Binding: Hard Cover
First published: 2006
Publisher: Ovuomaroro Studio Press
Subject: African Studies
Ibiebe is a concise package of most of the signs and symbols found in Onobrakpeya's paintings, prints and drawings. The ideograms, numbered over 100, are put together in a handy catalogue in the 48-page publication, encapsulating explanations of the veteran artist’s cryptic signs and coded abstract patterns are offered.
The collection comes with two introductory essays on the artist and his works. In the first review, Dr. Richard Singletary, author of an Onobrakpeya biography, noted that 1983 through 1984, the artist took some time out of his very active full-time art career to "think, and draw", inspirations from his earlier works.
"One thing that came out of that period was a series of doodles. From nowhere he got designs of drawings from which some of them are like animal forms, some in abstract forms. He didn't do much about them. But it was later that he realised that they were some kind of forms that meanings could be attached. He started to redraw them and ascribe meaning, which reflect concepts in Urhobo philosophy.
Thus evolved a complete set of forms which he now calls Ibebe or Ideograms which helps to bring a kind of symbols or thought in Urhobo treated in a decorated way," Singletary observed this in his piece entitled Ibebe Alphabets and Ideograms.
The other essay, Signs of the Times by Dr. Pat Oyelola, sees Onobrakpeya's signs as akin of the some other remarkable forms of cryptic art expressions from the African continent, such as Uli, nsibidi, adinkra among others.
According to Pat Oyelola, in her essay, she states that Onobrakpeya started the experimentation he developed in Ibiebe when he was artist-in-residence at the University of Ibadan. Through the researcher, it was learnt that the globally popular painter and print maker has used his Ibebe to evolve "ideograms for the desiderata of the Urhobo culture, Ufuoma (peace), Idolo, (wealth), Otovwe (longevity) and Omakpokpo (health)." She observed that every "viewer will bring their own imagination to bear on the interpretation of these symbols."
The catalogue is described thus "This is perhaps a tribute and indeed a triumph of the capacity of artforms to weld, bridge and enhance the understanding of different ethnic groups or cultures. It also shows demonstrable evidence that art works can offer strategic access and bridges of friendship into various cultures, thereby fostering understanding of people and their values. Players and entities who profess community knowledge and social responsibility, will do well to understand the instructive nature, subtle dynamics and the translation a book like this provides...
This catalogue is not a definitive work on the universe of expressions by the Urhobo. However, like other very recently published books, such as The Urhobo Language Primer, it is hoped that it will serve as a catalyst to challenge other artists and writers drawing from the same pool of inspiration of values of the Urhobo, to produce further ideas that express in a fresh manner the lore's and customs of their people.
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