips: the
imprint of the Afro beat legend on the supposedly
Puma T-shirt,  "Afro-beat" inscriptions on the lady’s
skirt costume and the thick features on her face.
Lemi’s prowess as a visual artist that has been
romancing afro beat shortly after the new form of
music stormed the local scene in the early 1970s is
pronounced in the dancer’s thick eyelashes, loud
eyelid and lipstick make-up.
  Ayakaya, has, in spite of whatever little
shortcomings, adds to Lemi’s image as a depository of
arts of the late afro-beat legend.

Vestiges N' Debris
Aina Warms The Nerves, Warns Of Global Tragedy

BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published, February 26 -March 4, 2006
On a Saturday when one dreamt of attending an art show with the hope of relaxing the nerves after five days of working, one was confronted with Vestiges and Debris. It was an exhibition of pieces that rather tugged at the nerves opened at the Goethe Institut, Victoria Island Lagos Saturday 11, 2006 and closed, Friday, February 24, 2006.
Ayo Aina's intallation at Goethe Institute, Lagos (2006)

  One was not really caught unaware as the title of the show already suggested its nature, but the exhibiting artist, Ayo Aina's depiction of earth as a depleting entity is scary! The Frankenstein and Dracula of this world would view the works on exhibition without batting an eyelid.
   At the show, over 15 works of mixed media, make different statements on environmental, political and social subjects, but two of these take bolder positions.
  For the message of the show to get disseminated, there was no beating around the bush. Waiting to bounce into the viewer’s thought just in the immediate left of the exhibition hall was Globalisation.
  A round wired object loaded with waste papers is placed on a firewood metal stove. What's cooking? That's the first reaction from a viewer on seeing Aina’s Globalisation. 
  The answer is clear, so is the message: to inform his viewers that the extent at which man has been destroying the earth is alarming.  Aina's stove is not the common single in-let stove, but one with three faces, as each hosts at least, three pieces of half-burnt woods.
  The heating of the earth in his work is not at all in doubt as the burnt heads of the woods confirm man's crime against himself. As satirical as this installation is, it touches on the nerve of the environment, warning that no one is safe from the global warming.
  But sadly, the fragile group of the society that is most helpless as the situation is, are the children. The artist, under another installation he called, Victims, takes viewers into one of the tragedies of this global heating.
Ayo Aina (left) with the director of the Goethe Institute Arne Scheneider
  Stretched on what looks like a hospital bed are six pairs of children's legs. Sharing the same white outlook of the bed, the cloth covering these legs faintly exposes lifeless bones of the children towards the end of the ankles. The only colours of this work are the rubber sandals pairs on the legs, which gives out the age group identity of the Victims as the bodies vanish under the bed-cover.
   In search of an interlude to diffuse the coldness of Globalisation and Victims, one of the titles on the list of the exhibits, Path To Glory could not help in filling that gap.
  The artist continues his horror script here. From top of this work are images representing success, but down the steps, at the bottom, are thorns. Blood stained thorns! From there, the blood letting continues with footprints of blood, pronounced, against the all-white painting of the work.
  Once again, another strong and frightening statement, through the installations of Aina, has been made over man's violation of his environment as well as mind bending social values.
   Aina, an artist of about 40 solo and group exhibitions, home and abroad, studied at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and holds MFA from the same institution of higher learning renowned for fine art.
 

Uche James Iroha Sculpture, Photography, Two of a Kind
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published April  2-8, 2006

CREATIVITY as a business and passion runs in the family of photo artist, Uchechukwu James Iroha, son of ace comedian, James Iroha.
  His choice of Visual Art in the family, is more like being alone, he discloses. His brother and sister are in Theatre Arts, a discipline that his father was one of the pioneer students at the University of Ibadan School of Drama.
  For Uche, photography would perhaps not have happened if he had not been in school during the regime of Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, when tertiary institutions suffered longer academic break due to regular face off between government and academic staff.
  "I was in school during the Babangida days when we had to spend more time at home than in school. It was then I discovered the passion for photography," he recalls.
  As a Fine Art student at the University of Port Harcourt, sculpture had a broader meaning to him. In search of that wider scope, photography, he says, filled that curiosity.
  In spite of his exploit as a widely travelled photo artist, even at his age, Uche would not drop traditional art to the background in his career.
  He was the curator of a recent project of the Goethe Institut, Lagos, called Lagos Open.
  It was a unique project about art as a décor in ghetto area of Ajegunle held late last year.
  Recalling that experience, the Enugu-born artist said such projects are closer to his heart than the regular art exhibitions, which offer less appreciation for an artist’s work.
  He also speaks in the same context of a book project, a voluminous documentation by Glendora called, Lagos, A City At Work, which features works of Nigerian photographers in their different shots of the city.
  "I like my works to be appreciated by history. History is about people and not some individuals who just come to an exhibition, pick the artist’s works only to dump them somewhere."
  Still on appreciation, Uche believes that an artist is not different from other professionals, who leave the shore of the country, make impact abroad and return to a red carpet treatment at home.
  "The value of the travels all over the world is to get better attention back home. With a resume that includes shows abroad, the corporate people better appreciate you here. Truly, the experience you get overseas helps a great deal here," Uche says. 
  A member of Nigeria based group of professional photographers known as Depth of Field, DOF, Uche's works are currently being exhibited in the United States along side the group's and that of some African photographers.
  The exhibition entitled Snap Judgements, he explains, is a two-month long show organised by a U.S.-based group, International Centre of Photography, New York, and curated by the Director of Documenta 11, Okwui Enwezor.
  The exhibition, which took off on March 9, will be on till May 9. It has about 20 works of DOF from which six are Uche’s.
  And what informed the theme of the show? The theme, the artist said, is to show that African photographers can use photography to investigate globalisation as it affects the continent.
  The memory of Lagos Open, however, lingers in Uche’s mind, he reveals that he is already planning something in that direction with a foundation.
  The idea which he said will be more like an institution is a machinery "for people who want to work on imagery, provide them statistics, general information, as well a platform for information dissemination."
A recipient of French Agency for Development award, (AFD) 2005, some of his exhibitions and commission works are; Convergencies, Lagos, 2005, After the Fact, Berlin, 2005-African Photo Biennial - Bamako, Mali, 2005;                               Depth of Field, South London Gallery, 2004;                                                  ‘Projects /Commissions
Portraits - Pricewaterhousecoopers Global, Lagos office; Building A Capital’ Berlin And Abuja - The German Cultural Centre, 2003


Tosin Jegede

Jegede…
Stepping Out,
Brushing monarchs

BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published April 16-32, 2006
ONCE kid-star singer, Tosin Jegede, is back, but now on the canvas.
  Jegede, who came on the music scene of the 80s singing her way to popularity, suddenly disappeared from the scene followed  with some disturbing rumours about her life abroad.

  Today, she has reemerged in the art. She is now a painter based in the United Kingdom. Recently, she made a brief visit home to stage the debut exhibition of her works in Royalty Art Exhibition.
Tosin Jegede's assembly of portraits
  Making a debut with a show that has a bias for the royal and the elite, the theme seems to suggest that Jegede’s art is not diverse. But this is not so. The artist is in fact, a good abstract painter. She has a lot to offer in the abstract genre. However, her portrait painting seems to be less accomplished in execution.
  The exhibition, which was held at the Peace Mission Hall, had  about  350 works on display.
  For the artist, the opening was a time of great happiness and pleasure as she used that occasion to visit the palaces of Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the Ooni of Ife; Alhaji Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano; and Oba Oladele Olasore, Aloko of Iloko-Ijesa.
  She said of  the occasion,  "I am very pleased that I could be invited by these frontline monarchs. I never could have imagined my going to Kano to see the Emir or going to Ile-Ife to see Ooni, the father and leader of the Yoruba race. Iloko was a wonderful visit too."
  For Jegede, the exhibition was a new page in her life as she adjudged it "a success." Monetary gain aside, she revealed that she was delighted her works were appreciated by the high and low.
  As a kid star, Jegede, it was believed, had a mentor in the then first lady, Mrs Maryam Babangida. She had taken a strong interest in the career of this little child and assisted in promoting her  music.
  At the exhibition in Abuja, it was time for a reuinion of ‘mother and child’ after 20 years.
  In appreciation of the contribution of the former first lady,  Jegede presented her a bead painting portrait she calls My Mother.
Tosin egede

  She recalled that the former chairperson of the rested Better Life for Rural Women launched her first album at the age of six  at a remarkable gathering at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, and took her to Bulgaria to perform during the gathering of the children of the world at the Banner of Peace programme in Sofia when she  was seven years old."
  But Jegede has something else in her mind. "My project for this year is the launching of a book on the life of the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Cardinal Okogie. One of the factors that influenced my choice of him was that I have known him for the past 20years as a strict man. The book is at the printing stage at the moment. I know my findings on the life of the Cardinal will surprise many people. It is a book everyone must have. It will tell you all you have never known about him."
And what about her music career?  Her response is as simple as:  "I shall soon go back to the studio."
For now painting seems to have taken the front seat in her life . "I am not relenting. I am looking forward to another exhibition in Lagos this year if I get sponsors." 
  Jegede read Business Decision Analysis at the University of West England, UK.


 Universal Studios of Art
Resurgence USA returns to the gallery
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First Published April 23-30
IF attendance were the measure of a successful art exhibition, the opening of a group show involving artists of the Universal Studios of Art (USA) National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos, held at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos would have set a record.
  Though such a pool of crowd could be encouraging for the exhibiting artists, the opening of Resurgence that held on Saturday April 8, however, provided little or no space for the works to breath, denying visitors better viewing.
  The show, which ended on April 18, had the works of four painters and seven sculptors. But it had little or no surprise or any radical changes compared to the artists’ past works. Coming ten years after the last exhibition of the studios, Resurgence though did not reveal any new forms
in some of the artists, it is however a big come back.
   Onifade’s Life is a Journey tells the story of age progression in a man. From youth to adult, full of energy and a partner of the opposite sex to show for it, to the feeble, grey hair one who hardly stands erect.
  The piece is a reminder of the reality of life. However, it has a similar concept with Onifade’s past work, Man and Society, I, II, III.
  A devoted traditional-based artist, Onifade remains glued to his Yoruba titles for the works presented such as Osun Olomoyoyo, (goddess of unlimited children), Aponmita Kii Pofo, (Prosperious Waterseller) and Aidun Osan  (Irresistible juice), which are done in araism his invented style.
Onifade trained at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Africa Art Museum and Training Institute, Debrre- Zeit, Ethiopia and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.
Old hand, Bisi Fakeye, brings the touch of traditional wood carving to the show with abstract works including Regeneration, Germination and Hope for World Peace.
  In Fakeye’s Germination, the process of photosynthesis is depicted in wood. But the Osogbo axis-trained artist leaves no one in doubt of the quality the school is made of.
  Fakeye’s works adorn several homes and galleries in places like Havana, Cuba, and Rome. He has exhibited widely in the U.S. and Germany.
Another old hand and founding member of the studio, Biodun Olaku, remains his usual self: a surrealist.
  One of his works at the event, Grey Mood, oil on paperboard, presents a glittering night scene of what looks like one of the slum settlements in Lagos.
  Just when one concludes that the new electricity agency, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, is a shadow of NEPA, Olaku’s piece says otherwise.
  The artist’s representation of glittering lights in the night, even from a horizon, as the depth of Grey Mood suggests, looks like a thumb up for PHCN.
  Olaku, who has made a mark as one of the reverred Nigerian contemporary artists, graduated from Yaba College of Technology, Yabatech, in 1981.
  The only metal artist in the show, Fidelis Odogwu, adds a different hue to the exhibition.
  Odogwu, painstakingly shapes out multiple images for each of the pieces, particularly the one titled Crossroads.
  The old hands of the studio keep proving the worth of their names as seen in another sculptor, Bunmi Babatunde’s wood works, Feminine Torso, Dancing Torso and Soulful Request.
  Patrick Agose’s cold cast bronze of over four works is not short of expectation of what the Ozoro, Delta State-born artist is known for.
  In Spirit of Argungu, Agose captures the traditional annual fishing festival in 3-dimensional sculpture. Contestant fishermen as well as spectators are brought alive in the work with a large gourd and other fishing tools to complete a realistic effect.
  Bust of an unidentified lady entitled Out of this Realm, Another Apple and Resource Control are cold cast works of sculptor, Francis Uduh, while another sculptor, Osatume Iyumono, has wood works called Big Fish, Child’s Play and Growth.
  For Uduh’s piece of a half-nude topless lady, one is curious about the ‘resource control’ interpretation of the work. Perhaps, the most recently used term in the nation’s political restructure process, but in Uduh’s work, the term has other meanings.
  In Wallace Ejoh’s work, Nature’s Composition, oil on canvas is an impression of a riverside habitation while another work of his, African Beauty, oil on canvas, is more of a portrait of an unidentified figure than an artistic imagination the artist intends.
  Still fresh in one’s memory is the just concluded headcount as recalled in Before Census, an oil painting by Joshua Nmesirioye. The last hours before the week-long holiday that many hate to love is portrayed here as people are seen doing the last minute shopping.
  Other works of his are abstracts, Colours of Argungu and Womanhood.
  
Chidi Kwubiri
Chidi Kwubiri
Work-chop with Kwubiri
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First  published July 23-29 2006
Whoever said, "givers never lack", must have had Germany based artist, Chidi Kwubiri in mind.
Shortly after his debut exhibition titled Back to the Roots in Nigeria, last November, the artist has been sharing his wealth of knowledge in his chosen field. From South Africa to US, and now back in Lagos, Kwubiri's large heart knows no boundary. 
On the invitation of a Cape Town, South Africa, based group, Association for Visual Art (AVA), he was in that country last month, on a solo exhibition called Behind the Face.
The visit, he said was more of an exchange of "professional views, ideas and knowledge of contemporary art." The outcome of the South Africa visit, to a large extent, Kwubiri said, gives him joy for giving out his knowledge of art accumulated over the years, just as the experience he gained learning about his counterparts in that country is a memorable one. For Kwubiri, giving pays. He disclosed that the trip has in in offer for him a commission job for FIFA World Cup, South Africa, 2010. "I have been asked by the authority to design a piece outside the stadium fot the 2010 soccer fiesta," Kwubiri said while in Nigeria.
While in Lagos last November, Kwubiri, who graduated from the internationally renowned Arts Academy in Düsseldorf,  Germany conducted a workshop  at the Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), for the final year students of the school.
Goethe-Institut, Lagos recently presented the results of this workshop as the first  prize goes to Peter Uka, second, Idowu Oluwasegun and third, jointly won by Olusegun Olumide and Harriet Opara.
Also from the workshop was the exhibition entitled, Art-Work-Chop which opened on Saturday, July 15 through Friday, July 28, 2006.
As part of the prizes, the two young artists, Uka and Oluwasegun get invitation to Germany, courtesy of Goethe-Institut, Galerie Ott (Düsseldorf) and Kwubiri for opportunity to explore the art scene in that country. In addition to the Germany visit, the two artists, Kwubiri said, stand the chance of gaining admission into any of the higher institutions in Germany for further academic pursuits.
And what about the Golden Brush Award given to the fist prize winner of the workshop? This, he explained, makes it debut with Art-Work-Chop, and is expected to be sustained, to encourage young artists
  Explaining the theme of the exercise, Kwubiri said the title, Art- Work-Chop is derived from the art workshop of November 2005. "It is also a clear message to the Nigerian youth: before the chop, comes the work. And work without art as creativity and passion is just a job and no profession"
After extending his large heart in Lagos, the artist is also to do something similar in the eastern part of the country. "There is a charity exhibition coming in Frechen near Cologne , Germany, initiated by the Uzondu Association, a non profit organisation raising funds for the construction of children hospital in Orlu local government area, Umuowa, Imo State." The event, he said comes up in October 2006. 
He has words for the young artists: Going abroad without a professional background is like second slavery. Empowering youths going abroad for greener pasture is part of the aims  of the project."
With such initiative coming from an artist who has faced challenges of different dimension in his career, his pool of experience comes as a vital tool for young artists back home.   
   

McEwen Egho
Eghor…
Beckons in ‘Africanism’

BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published July 31-August 6 2006
Between the studio and gallery lies the raw and rich art of the creative mind.
Intercepting an artist and his work in the studio is both novel and rare opportunity in witnessing the brewing of what could turn out the next master piece.
The destination of McEwen Eghor’s strokes and shades, even at the tail end of completion, remains as concealed as its take off point or source. A mid-day sun illuminating the Winarc Studio, Ikeja, where the University of Benin graduate works could not aid a clue either.
Some eye balls behind a mask, and stitches travelling into a stream of motifs, all bleeding for explanation,  draws attention to this piece on canvas still in the making.
A mixed media of sort, the stretch of stitches divides the work into three with the upper taking a larger part of the frame. In addition to the spiritual interpretation of the painting, the three dimensional outlook of the stitches is so striking that one, at instant glance, takes it for live stitches.
Between the motifs and the eye brow, there are two other sets of designs that look like those ankara prints from the textile factory. This course surface of a mixed oil and
sawdust adds a kind of poetic rhythm.
"Ready," Eghor announced to his guest after some minutes of mute while touching the piece. The idea, he explained, is that of an unknown, someone behind the mask, "but possesses a third sight".
Interestingly, the combined cowries and old coins in the motifs also speaks of different generations of financial transactions of which the artist derives a mystical interpretation for the piece. The motifs representing
Multi dimensional issues facing the society, while the stitches as well as other designs combined leads to what the artist calls The Third Eye.
Though ‘completed’ is one word, he would rather avoid. "Like creation, art is ever continuous. My style is Africanism. But between the ‘completion’ in the studio and gallery, anything could happen."
Another mixed media, derive its source from the scripture on how "the word" works in the physical realm.
Eghor who looks forward to his first group exhibition soon at the Goethe Institut, Victoria Island, Lagos said that the challenge of the studio and lack of sponsorship and poor collections have kept him out of exhibitions. "I think things are changing for better now. I hope to exhibit soon at Goethe"
A Lagos boy, but of Ugheli-South, Delta State origin, Eghor who completed his secondary school education at Howell’s Memorial Grammar School, Bariga, Lagos confessed that his birth and pre-tertiary education at the economic nerve centre of the nation has made him so resilient that surviving on the canvas "is a battle to be won."


Tobenna Okwuosa
 Okwuosa… A run around home
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
First published August 13-19, 2006
Cultural diversity of nations within a nation, has, over the decades, produced artists who have taken positions based on their immediate environment.
From Onaism, which has over the years unveiled some adherent artists of the Yoruba culture for designs to Uli, the art of the people of the Eastern Nigeria, the dynamism in the indigenous art keep rising.

  For the painter, Tobenna Okwuosa, Igbo art is in the centre of his creative mission. While in the US, he had two shows, solo and a group entitled, The Igbo World, at the Worcester State College, Worcester, Massachusette and Nigerian Prelude and Refrain, which held at the Fscott gallery, Sudbury also in the same state. He further extended his ambassadorial art voyage to the Fowler Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) where he gave a lecture on Nri (Igbo) Cosmology and Religious Beliefs within the context of his art. 
In the Beginning (acrylic, leather cloth and wood (34 x 30)  by Tobenna Okwuosa
On his return home, Okwuosa shared his American experience with fellow artists at a lecture he called My Art, my USA Experience held at the Nu Metro Media Store, Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Lagos.
  He is presently creating a body of works for a solo show next year, of which he would rather keep out of the public, for now until he opens his next show soon. But he is improving on his scroll paintings based on what he said were “discoveries I made during my artist-in-residence program at the department of Visual Art, Worcester State College, Worcester, Massachusetts, US.”
The artist may not want to accept the toga of workaholic but he just cant wait to vomit more. “Up until last year in the US, I worked extensively in oil and acrylic. Usually, I use oil for my canvas paintings; while acrylic is the best medium for my scroll paintings. But after my residency, I decided to concentrate more on my scroll paintings, which is a medium I have been researching, and working with since 1999.”
As a recipient of Philip Ravenhill Fellowship 2004/2005, from the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA, Okwuosa is teaching and sharing his professional experiences in the classroom as a lecturer with the Department of Fine and Industrial Arts of the Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State. 
  Born in Eastern Nigeria on September 24, 1972, he says that he had always shown a great interest and talent in the arts from childhood.  
Tobenna

“I started winning prizes in the arts from my primary school. As a child, I never had the dreams of wanting to be a doctor, lawyer or an engineer as most other children do. I have always had a strong desire to be an artist and my secondary school education contributed so much in developing my talent because I attended two secondary schools and experienced six art teachers.”
  That background was to lead him into his future when in 1991 he gained admission to study Fine and Applied Arts in the University of Benin UNIBEN. That choice of school, he sad, was based on his love for the traditional Benin bronze casters and carvers.  
Specialized in sculpture and graduated with first-class honours in 1996 he later got his MFA in painting from the same school in 2003.

Prisca Abiodun Aletor
In Benin, Aletor brings gospel on canvas
By Tajudeen Sowole
April 4, 2006
Although the ancient city of Benin has, over the centuries, earned an enviable reputation in traditional African art of old, but an exhibition on artistic interpretation of the bible recently adds to that history.
 Painter, Prisca Abiodun Aletor leaves a mark using art as mediun of preaching the gospel in the city of tradition with a solo exhibition, The Church and Art, which opened on Thursday, August 3, 2006 at Bishop Kelly Pastoral Centre, Benin, Edo State.
  Scheduled to end on Sunday August 6 2006, about 64 works of oil paintings on exhibition included reproduced concepts of known artists’ interpretation of some biblical events as well as Aletor’s version of other events within Christianity context. While a large number of the works presented were on canvas, some glass paintings add colour to the exhibition.
Abstract works like Black Madonna, Move of God, All things Bright and Beautiful and Meditation and Fountain of Life, to mention a few represent the artist’s African interpretation of some Christian divinity.
For the stain glass paintings, Aletor has them in series. Each of the titles has five series, strictly on the time and life of Jesus Christ as visually interpreted over the centuries by artists such as Micheal Angelo, and Paul Reuben Aletor’s reproduced paintings includes Joyful Mystery, (I to V), which depict the early contact of Mary with angel Gabriel, birth of baby Jesus, his cradle and his appearance in the temple at the age of 12. Other titles of the stain glass genres presented by the University of Benin, UNIBEN lecturer were Mystery of Light, (I toV) Sorrowful Mystery (I to V).
Shortly after the opening of the exhibition attended by a very impressive audience, Aletor disclosed that the works were done over a period of two years. Art, she said, has always played a significant role in spreading of religions all over the world. "Artworks have always been a willing handmaid to religion, be it African traditional religion, Islam, Hindu or Christianity," she explained, noting that the Catholic church, till date has been consistent on the strength of art as a medium of spiritual communication.
"Testimonies of such ecstasies abound in church records where it is narrated how the faithful fell into ecstasies and visions after having meditatively and intensively stared into a work of art,"
Explaining the works to the audience, Aletor showed that, her callings to preach the gospel through art is not a fluke as she observed that, fish represents the symbol of the holy kind. The work in question was, Holy Symbol, a stylised abstraction of the biblical under water scene where Jonah was swallowed by the fish.
One of the dignitaries present at the exhibition, highlife veteran and multitalented artiste, Victor Uwaifor, also a lecturer at the Fine/Applied Arts Department of UNIBEN, said the exhibiting artist has made a unique leap into the church art, noting that over the ages, art of the Christian genre has been dominated by men. "Aletor, with this exhibition, particularly the stain glass paintings of hers, has thrown the challenge open for others in this part of the world, " Uwaifor said.
For Reverend Father Monsignor Emonyon, the exhibition hall reminds him of the Vatican city. "Seeing these works, I thought I was in Rome, because that’s the only place where you can see stain glass paintings of this quality," he said.
  She returned home and in 1976, became one of the pioneer students of the Creative Arts Department, University of Benin, UNIBEN, where she obtained her first Degree and later, the terminal Master Degree, in 1980. She is presently a lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, of the same institution. 
  The most challenging part of it, she said, are the stain glasses

Mosaic art of Aletor
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
April 3, 2007
Over the centuries, art as an extension of evangelism has contributed immensely to the propagation of the gospel and unveiled some leading names like Michelangelo and Paul Reuben in scriptural art.
While the works of these European artists have become reference points, efforts to make additional statements by other artists have been ongoing. In the ancient city of Benin, painter, Prisca Abiodun Aletor who, last year, gave the town its first stained glass paintings exhibition of some scriptural contents, returns on the divine pedestal of the art as she executes a historic mosaic project at one of the oldest churches in the city.
 Perhaps the largest of its kind in the history of church art in this part of the world, the mosaic works of different scriptural interpretations at the ongoing renovation of Holy Cross Cathedral Church, Benin, Edo State is capable of setting a new trend in church building décor.
  While taking her guest round the church and explaining the murals, Aletor, a Fine Art lecturer at the University of Benin, UNIBEN, says that from conceptualisation about eight months ago, to execution much intellectual input have been invested in the works.
At the front of the building are two works she calls, Mary Mother of Sorrows and Crucifixion, each standing at about 30 feet, on two sides of a 20 metre bell tower, while at the sides are little angel, cherub works. But at the back of the church is a revisit of, perhaps, one of the most important event in the history of evangelism in the ancient city: standing at a giant height is Aletor’s artistic impression of a 1504 mass in Benin said to have been held under the then Portuguese missionaries.
  Recalling how she conceptualised the entire works, Aletor discloses that the re-enactment of the sixteenth century event was one challenge that put her mental and intellectual ability to test. "To arrive at this I had to make a wide research with the assistance of the church. Don’t forget that the event happened in 1504 when the then king of Benin, Oba Esigie was baptised. One therefore needed to get what the exact scene looked like or something close. But there were no photographs taken then from which one could have made reference."
Aletor’s work of the mass, which is about 28 square metre depicts a scene involving several Benin chiefs of that era and a Portuguese clergy performing the mass.
  Even though Aletor prepared her mind for the large scope of the project at take off, she said the sketches and other preparations were solely done by her while she later invited four artists to be part of the execution. One of her former students at UNIBEN, Dele Fatukasi, who she says did his project on mosaic came into this project on her invitation, leading to involvement of other artists.
"I got in touch with Dele Fatukasi who then brought others that have worked on similar projects in the past. Kunle Adeyemi, one of the artists, I learned, had worked with Yusuf Grillo on similar works. Also on the team is Michael Ikobi," she explains adding that about 12 additional hands, mostly from Benin were also part of the work.
  Mosaic of the mural scale, she says, is one of the most difficult, particularly with the chosen medium of marbles, which requires enormous concentration to bring out desired shapes. "This is not like the stained glass paintings. In fact, it is not paintings. Every cube of the marbles is detailed on the floor to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion before I asked our junior artists involved in the project to mount it on the wall."  What is more challenging about this kind of mosaic, Aletor explains, is that the natural colours of the cubes from the factory has to fall in line with the
thumbnails or sketches. The project, she notes, is about the largest in the country, "apart from the one at the Church of Assumption, Falomo in Ikoyi, Lagos State."
She recalls that her last solo exhibition in Benin,
The Church and Art, which held in August 2006 at Bishop Kelly Pastoral Centre, was an eye opener that eventually led to her involvement in this project. F or Aletor, church art is not all about reproducing known works of famous artists, but bringing in African cultural values and historical background. "My last show, if you recall, had works like Black Madonna and Meditation, which were my African
concepts of scriptural art." 
Some of her 64 works that made that exhibition, she reveals, have been taken by the Holy-Cross Cathedral to form part of the interior décor of the multimillion-naira project. These works, she explains, includes, The Joyful Mystery series, and abstracts like Black Madonna, Move of God, All things Bright and Beautiful and Meditation and Fountain of Life, to mention a few that represent the artist’s African interpretation of some Christian divinity.
Having been on the scene since 1975 when she had a certificate in painting at the College of Arts and Technology, Newcastle, Upon-Tyne, England, and executed a vast number of works outside the religious sphere, Aletor’s current focus on church art, she says, is of professional and spiritual callings.  "An artist is never at rest so long the environment keeps throwing the challenges at you. Presently this is a calling, spiritual and professional."
Her knowledge of the art scene in Benin is not an accident, but something well merit as she would not separate that from being one of the pioneer students of the Creative Arts Departments, University of Benin in 1976.
"My background as one of the pioneer students of the school under the dynamic art academics like Professors, Todd, Wangboje, Clara Ugbodaga Ngu, and  Marshal Mount prepared me for today," she looks back, adding that she had her Bachelor, Fine Art, and Masters, Fine Art in 1980 and 1990 respectively.
But most significant in her over 30 years career is her discovery of what she calls "improvised colour pigments."
This idea, she says, dates back to her secondary school days.
"I researched into the improvisation of colours from naturally occurring local materials, plants, animals, minerals to find alternative to the prohibitive cost of art materials, especially the colour pigments which was a hindrance to aspiring students who would have enrolled for Fine Art at the Ordinary Level."  The research, she says, has been a success, proven in the class while synthetic colours were reserved for external exams only.
Still on research, techniques such as velvet, skin and glass painting, she adds, have been introduced, into the painting section of the UNIBEN Art Department, through her effort. 
Aletor has also extended her creativity into the literary genre, using the medium to analyse colours of the canvas as well as other artist’s perspective of the art. Such works of hers include, Colouration of Nature, An Inspiration to an Artist, An Iconography of Wangboje’s Works and Symbolism of Colours, Uche Okeke’s Line and Styles.
Her works outside of the academia, she says, have been part of several shows in Europe and America.
From her early days into the art, Aletor, as it appeared, have been a very adventurous artist, not confined within the four walls of the campus, but would rather use her academic environment to improve the society at large.
 
 





























 


1 comment:

  1. Taju, keep up the good work. Your writing is very interesting. It contain current information of what is happening in Nigeria artwise. ps remember to include dimension of artworks - painting, installation and sculpture in your next articles. God bless you, my brother in Art, cheers. Stephen Achugwo.

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