By Tajudeen Sowole
Peaceful co-existence among people of diverse faiths and ethnic nationalities is the thematic engagement of the artist, Ridwan Osinowo in his solo art exhibition, Seeds of Peace: the Sower and the Envoy, showing from Sunday, August 30 to September 6, 2015 at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos. The artist, whose work is obviously inspired by his Islamic faith, brings into the creative art space the richness of Qur’anic divinity, using the resilient beauty of calligraphy designs with fresh techniques and styles.
Organised by Ilupeju, Lagos-based Halal Art Galleries with the support of Ismail Bolaji Ebiti Jama'a in Islam (IBEJI) Foundation and the Forum for Islamic Welfare and Education, the exhibition is coming about nine years after a similar, but group gathering of artists under the theme, Extracts From the Master Artist at Didi Museum, in Lagos, in 2006. For Osinowo who also showed at 2006, 2007 and 2013 Islamic art exhibitions, in Lagos and Abuja, his debut solo outing is expected to have quite a number of VIP at the opening. As an extension of the exhibition's mission in using art to spread tolerance and co-existence among the people, a interfaith forum has been scheduled to hold on the last day of the exhibition, featuring participants across Islam, Christianity and other religions.
"Going by the exhibition’s title, each of over 40 artworks on display symbolizes a seed of peace; the Sower is Almighty God while individual member of the society is the envoy that is expected to walk the noble course," the artist explained to select guests. "Titles of the individual art pieces were mostly generated from verses of the Qur’an and sayings of Prophet Muhammad which form the foundation of Islam as a religion of peace."
Speaking on the socio-economic value of using Islamic art as a tool in promoting co-existence, CEO of Forum for Islamic Welfare and Education, Alhaji Abdulrafiu Ebiti noted that art in general "is an emerging form of profession in Nigeria." He argued that Nigerians, within the country and the Diaspora are no doubt doing well in visual arts, citing the example of Okwui Enwezor as the curator of the ongoing 56th Venice Biennale. Ebiti, a collector, disclosed that the support being given to Osinowo's art by his organisation is an extension of spreading education across board. Islamic art education, he explained, is part of the agenda. "We hope to develop Islamic Art at various academic levels in Nigeria," Ebiti assured. He advocated that art in Nigeria should be promoted to the level of international attractions such as biennales in Europe and Art Dubai, UAE, for examples. On the theme of the exhibition, he argued that it's basically "about giving and maintaining peace in Nigeria."
Responding to an observation that a section of Islamic faith in Nigeria still sees art from a suspicion perspective as being idolatry, Ebiti cautioned that the religion is not against art, but abhors representation of human being in objects or sculptural forms.
"Islam is knowledge; but knowledge varies. Islam is not against art, but object and representing somebody's face." He stressed the beauty of cursive writing as a form of art that is welcome in Islam.
Ebiti however agreed that "the challenge is in proper education of the people on what is art" as against what Islam does not accept.
On the purpose of the interfaith forum, Jamiu Adeyeye noted "intolerance," as the core of conflicts across the world. He assured that the forum would add to several other efforts at bringing harmony among Nigerians across faiths.
Dignitaries that are expected at the opening ceremony of the art exhibition include Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule; Chairman, Bi-Courtney, Mr. Wale Babalakin who is to chair the opening; and Sultan of Sokoto, and Royal Father of the occasion. Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad.
A statement from the Executive Secretary of IBEJI Foundation, Alhaja Khairat Olusegun Sodique describes the group as a non-governmental, philanthropic Islamic organisation that supports activities, indigent students, Muslim organisations and works that will not only promote Islam, but peaceful co-existence among Muslims and non-Muslims.
Extracts from the artist’s bio: Born in Lagos about five decades ago, Osinowo (a native of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State) is a professional painter and an entrepreneur with versatility in graphics design and printing. He obtained an HND in Painting (1996) and an OND, General Art (1989) both from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.