Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tribute to Fred Archibong (1959 - 2009)

Fred Archibong (1959- 2009)

Young Fred went to school at the prestigious Federal Government College, Warri in present day Delta State of Nigeria, in the late 70’s. He easily excelled in the Fine Arts. In fact it is on record that in his graduation year from high school, he won most of the prizes available at the secondary school level, in fine art, in the then Mid-Western region of Nigeria.
He later left for Chicago in the U.S., where for a short while, he studied dance and choreography, before proceeding to the Chicago School of Fine Art to study Fine Art, where he specialized in sculpture.

On his return to Nigeria, in 1988, Fred dived neck deep into the very turbulent professional life, of being a full time practicing Studio artist in Lagos. In this regard Fred was a pace setter, as there were very few, full time artists working in Lagos or anywhere in West Africa at that time.

Fred is easily remembered for his monumental sculptural pieces which were executed in cement or fiber glass in his Bode Thomas studio in Suru-Lere, Lagos. His teeming number of apprentices made it possible for him to execute his art works and commissions very fast, and this partially accounted for his popularity, which soon soared. His earliest collectors included Fred Agbeyegbe and Chris Ogunbanjo who gave him very early exposure in his career. However, by far, the single most decisive patron who gave him impetus, in his early years, was the architect Fola Alade, who gave him great visibility and artistic milage, by commissioning him, to do a lot of frescoes and outdoor relief works of art, which soon became the hallmark of his trade as an artist.

Some of his works could be found at the Nigerian Security and Printing Company and Nicon Insurance House in Abuja, Nigeria. Fred was clearly an artists’ artists and developed extensive networks in government and artist groups like the Society of Nigerian artists, where he had as many admirers as he had foes.

He was not an exhibiting artist, however he was part of the hugely successful Common wealth Heads of Government Summit (CHOGM) Exhibition titled "Celebrate Nigeria" in Abuja, Nigeria in 2003, that had such names like Bruce Onobrakpeya, Bisi Fakeye and Nkechi Nwosu Igbo showing side by side with him. This show was seen by over 10,000 people and had Her Majesty the Queen of England in attendance.

Fred as he was often called, will best be remembered as an artist, who struggled very hard to integrate tourism with arts and culture for over three decades. To his credit is a tourism company which he founded, BHS, which was geared at not only creating hundreds of jobs for Nigerians in the area of tourism, but showcasing Nigeria as a world-class tourism center and preferred destination point. A hard sell even today.

Fred's company also led a consortium of investors and facilities managers, to acquire a 30 year lease to manage the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) facility, a multi-million Naira facility, in Lagos, Nigeria. This was no mean achievement by any standard, as it required cutting through red tape, tremendous financial, mental and physical exertion to consummate. This singular project, which he sought to execute, remains the greatest testimony, to this man's indomitable and outstanding artistic vision, industry, passion and drive.

After life's fitfull fever, Fred Archibong sleeps well. He passed on at the tender age of fifty. He will be greatly missed by the Otu-Ewena group of Artists. A group founded by Bruce Onobrakpeya, which acknowledged the inter connectivity between art, architecture and the beauty of the environment.

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