Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Onobrakpeya visits historic City of Onitsha

His Majesty Igwe Achebe with Royal fathers and Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya

His Majesty Igwe Alfred Achebe CFR, mni  with Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR at a special reception for guests during Igwe Achebe's 10th Ofala Celebration.


This month Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya visited the historic city of Onitsha on the invitation of his Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, CFR, mni to witnesss Igwe Achebe's tenth Ofala,  in Onitsha. The Ofala  festivity goes back to the beginnings of Onitsha in the 16th century. Every Obi of Onitsha celebrates a yearly Ofala, which in the days gone by, was his annual emergence, when most of his subjects had an opportunity to behold him.

The Ofala festival is remarkable in the sense that it also celebrates the beginning of the Onitsha New Year and New Yam season. The festival  brings  most of the indigenes of Onitsha from far and wide, as well as friends and well wishers to witness festivities connected to the Igwe's celebrations of his yearly Ofala.

The festival is often very colorful and  characterized by the paying of tributes, salutations and making of gift presentations to the Obi of Onitsha.  Senior ranking members of the community, who include chiefs and elders, can be seen wearing their head gears which are colourful and often made of ostrich feathers. The dance and ceremony is often accompanied by royal drums called Egwuota. There is also a spectacular parade and outing  of different age grades who pay homage to the Igwe Achebe who is also known as Agbogidi.

Chiefs and elders, can be seen wearing their head gears which are colourful and often made of ostrich feathers.
 Onitsha is  a beautiful and picturesque city  by the famous River Niger and is home to an active community of visual artists like Ato Arinze, George Edozien, George Nwazugbo and Oliver Enwonwu who have all contributed in  no small measure to the vibrancy that contemporary Nigeria art enjoys.
But by far the most popular artist to have come from this great City is the legendary and iconic Ben Enwonwu, who had mentored Bruce Onobrakpeya many years before, and represents the greatest visual artist of the 20th Century from Nigeria.
While in Onitsha Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya paid a courtesy call with a few members and artists of the Harmattan Workshop Series to the Obi of Onitsha.
His Majesty is a passionate and dedicated collector of African art, and is in part responsible and share the credit for a new wave of revival and renaissance  in the appreciation  of wood carvings  in Onitsha, a traditional artform in Onitsha which was almost lost and extinct due to waning appreciation. His beautiful home which is located in one the scenic valleys of Onitsha, is also home to  his tremendous collection of Nigerian masterpieces, which are a joy to behold. His collection include a modest but  surprising number of Nigerian masterpieces which have been painstakingly acquired from all over the country in the last 20 years.
One of this pieces is a meduim sized painting called Agbogidi by Onobrakpeya, and was done in honour of Obi Achebe who is also a long time patron of Onobrakpeya 's works.
Onobrakpeya's visit to Onitsha was remarkable and nostalgic, because it is the first time in 70 years, since he visited Onitsha with his then guardian the late Mr Onakufe who taught as a teacher in a primary school there. He also vividly remembers on his last visit to Onitsha, seeing a group of hunters on their way back from a hunting expedition, wearing their full hunting gear and  colourful regalia. This certainly made an impression on young Bruce's mind.
At the courtesy visit and reception which followed at the Obi of Onitsha's  home. Onobrakpeya thanked   Igwe Achebe for the  hospitality  extended to him and several artists during the visit, the continued support of the arts and the fatherly role  Igwe Achebe had played in nurturing Nigerian art. Onobrakpeya prayed that God should give the progressive Igwe the wisdom to continue to be a pace setter in Cultural and environmental concerns.

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