|First row extreme right seated Papa Akinola Lasekan, Third row standing on extreme left Bruce Onobrakpeya|
Ladies and Gentlemen
We should be grateful to the organizers of this show for giving us the opportunity to contemplate the legacy of the Nigerian pioneer painter, cartoonist and art educator.
I had known him by reputation while growing up in the secondary and the art school but only physically met him in an art workshop organized by Ulli Beier at Ibadan in 1961. At this time he was already very well known and to have been part of a workshop targeted more to the up coming artists was something that gives him credit as an avid learner, scholar and one who was interested in lifelong learning and imparting knowledge.
As a realistic painter his works has had tremendous influence on generations after him. I am thinking of Abayomi Barber and his School, and another artist Boniface Okafor. Their surrealism is a branch off from Lasekan’s realism. As a cartoonist in the now defunct West African Pilot, a principal weapon for the fight for African emancipation, was his cartoons that condemned the injustice of colonialism. Lasekan should therefore share the honour of our freedom with great politicians like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah.
The second part of my remark is on the fate of works created by masters like Lasekan. How are the works being kept and who benefits from the sale or resale of these great works.
In 1977 led by Prof. Yusuf Grillo, Prof Uche Okeke, Kolade Oshinowo, Na Alah and myself were part of a team which visited Ipele near Owo, the hometown of Lasekan to scout for his works, that may be included in the Nigerian Contemporary Show that was to be part of Festac 77. We learnt then to our shock that a wooden box with his paintings had been destroyed by white ants . Not too long ago, also, water through the leaking roof of the National Theatre was said to have destroyed some of the National Collection.
The conservation of our contemporary artworks particularly known master pieces should not only be the job of the government, but also those of individuals around the artists and communities.
My second remark is about the sale of art pieces in our secondary market, as is practiced in some other countries, an artist or his estate should benefit from the Super prices which master pieces now fetch in Nigeria. Although the idea has been given some consideration in our national policy, it awaits further ratification. How long shall we wait?
Ladies and gentlemen may Lasekan’s artistic legacy endure for the benefit of his family, Nigeria and posterity.
Lagos 15th Nov 2012