By Tajudeen SowoleIN the next 24 hours, new executive members would have been elected into office to run the affairs of the umbrella body of artists, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), for another three years.
(Tuesday, November 25, 2008)
(Tuesday, November 25, 2008)
To usher in this change is the on-going Congress/Annual General Meeting, AGM, of the association, which opened on Sunday, November 23, and will run through 26, 2008 at the Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Twice, SNA had been engulfed in a quagmire in the last 20 years, and on each occasion had to resolve to what has been described as 'rescue mission'. Cautiously, this congress is another transition from the last of those two rescue missions that brought the group back from the dead.
However, it is hoped that after the out-going executive, there would not be the need for another rescue mission.
Few days before the Congress/AGM opened, the out-going executive members led by its president, Kolade Oshinowo, during a press parley, took an appraisal of the group's three years at the helm of affairs. At the event were, Oshinowo, Publicity Secretary/PRO, Chuka Nnabuife and Secretary General, Sidney Okevwe Akaphiare who spoke on behalf of other members of the executive.
Elected into office in 2005, others include Treasurer, Kenny Badaru; Financial Secretary, Nelson Edewor; Assistant General Secretary, Metta Okezie. Ex-officio members are Prof. Osa Egonwa, Emma S. O. Afolayan and Ndidi Dike.
According to Oshinowo, the four-day forum which has its theme as Visual Arts Practice in a Developing Economy is expected to treat other sub-themes such as as Challenges of Fulltime Studio Practice, Improving the Images of the Artists in Society, Who is an Art Critic? MFA/PHD Isuues in Our Academic Institutions-the Way Forward, Who is A Curator? Global Economic Depression and Art Patronage and The Place of Photography in the Visual Arts.
After the crisis that rocked the association in the late 1980s through early1990s, the emergence of Dele Jegede as the president, 1989 to 1992, courtesy of what is known in the art society as a 'coup' believed to have been plotted and executed by the younger members, was the soothing balm needed to stabilise the association, so it appeared. But it took the end of Jegede's tenure for things to start falling apart again, producing a dormant period of nearly 10 years before another rescue mission came in 2005, ushering in the out-going executive.
After reeling out the achievements of the group in the last three years, Oshinowo in his response to the issue of capability of the incoming administration to maintain the stability achieved in the last three years, argued that necessary structures have been put in place. The strengthening of the state chapters, he noted, is crucial to this stability, adding that this much was achieved by his administration.
Earlier, under what he called three years of committed stewardship, Oshinowo a former Assistant General Secretary of SNA (1974), noted that "from a period largely marked by inaction, internal altercation and generally apathetic response to the national body's causes by stakeholders, the society has bounced forward to the front row of attention in all matters of visual arts."
He recalled that the first art exhibition organised by his administration, Rejuvenation, shortly after taking over the mantle of leadership in 2005, led to other SNA-organised successful shows in other parts of the country in places like Umuahia, Abia State; Uyo, Akwa Ibom; Abeokuta, Ogun State. The SNA, he added also took active part in the just-held maiden edition of African Regional Summit of the Visual Arts, ARESUVA, in Abuja.
And at the level of art advocacy to energise interest in fine art, he listed, among others, SNA's achievements in the past three years thus; "concluded a collaboration with the Fidelity Bank in their Helping Hand Logo Design project; made Bayelsa State Government reverse its position on art education in the state's schools, in 2007; discussing with the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the National Universities Commission, NUC on matters of particular interest to art."
Indeed, the last three years of SNA was not a waste, considering that one of the most embarrassing moments for artists was redressed: the non-payment of collections of works for the National Assembly Complex. Stating that all artists involved in the project whose payment got stuck for almost 10 years.
Oshinowo, during the gathering responded to questions on tenure elongation, membership drive, finance, among others. For further stability, perhaps it is not safe yet for the head of the rescue mission to leave the mantle of leadership, so suggested some observers. Oshinowo however argued that the fact that his coming in as a president was a rescue mission makes second term impossible, assuring that "the house is strong enough" to achieve more stability.
On membership drive as well as unfolding events that is making splinter groups emerge from SNA, he stressed that people have the right to association, but cautioned that all other professional groups in the visual art remain under the umbrella body of SNA.
"There is no faction in SNA, even though artists can come together to form different groups. I always tell our members that they should focus more on SNA than the other groups they belong." And to strengthen SNA over the other groups, Oshinowo warned that in the future activities of these other groups of professionals would have to be monitored, regulated, and if possible, sanctioned.
Still on the same issue, he gave kudos to the Director-General of National Gallery of Art (NGA), Joe Musa, as he recalled the position of the NGA which was communicated by Musa during a gathering, recently. Oshinowo quoted Musa as warning that government would not deal with any groups, but only SNA. This, he maintained, is not automatic, but through a process known as Artists Registration Council.
That promise must have yielded some results as the association, according to Oshinowo, now receives a subvention of N2 million, annually from NGA, with a promise to increase it to N5 million soon.
In his appraisal of the achievements of the administration, Nnabuife said more have been achieved in the area of advocacy. He listed such as the emergence of an artist at the helm of affairs of NGA; through the Rejuvenation exhibition, original works of leading artists were on display at a time piracy was becoming a nightmare; artists involvement in beautification of public monuments and landscaping.
Formed in 1963, SNA, was inaugurated in January 1964 with the headquarters in Lagos. Its first executive included Yusuf Grillo, as President; Tayo Aiyegbusi, Vice-President; T.A. Fasuyi, Secretary; J.Owei, Financial Secretary; Solomon Wangboje, Publicity Secretary; Simon Okeke, Assistant Secretary; M. A. Ajayi, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Peter Omo-Erese, J. K. Oyewole, James Nkobi, Adekoya Ajepe, Bode Fasuyi, Isiaka Osunde, Godfrey Okolo, G. Okiki, E. I. Adenuga, Israel Ala, A.O. Olaleye, Ayo Ajayi, and J. Onikoro, Ex-Officio;