By Tajudeen Sowole
Rare partnership between art and the corporate sector could not have been better appreciated when the value of a seed as foundation in achieving a goal was emphasised by artist, Polly Alakija and fish feeds group, Skretting.
Expressed during the formal opening ceremony of Scretting, in Ibadan Oyo State, the partnership formed the climax of the event via a huge art piece titled Nkan Ti o ba Gbin Lo Ma Ka (whatever You Sow, You Reap). Rendered in materials from sacks of fish feeds, the 7m x 7m huge work depicts cultural value of seeds just as the artist's love for adire thickens the texture of the work.
For the major part of the event, which involved unveiling of a fish feeds processing machine, the traditional ribbon cutting would, perhaps, have been too ordinary and repeatitive. To add cultural contents into the unveiling - particularly when an artist of Alakija’s status was involved - creativity in visual expression won the glamour of the day. After the speeches and accolades that highlighted the emergence of Skretting from defunct Durante Fish feeds, the moment of the unveiling, which had guests standing before the giant art piece, was indeed, a sight to behold. Embossing the glitters from the art installation were flashes of camera-built digital devices from the sea of guests.
Each of the six or seven words in native Yoruba idiom of the title Nkan Ti o ba Gbin Lo Ma Ka is inscribed in some of the sacks, adding depth to the composite. More pronounced are the adire eleko texture of which Alakija expresses much likeness.
"The idea is to do something in recycling materials," Alakija said to me during a chat shortly before the unveiling. "Some of the sacks used are from Durante Fish feeds when they started before becoming Skretting." The artist in Alakija, naturally, flows with the vision of the new company, particularly, when her late husband was the founder behind Durante. And with Skretting, a Dutch group that has been importing some of its sacks to bag the feeds, the art concept is further enriched, perhaps in the area of documentation. "In the future, all the sacks for the feeds will be produced in Nigeria,"
Alakija assured. Then the company can take a retrospection via the art, and recall how far it has come. The artist whose works in recent times have been non-commercial based added that the crust of the art content in unveiling Skretting "is to show how industries and corporate groups can reach out to art." The work is not exactly unfamiliar in concept, as an art piece, as it takes the spread of an El Anatsui's massive application of materials. Yes, part of the concept was to give the work a West African art flavour, Alakija disclosed, stressing that Nkan Ti o Ba Gbin…takes bit of look "of Anatsui and Ibrahim Makama." Skretting, Ibadan, is the group’s largest presence in west Africa.
Based in Lagos, but Alakija produced part of the work in Ibadan, where she already had a long period of relationship with "most of the Skretting workers from the days of Durante Fish Feeds."So, mounting the giant size work wasn't an issue. And when the work came down, it was graceful fading in of the revealing machine behind as the loops were released from the top of the roofing frame to the cheering sea of guests.
For the General Manager Manager at Skretting, Mrs Seyi Adeleke-Ige, the theme, Nkan Ti O Ba Gbin... , "means good feeds, good quality." For avoidance of doubt, Adeleke added that "at Skretting, we love art, so we needed great art to complete the unveiling."
Pulling down of the work, she assured, would not be end of its appreciation, particularly in the area of documentation. "We have taken pictures of the work. And we will ensure better usage to further promote Skretting and art."
In a Nigerian economy where women's power of accessing job is endangered, Alakija's Nkan Ti O Ba Gbin adds hope to the empowerment of the softer gender. In general contents of what make up the work, women, she noted are being celebrated. "Good for women: fish feeds is mostly done by women, and the adire eleko which I used as part of the work is also more of ladies' work." The adire attraction for her is unavoidable. " Ilike adire eleko; it is Ibadan-based which I grew up to know."