Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya the universally acclaimed master printmaker, painter, sculptor and poet was born at Agbarha-Otor on 30th August 1932.
After attending elementary and secondary schools in Ughelli, Sapele and Benin from 1941 to 1951, he won a Federal Government Scholarship in 1957 to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and
Technology, (now Ahmadu Bello University), Zaria where he studied and earned a Diploma in Fine Arts in 1962 and also a Postgraduate Arts Teacher's Certificate.
He began his working career in 1953 as an Arts teacher at Western Boys' High School, Benin- City. He relocated to Ondo Boys' High School in 1957. He was from 1963 to 1980 the Arts teacher at St. Gregory's College, Obalende, Lagos.
|Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya|
As a master artist in a class of his own, it didn't take long for Onobrakpeya's skilful hands to attract global attention. He became an Artist-in- Residence at Haystack Mountain of Art and Craft
in Maine in the United States of America in 1975. He has, since then, held some of the most prestigious Art Residencies and professorship around the world, seven of which were in the United States. He also enjoyed the same rare privilege at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, and the National Gallery of
Zimbabwe which is one of the world's most notable arts galleries. He has since 1998 organised and participated, annually, in the Harmattan Workshop for artists at Agbarha-Otor.
In the course of his enchanting career as an artist, Onobrakpeya has held more than one hundred art exhibitions. The first of which took
place in Ughelli in 1959. Since then his art works have been standing taller than any other at exhibitions in Lagos, New York, London, Berlin, Moscow, Warsaw, Washington, Bologna, Nairobi, Illinois, Toronto, Bradford, Holland, Zurich, Bonn, Zimbabwe, Abidjan, Dakar, Dubai, etc. I must not forget the one at the Vatican Museum in Rome in 1977. I am sure Pope Paul VI must have told God about the marvel of Onobrakpeya's art.
In recognition of his sublime art, he has received over fifty awards, honours and prizes from all over the world. He is a winner of the Pope Paul VI Gold Medal. In 1989, the University of Ibadan, awarded him an honorary doctor of letters. He was the second person after Chinua Achebe to win the Nigeria Creativity Award in 2010. Many other prizes came from across the seas; USA, Britain, France, Iraq, Czechoslovakia, etc. The Federal Government of Nigeria conferred the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) on him in 2002. Very significantly, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) canonised him as a Living Human Treasure in 2006! Art connoisseurs have long reached a consensus that had there been a Nobel Prize for Visual Arts, Onobrakpeya would have long won it!Today, Onobrakpeya's art works can be found in all the continents of the world. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Nobles, Commoners, all stand before his works in adoration!
Onobrakpeya' s astonishing portfolio of achievements is reinforced by ibiebe an Urhobo alphabetic system he invented, fourteen published monographs and fourteen illustrated books. The number of theses written on his works by art cognoscenti is now in the realm of the uncountable!
Before us today is one of the most significant artists of global resonance for all times. At eighty- five, Onobrakpeya is the youngest among today's honourees, but he is the oldest known practising artist in Africa now. Whatever he touches becomes art. Art works immortalise the artist. So let it be with Owena Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya.
Sunny Awhefeada, PhD
Delta State University, Abraka.
22nd July, 2017