ADDRESS BY DR. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA ON THE OCCASION OF BOOK LAUNCH: MASKS OF THE FLAMING ARROWS.
Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos.
16th May 2014.
His Excellency the President and Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Goodluck Ebelle Jonathan, The President of Ford Foundation, Daren Walker and the Vice President of Ford Foundation Ms. Hilary Pennington, the Representative of Ford Foundation in West Africa, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, fellow artist eminent ladies and gentlemen.
I will begin with thanks to God for the gift of life, intellect and ability for creative expression. I am grateful to Prof. Ola Oloidi for the scholarly presentation.
The book Masks of the Flaming Arrows is the greatest birthday present I have ever received. It was planned to have been launched as one of the events to celebrate my 80th birthday which started in August 2012. Because of the delay in its publication many more hands have touched it. I thank everyone who has contributed to give me this joy. The prime motivation for my creating art works is seeing them documented and assembled in a book form. By publishing the Masks of the Flaming Arrows, you have created a masterpiece far greater than any individual pieces which the book holds together.
The Masks of the Flaming Arrows received the blessing of the President and Commander-in-Chief, Dr Goodluck Ebelle Jonathan. He graciously accepted to write the foreword. The preface was written by emeritus Prof. Ebigberi Joe Alagoa, a recipient of the National Merit Award. Both endorsements have given assurance to our artists and the entire country that the art we create is relevant and indeed contributing to the development of our country. This not withstanding, I like to use this opportunity to remind Mr. President of two very urgent needs that will move our art forward. The first is the erection of contemporary art galleries in principal cities in Nigeria. The other is the ratification of the Nigerian Cultural Policy.
Ford Foundation has to be commended not only for the sponsorship of this book but also for their efforts to make life more meaningful in their activities across Nigeria. In particular we are grateful for their continued development of arts and culture. The Ford Foundation’s partnership with the Harmattan Workshop series initiated 17 years ago has helped to raise the standard of art in Nigeria and the West Africa sub region, which has also generated global awareness for us. Several people including those in the rural areas have been empowered to create wealth out of art as a result of Ford Foundation partnering with us. I thank the former Ford Foundation Representative, Dr. Adhiambo Odaga and Mr. Innocent Chukwuma who is the present helmsman in West Africa as well as Ngozi Ezi-Ashi, Ford Foundation partner who organized the activities around the publication. I thank Hilary Penington for launching the book.
Prof. Dele Jegede edited and supervised the production of the book across three continents of Africa, Europe and North America from Ohio in the United States to the printing in Milan, Italy. His essay introduced the book. I appreciate his contribution as well as those of other scholars – Professors David Okpako, Osa Egonwa, John Agberia, Frank Ogiomoh, Dr Pat Oyelola, late Gani Odutokun, Dr. Olakunle Filani and Dr. Basil Nnamdi.
I’d like also to appreciate the efforts of the Ovuomaroro Studio and Gallery team who labored painstakingly to put all the raw materials together for the book. In particular, Peter K. Da Silva and Ekpo Udo Udoma, both of whom did the preliminary editing, Moses Unokwah, the layout design, Udeme Nyong, the typesetting, Bode Olaniran and Monsuru Alashe, the photography. Others in the studio who contributed in one way or the other are Dele Oluseye, Patrick Akpojotor, Godwin Onobrakpeya, Mudiare Onobrakpeya, Ojo Olaniyi, Pius Emorhokpor, Oluwole Orowole, Razak Adeniyi, and Alaric Oviri.
I thank the present director Sam Ovraiti and all the facilitators of the Harmattan Workshop which has inspired the creation of many of the pieces in the book.
My special thanks go to my dear wife Victoria whose diligence in superintending of the entire project cannot be over emphasized. She manages the studio, gallery and the home front. I thank my sons and daughters, Mudiare (already mentioned above) Ejiro, Kagbare, Ufuoma and Oghara for their contribution to the production of the art works displayed in the book.
I am grateful to friends among whom are Perkins Foss, Janet Stanley and Richard Singletary for their advice, encouragement and financial aid.
Finally, I’d like to appreciate all art patrons represented in Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, Sam Olagbaju, Engr. Yemisi Shyllon Professors Ebun and J. P Clark. Also, Gallery Managers like Kavita Chellerams, Simi Adesanya, Nike Okundaye, Rahman Akah, Bolanle Austin Peters and others all of whom from time to time provided me with funds to create some of the works in this book. This list cannot be completed without acknowledging the efforts of the Nigerian press who continuously project Nigerian art by creating public awareness around them.
I thank Dr G.G. Darah and who is a trustee of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation here present.
I thank my friends and colleagues including Demas Nwoko for their presence and continued support.
My gratitude to artists and everyone who honored this occasion.