On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, Dr. Ebenezer Aiku Sheba, who was one of the strong pillars of scholarship at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, clocked 70.
An artist, teacher and mentor, he was keen on a low-keyed celebration, but his many 'children' ensured that it was elaborate. The celebration unfolded in phases including a life study of his image by Nigerian artists including Ebenezer Akinola, Kazeem Olojo, Sehinde Ademuleya, Jonathan Imafidor, Dotun Popoola and a host of others.
One of the activities, which the Department of Fine and Applied Arts was planning, with the support of the National Gallery of Art, was a commemorative lecture to be delivered by Dr. Kunle Filani in honour of Sheba at 70. In fact, the guest lecturer had submitted a copy of his paper while other professional colleagues and associates of Dr. Sheba had also submitted documented eulogies on exemplary professional, academic and private lifestyle of the artist-scholar.
Dr. Sheba, on the other hand, had planned to travel on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, thus compelling the organisers to withhold the event until his return.
Sadly, on Sunday, May 27, 2012, the news of his sudden death was broken by one of his children, Banjo Sheba, who is also a trained and practising artist, and coordinator of the popular annual art fiesta called Beautiful Nigeria. Dr. Sheba was operated upon at the Iyiola Medical Centre, Oranfe Street, Ile-Ife because of a kidney problem. Unfortunately, he didn't survive the surgery, and later breathed his last at the OAU Teaching Hospital!
|Dr Ebenezer Aiku Sheba|
Kunle Filani (Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan)
EBEN Aiku Sheba is a creative personality that derives inspiration from his Yoruba culture. Born in Ode-Irele in Ondo State, he articulated the creative symbolism of visual and verbal aesthetics that emanated from Ilaje/Okitipupa and translated them into contemporary offerings in both his writings and artworks.
A poet, philosopher, scholar and artist, Sheba adapted the creative memories inherent in Yoruba forms, myths and motifs to create new body of works peculiar to his genius. He gave his life of selfless service to the teaching profession. He trained many students to become professional artists and with his continuing research into visual and verbal aesthetics, he has enriched the page of history with his articulately documented findings.
Abdullahi Muku (Director General, National Gallery of Art)
DR. Sheba is a father of many children. The National Gallery is aware of his trademark, smack of providing a guiding light, not only to his many students, but anyone that had the great opportunity of encountering him. His scholarly gestures, mentoring capabilities and practice ability will forever place him on a pedestal of good memorials. For a scholar that has contributed over 50 years of his life to teaching, discovering new talents and nurturing them, his adulations will live forever. We will always remember that Dr. Sheba was a silent achiever.
Akin Adejuwon (chairman, Society of Nigerian Artists - Osun State Chapter)
A few things stand Eben Sheba out like the star in the firmament: diligence, thoroughness and punctuality. Sadly, in this age of fast foods and pay-as-you-go syndrome, these are rare characteristics, indeed. This is a man who raises penetrating questions about issues wherever he is involved, and once he attains a level of conviction, he commits himself to the cause with passion. He has displayed this in an unwavering manner where Fine Art is concerned. His sure passion for Fine Arts did not stop there, but propelled him to be an arrowhead in the move to start the Osun State Chapter of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA).
David Olajide Makinde (Acting Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts, OAU, Ile-Ife)
DR. Ebenezer Sheba has taught so many students at the College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti and Obafemi Awolowo University including me. He taught virtually all the members of staff of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts except Dr. B.A. Ademuleya. He was the 8th H.O.D in the department for two years (2003-2005).
During his tenure, the department celebrated its 30th anniversary to mark its establishment in 1975. The landmark achievement was accompanied with a travelling exhibition of works by the Ife Art School graduates, and was on display at Ife and Lagos respectively. Dr. Sheba was the first M.F.A graduate in Graphic Design in the department.
In spite of his academic commitment, his contributions to culture and creativity are immensely appreciated. As a researcher, his focus was on Cultural Symbolism, which allowed him to make an in-depth study of Yoruba physical and social environment. He had discussed extensively on issues of traditional Yoruba belief system and most especially the use of coded messages (aale) among the Ikale Yoruba of Ondo State.
Akin Onipede (Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization - CBAAC)
Ripples of the trend of group formation which had earlier yielded Ona and AKA groups of artists (1987 and 1989 respectively) reverberated in Ikere-Ekiti with the formation of the Atunda group of artists in 1991, under the chairmanship of Ebenezer Aiku Sheba. He and Segun Adejemilua were the moving spirit behind the Atunda group.
For anyone who has been privileged to come across Dr. Sheba, his philosophical depth and wisdom cannot but confound you. Older than many of his Atunda colleagues by far, yet Dr. Sheba was at home with our exuberance.
Sehinde Ademuleya (former Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts, OAU, Ile-Ife)
THE Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Ebenezer Aiku Sheba was a man of many parts and perceived in different ways. At Ile-Ife and to some of his friends, he is Baba Sheba. To his old (I mean long-time) associates, he is ‘Lord Sheba’. To some of his senior colleagues who are not so familiar with him (apart from Prof. Fabayo, who is fond of calling anybody and everybody, including Alagba Sheba ‘aburo’), he is Oga Sheba.
No matter the perspective from which he is perceived, Baba Sheba was generally acknowledged as an honourable man. He was, indeed, a complete gentleman and was held as such and with great respect, too. I found in him a man of courage and great destiny.
Olusegun Ajiboye (Department of Fine and Applied Arts, OAU, Ile-Ife)
LORD Sheba, as he is fondly called by some of his contemporaries, especially Prof. P.S.O Aremu, carried his fatherly nature to the classroom. He would advise, preach and never lose his grip of discipline on the students. He would teach you etiquette when you give a seminar and would read your paper first from the back to check your references and then through the whole work, taking note of all the spelling mistakes, punctuations and sentences that are too long or incomplete.
Only God can save you from the raging anger of “Lord Sheba” if you misspelt Frank Willett’s name. Once, Lord Sheba unleashed his anger on a presenter, “I cannot understand how a student at your level can be missing the spelling of a leading writer in art history whose book you have been reading and reviewing for years… Tell me, what do you teach your students?”
Jonathan Imafidor (Assistant Secretary, Araism Movement)
DR. Sheba takes you through history as though it is just unfolding before your very presence. If you fail his course, you can never pass any other! This is not as a result of his largesse in awarding marks, but a product of his well-anchored classes. This is not the only way he displays his service to mankind; he goes as far as servicing souls.
Of what greater benefit can a man be to his fellow man? He gives you the physical and spiritual satisfaction. His unparalleled love for mankind cannot be equaled to any. Little wonder he looks much younger than his age, which conform to the words of A.W. Pinero: “Those who love deeply never grow old”.
Stephen Folaranmi (Department of Fine and Applied Arts, OAU, Ile-Ife)
THE history of Osun State Chapter of SNA cannot be complete without the adequate mention and roles of Lord Sheba from inception. I particularly remember that it was during a staff meeting at the Department of Fine Arts that Sheba mentioned how important it was for us to start the chapter. Before then, many of us who were registered members of the society had to register in Lagos.
By 2002, the chapter was inaugurated and elections were held. Dr. Sheba then became the first chairman of the chapter, an office he occupied till 2006 when new elections were held. It was during his time that the SNA had to fight for the reinstatement of sacked arts teachers in Osun State by the then Governor Bisi Akande. As the PRO of the chapter, Dr. Sheba simply made me work, not only by words, but by example.
Compiled by Mufu Onifade