Monday, August 31, 2009

Portfolio of Art and Literature

Portfolio of Art and Literature, is a compendium of pictures and extracts of literary works by Bruce Onobrakpeya. The artworks in the portfolio are illustrations or visual interpretations of poems, short stories and folk songs by various African authors mainly of Nigerian descent, as well as some of his writings and translations. These illustrations are important ways of reaching a wider audience through portfolio sets that can be circulated like books, but have the added advantage of having detachable contents that can be taken out of the cases and exhibited on walls like free standing pictures especially for use for art collectors, museums and libraries.

Art collectors, bibliophiles, the reading public including children will find the compendium educational and entertaining, and more importantly would serve them as indispensable pictorial and visual representation of works of literary giants like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Tanure Ojaide who are a few of the writers, whose works have been very successfully illustrated by the artist Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya.

The portfolio of Art and Literature has a limited edition of just 75 copies, and is also available in soft cover, and  covers a period of works done by the artist from 1960 to date.

Available in Limited Copies
Price $18,000.00 (Eighteen thousand U.S. dollars only)


Friday, August 28, 2009

International Art Expo Nigeria 2009

Mudiare Onobrakpeya and Chief Nike Okundaye at Art Expo in Lagos
Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN) in conjunction with The National Gallery of Art, (NGA) Abuja, will stage from Aug 22-30, 2009 the International Art Expo Nigeria, the second art fair of its kind in Nigeria. This fair will take place at the National Museum Onikan, Lagos.The fair is conceptualized to be an annual event for the Visual Arts sector, and a tool for promoting Nigerian visual art market to the international market.
This year's art fair shall feature different genres of art including installations and photography, and will attract about 35 galleries across Nigeria and have participation from several countries in the West African sub-region including Ghana, Togo and the Republic of Benin. It is also expected that over 100 artists cutting across several generations of artists will feature works of arts through the galleries.
The event will be opened formally at the National Museum Onikan, Lagos, Nigeria, on the 22nd of August, 2009 at 12.00 noon. According to the President of AGAN, Chief Frank Okonta who is also the proprietor of Nkem Gallery, there will be an opportunity for all those who love art to come and see the richness of Nigerian, and indeed West Africa's dynamic and robust visual arts market. The Nigerian Art fair proposes to be one of the most prestigious international contemporary art fair in Africa, and will take place for a second year running in Lagos, Nigeria's visual art capital.
According to the organizers, over 1000 art works including paintings, sculpture, photography, prints and installations, will be on display through the galleries, and much like established Art fairs around the world, for instance the Art Expo New York and ARCO-Madrid, it is hoped that the Nigerian version will ultimately become one of the biggest art shows in Africa. The intention is to create an art marketplace that will offer the general public an opportunity to see great art presented in a professional manner and setting. Whether you're a seasoned collector diversifing your portfolio of visual artworks, interested in adding to the allure of your home's interior design, or simply an art enthusiast interested in viewing the latest trends in the visual arts, This year's art fair in August 2009, will have something for everyone. This year's show is expected to attract about 10,000 guests, about double of 2008.
The art fair is a collaboration of Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN) and the National Gallery of art. AGAN is a new body that was set set up in 2008 to bring all galleries in the country together under one umbrella. It membership cuts across the country. Conservative estimates of contemporary African art market for the visual arts has been placed at between 25 and 50 million Euros annually internationally, with an estimated market growth rate of about 12 percent annually.

Friday, August 14, 2009

August Artistic Retreat in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.

Are You an Artist?

Then,the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation will help you escape the distraction of the city and enjoy serene and rustic Agbarha-Otor, in Delta State, Nigeria, to create the art you have always wanted.

Come To The

Accommodation and studio space are provided for the 2 weeks where you can work independently or alongside other artists according to your wish.

Come with all the materials you will need to create work and be responsible for you feeding, please pass along this information.

Venue: Niger Delta Art and Cultural Centre (Harmattan Workshop Venue), Agbarha-Otor Delta State.

Date: 17th – 31st August, 2009

Fee: N 5,000.00 per artist (You may pay into Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation account at Union Bank account no. 0151050000020 and present your teller on arrival at the venue).

For further enquiries call : P.K. Da’Silva 0803 3100 344

Or Moses Unokwah: 0703 343 3065

Friday, August 7, 2009

Books on African Studies by Ovuomaroro Press


1. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA: NIGERIA'S MASTER PRINTMAKER -Wendy Lawrence. 3 11 Colour illustrations. BEST OF AFRICA -TORONTO 1979. Out of Print.

2. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA: SABBATICAL EXPERIMENTS 1978-1983 (EXHIBITION OF PRINTS AND PAINTINGS) with introduction by Prof. Babatunde Lawal. 7 B/W 8 Colour illustrations

-A NIGERIAN PERSPECTIVE. -Editor Leclair Grier Lambert 101 Pages 81 B/W illustrations. Asele Institute Nimo/AfricanAmerican Cultural Centre, Minneapolis 1982 $15.00

Text by Dele Jegede 68 Pages 48 B/W illustration. Published by Society of Nigerian Artists, Lagos State Chapter. 1985 Out of print.

5. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA: SYMBOLS OF ANCESTRAL GROVES -(Monograph of Prints and Paintings 1978 -1985) with introduction by Prof. Babatunde Lawal. 256 Pages, 182 B/W 3 Drawings 60 Colour illustrations, essays, interviews, notes and comments, biographical and bibliographical notes. 1985. $25.00
6. AFRICA ON HER SCHEDULE IS WRITTEN A CHANGE -Barbara Haeger 105 pages 13 B/W illustrations African Universities Press 1981. $10.00 each.

7. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA: SAHELIAN MASQUERADES -Monograph of prints and paintings Edited by Safy Quel 132 pp 17 colour and 155 B/W and line pictures, Ovuomaroro Gallery production 1982. $20.00

-Introduction by C.O. Adepegba, 57 pages 51 B/W pictures, Ovuomaroro Gallery production 1984. $8.00

9. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA: THE SPIRIT IN ASCENT. -Introduction by Dele Jegede 279 pages, 110 full colour reproductions, 186 Black and white reproductions.
Ovuomaroro Gallery production 1992. $45.00

10. THE ZARIA ART SOCIETY: A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS. -Edited by Paul Chike Dike and Pat Oyelola with essays by Cornelius O. Adepegba, Oloidi, Don Akatakpo and Jacob Jari 298 pages 302 B/W reproductions and 133 colour reproductions. A publication of the National Gallery of Art 1998. $45.00

11. AGBARHA-OTOR 98 AND 99: A CATALOGUE OF FIRST AND SECOND HARMATTAN WORKSHOP EXHIBITION 84 pages; 127 B/W and 33 colour reproductions curated by Mike Omoighe, Ovuomaroro Gallery Production 1999. $10.00
12. AMOS TUTUOLA SHOW: A FOLKLORE INSPIRED ART IN HONOUR OF THE NOVELIST; Edited by Mudiare Onobrakpeya and curated by Mike Omoighe and Toyin Akinosho; 40 pages 25 B/W and 32 colour reproductions. Ovuomaroro Gallery production 1999 $8.00
13. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA: POEMS AND LITHOGRAPHS print notes and comments No.9. Introduced by Bruce Onobrakpeya 49 pages 48 B/W line reproductions; Ovuomaroro Gallerypublications 1989. $8.00

14. GLIMPSES OF OUR STARS -AN INTIMATE ENCOUNTER WITH NIGERIAN LEADING ARTISTES by Oji Onoko 468 pages, 99 B/W reproductions. Published by All Media International Ltd. 1999. $20.00

THE PORTRAIT OF A VISUAL ARTIST. -Edited by Mudiare Onobrakpeya and Uche Abalogu with introduction bySimon Ikpakronyi. A Collection of 26 essays on Bruce Onobrakpeya 70 pages, Ovuomaroro Gallery Production 2000 $5.00

16. BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA: PORTFOLIO OF ART AND LITERATURE, Catalogue. Edited by Pat Oyelola Poems and Extracts from various literary works 56 pages 30 illustrations in colour and B/W Ovuomaroro Gallery Production 2003 $ 10.00

17. ONOBRAKPEYA by Richard A. Singletary. - 78 pages 143 colour reproductions The Ford Foundation, The Institute of International Education 2002 $40

A Master and his Workshop (Bruce Onobrakpeya)

By Tam Fiofori

A turn to the right at this T -junction, past the landmark old airstrip, leads to a j magnificent edifice proudly described by the indigene guide as "a gigantic building:' This truly imposing building is the hub of the 'new' Niger Delta Culture Centre. It is the combination Museum/Gallery/Workshop building of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF) and centerpiece of the venue for the yearly Harmattan Art Workshop, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, Nigeria, organized by BOF.
Dr Onobrakpeya is undoubtedly one of Agbarha-Otor's most famous and accom-
plished homeboys. He was born at Agbarha- Otor in 1932. Humour, humility and generosity are the long-established and well-known hallmarks of Papa Bruce as the Nigerian art community fondly calls him.
Enquiry into his background solicited spontaneous long laughter, and then sustained chuckles, to punctuate his typical modest answer.
"Son of a farmer. An Urhobo man trained in the Delta and Benin, taught in Ondo, then went to study Art in Zaria and then taught art for many years at St.Gregory's College, Lagos. Retired now, to do what pleases me. Something that I like very much is to pass on the little I know to give confidence to the next generation that are coming after me- that life can be interesting, that they can achieve "
their goals, that our art in the country, which has been very important in the past, can also be very important now and take it’s rightful place in the world. What I am doing with the Harmattan Workshop, is really a way of paying back what I have enjoyed."
Bruce Onobrakpeya has enjoyed an extremely high and sustained international
acclaim for well over three decades.. Conveniently classified as one of the Zaria rebels jn contemporary Nigerian art, Onobrakpeya graduated in 1961 from the then newly established Nigerian College of arts, science and Technology (later to become Ahmadu Bello University) in Zaria where he specialised in painting and graphic art. He then obtained postgraduate Art Teacher's Certificate in 1962.
He is the most notable printmaking artist in Africa. In addition to the production of world-famous works, Onobrakpeya has made Art history for his experiments with various aspects of printmaking techniques, which yielded distinguished world-accepted results. Master printmaker and artist, Onobrakpeya is currently Nigeria's most collected, internationally exhibited and documented contemporary artist and doyen of the creative community.
Practising art and teaching art have been old twin passions in Bruce Onobrakpeya's life. Apart from his long stint at St Gregory's College, he has been an art consultant and resident guest artist in many institutions and colleges in Nigeria and abroad. These include the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan (1984), the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine, U.S.A. (July 1975), Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina, U.S.A. (August 1978). He was artist in Residence at the National Gallery of Art Zimbabwe, Harare and at MOJA: An African American Arts Festival, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A. both in 1991.
The idea for a Harmattan Workshop germinated over time, nourished by his lasting experiences as a teacher and art-workshop participant.
"My primary interest for teaching," he recalls, "and most importantly my interest for teaching in an informal environment was stimulated in Nigeria in the 1960s when I attended the Ulli Beier and Ru Van Rossem Mbari Mbayo workshops
in Ibadan, Oshogbo and Ife and the Haystack Maine workshop in the ' early 1970s in the United States of America. I liked what I went through in these workshops because they helped me bring out things in me, which were not fully developed when I was a student. I realised that being exposed to an informal workshop situation can bring out other possibilities which might change an artist's
direction from what the artist learnt as a student, to what real art is. What I have at the Harmattan Workshop is something I think will help people, whether they are already practising professionals or beginners, be themselves and bring out the potentials hidden in them that may not have been discovered through the normal, regimental art education:'
Onobrakpeya is also keen to emphasise that the Harmattan Workshop is not set-up to rival educational institutions. "We do not issue certificates that can be used to get jobs," he explains. "The Harmattan Workshop is aimed at helping the art institutions and government. We are just doing a bit to make sure that what the government cannot see to do and, what they don't have interest in, is not lost."
The first Harmattan Workshop was held in Agbarha-Otor in 1998. The curriculum of courses offered naturally included Onobrakpeya’s specialty, printmaking, and many other popular and not-so-popular art forms. There were just 14 participants in 1998. Now, yearly, an average of between 60 and 70 artists participate. Initially, the workshop was for one session of two weeks, and as from the 4th Harmattan Workshop in 2002 it was restructured into two consecutive two-week sessions. The workshop is also no longer free and now attracts a modest fee of N10, 000 per session inclusive of tuition, accommodation and board.
Just fewer than 400 participants have attended the seven annual Harmattan Work- shops. According to Ekpo Udo-Udoma, Administrator of the BOF and Coordinator of the Harmattan Workshop, the first workshop (in 1998) offered courses in printmaking, stone carving, painting (oil and water colour) and
mixed media. By the second one, metalwork ; and ceramics were introduced and in the fourth., bronze casting and jewellery. He introduced textile in the fifth, photography in the sixth and this year, digital art. "Progressively, we are introducing new things and we hope to continue," Udoma says, adding that, "Dr Bruce is interested in introducing blacksmithing and beadwork. "
What Onobrakpeya calls a principle of synthesis has determined the expansion in the courses offered at the workshop. "New techniques are introduced every year because we want to revisit techniques we are losing as well as bring in other ideas from outside. There are some other things done outside that we think can be added to our own artistic traditions here, to propel us forward in the business of artistic creativity. When these two ideas are married,
there is bound to be a new force which will bring our art to international prominence as great works, in our own lifetime and, in the future heighten the quality of the life we are living."
Bruce Onobrakpeya's many innovations in printmaking were results of "acidic accidents" and consequent experimentation to achieve permanent new techniques that have stood the test of time. This spirit of improvisation and innovation has become an essential principle of the annual Harmattan workshop sessions.
"Yes, printmaking is the main thrust of what we do at this workshop," Onobrakpeya admits. "It is the improvisation in materials for the development of printmaking that has led to a lot of things and techniques that we now experiment with at the Harmattan workshop."
Over the years, he has gathered younger Nigerian artists who have
distinguished themselves In their various fields to be facilitators and teachers at
the workshops. "We have brought in people in other fields of art who are also experimenting in their own areas and achieving a lot of very good results. Like Oladapo Afolayan who started the Stone Carving session in the workshop. He has actually brought back a lost tradition of stone carving in Nigeria. We had the Ikom and Esie monoliths, which are traditions of stone carv ing that died. Afolayan, who teaches at Auchi Polytechnic, has been transferring this skill and interest to the participants in this workshop at Agbarha-Otor. Many people who have gone to Art School and have never carved before have had the opportunity to try stone carving here, and the knowledge of this lost tradition has been brought back to life."
Instructors made every participant to carve stone at the first workshop. Subsequently, it has evolved into a specialisation, though over the years the number of participants in stone carving has been dwindling. Stones that are suitable for carving are found in Kogi and Kwara in the Jebba area. In addition, Nigeria's one thousand and one varieties of stone include marble. Tools and materials are the major constraints stone carvers face.
"What the Harmattan workshop has successfully done is to demystify stone carving," Afolayan postulates with measured pride. "When sculptors who are inquisitive and attracted try it, they all promise to try it for longer periods next time. We have been able to discover talent in Andrew Onobrakpeya who is a site supervisor at the Centre and Godwin Onobrakpeya who is based in Lagos. Both have been able to make steady progress and some sales of their stone carvings. The entire essence of stone carving is to create beauty, create something from within to express yourself. We make a statement."
Olu Amoda and Mike Omoighe, lecturers at the Yaba College of Technology, have both been facilitators in Metal Sculpture and Mixed Media respectively at the workshops. Onobrakpeya regards them as "experimental artists who use various media to express themselves." Amoda has attended many art workshops in Nigeria and around the world.
During the first session of the 5th Harmattan workshop in 2003, Amoda facilitated the workshop's first Metal Sculpture course. As part of the workshop's outreach programme, they invited 12 welders from Agbarha-Otor to participate in a special one-day session in the Metal Sculpture section. Amoda's verdict was that, "the outreach provided local craftsmen who operate in the area an opportunity to learn some new ideas they could apply to their welding practice."
The quality of life in the environment and community that house the Arts Centre and Workshop venue is of paramount importance to Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya and the Foundation. The role of art and the Centre in environment and community building is well entrenched into the activities of the Centre and the Harmattan workshops.
Mrs Olabunmi Ola-Afolayan, lecturer at the Department of Fashion and Clothing Technology at Auchi Polytechnic, is the Workshop facilitator for Textile. This year's Workshop was her third in a row. She is happy certain prejudices are dying and confident of the level of skills the workshop has to offer. "Although textile production in Nigeria has always been considered a ladies' profession we now have men too. What we do here is to teach them skills faster. We get participants directly involved with the practical aspects. At the workshop, participants can choose and acquire their skill faster."
Mrs. Ola-Afolayan facilitated Textile and Machine knitting at this year's Workshop. Her mixed class included artists, lecturers, learners and participants from Agbarha-Otor. Within one week, the participants' textile products were on exhibition. They were eager to assess their workshop experience.
For Mrs Pamela Cyril-Egware, lecturer, Fine Arts Department, Federal College of Educaion Technical, Omoku, Rivers State, it was her first-ever Harmattan workshop. "I have had the opportunity to mix with other artists and to get involved in the more professional aspect of art. I feel fulfilled as 1 have learnt new techhiques from commercial artists in printmaking and textiles as well." The economic prospects of textile production are bright and attractive to people who want to be self-reliant.
The Foundation invited girls and women from Agbarha-Otor to participate in the 2005 Textile and Machining Knitting two-week course. Miss Endurance Ovwighoriemu, an 553 student and Miss Felicia O. Evue, a teacher, were among the respondents. Pupil Ovwighoriemu declared that her future interest is to make and sell textiles. Miss Evue was ecstatic. up have learnt a lot being here and it has made me happy to be part of the 2005 Workshop. I can now make adire for sale, and eventually as a teacher I will teach my students." These three female participants gave unanimous credit to the skill-acquisition capacity of the Harmattan workshop as well as its outreach.
For Onobrakpeya, there are essential duties the Centre and Workshop must perform for their environment and community. It is all about being duty bound. "If an Arts Centre is established in this environment, it is a Centre which now stands to develop the environment and the community. So, the outreach programme is one of the first fruits of this development. It is a programme to bring art to the community. Our presence here also gives a sense of pride to the people in the community. We employ people in the environment as field workers, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, studio and workshop assistants, cooks and night watchmen. Our presence here is really a strong instrument for the development of this environment. Our outreach programme goes beyond Agbarha-Otor; we want to develop a wider environment and bigger community."
The magnetic field of the Harmattan workshop has been growing. There have been female academics from France and the United States, attending as participants cum researchers. From within the old Mid-West region it has attracted participants from Ughelli, Warri, Auchi Polytechnic, Abraka, Sapele and Benin. Participants have also come from Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Nsukka, Uyo, Zaria and Jos. All of which prompt Onobrakpeya to clarify. "Our idea of community is a very large geographical area which may include the entire Nigeria. That is the outreach.programme.
The mix of participants for the first 2005 session featured unusual firsts. For the first time two sisters, both full-time artists of note, Mrs Juliet Maja-Pearce based in Lagos and Miss Klara Nze based in Abuja, attended the Harmattan Workshop. Mrs. Maja-Pearce in her first participation registered for ceramics and printmaking, while her younger sister, participating in her third Harmattan Workshop, concentrated on oil painting and printmaking. There was some royalty too, in the person of Mrs Egbe, a grand daughter of Oba Akenzua II of Benin, who participated in printmaking.
One distinguished visitor was Perkins-Foss, author of the book and on-going International Exhibition on the Urhobo -When Gods and Mortals Meet, now an Urhobo Chief and long- time good ;friend of Dr Onobrakpeya and the Foundation. For the second 2005 session, there were for the first time, participants from Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and Cote d' Ivoire.
Onobrakpeyas assessment of the workshop's impact is pragmatic. "It is gaining ground internationally. Eventually, we want to be able to cater for South and East African artists and the whole international art community."
Raymond 0 Onodje, a University of Benin- trained Textile Designer and Art Teacher with the Post-Primary Education Board is from Agbarha-Otor and a real veteran of the Harmattan workshops; having attended all seven. His learning curve from the annual workshops is remarkable. "I was a crude and raw artist fresh in the principles in Art when I participated in the first Harmattan Workshop in 1998. At the workshops, I have now found out that there is more to art than school principles. We come here to share ideas and there is a lot of professionalism. The basic essence was to experiment and we have exploited this to the fullest. I have gone from textile to stone carving and I discovered some innate ability. I discovered a lot of hidden feelings for stone carving. I learnt to be more precise with my feelings and expressions. I have acquired a lot in the area of experience."
Samuel Ovraiti, a former Lecturer at Auchi Polytechnic, now a full-time studio artist, has been the facilitator for painting (oil and water colour) in many workshops. A well-renowned artist in his own right, Ovraiti highlights the interac- live techniques, which generate success in the painting courses. "We are here
to work together trying to find out new and better ways of expressing ourselves and also trying to learn from other, and older, people informally. It is a form of de-schooling. It is an opportunity for participants to enhance themselves by talking with people in their field who may not be doing things the way they do them." Ovraiti recalls that once it was a new and naIve painter whose works generated very useful discussions.
Clement Emodah, a ceramics expert and lecturer, has been the facilitator
for six consecutive ceramics sessions. Emodah admits that even in the
polytechnics and universities, ceramics does not attract many students. All the same, there have been encouraging breakthroughs for ceramics at the Harmattan workshops. He is rightly proud about the modern efficient kiln he and his friends have finally built at the Centre, an improvement on an earlier basic kiln. He explains, "The presence of the new functional kiln is the fulcrum and the centre of ceramics production, because if you produce any work and you don't fire it, it is not ceramics. In this workshop, we will now be able to do a good bjscuit firing followed by a good glaze firing. We can now produce ceramics of standard that can compete with any other work in the world."
As would be expected, printmaking is the most popular course at the Harmattan work- shops. The opportunity of learning from the master himself; whose innovative techniques and works have become world famous, is always attractive to participants. Onobrakpeya still teaches printmaking at Harmattan workshops. Outstanding professional artists who had earlier studied printmaking under him as interns also ably assist him. One such artist is Lara Ige-Jacks. Onobrakpeya describes her as "a very strong painter with wonderful strokes." She is also a print- making addict armed with a Masters degree from England. Ige- Jacks was the facilitator for printmaking at the first session of this year's workshop. Moses Unokwah, a graduate of Auchi Polytechnic and a long-time studio assistant at Bruce Onobrakpeya's Ovuomaroro Gallery and Studio in Papa Ajao, Lagos assisted her.
The Niger Delta Art Centre in Agbarha-Otor is the result of the expansion project for the Lagos-based Ovuomaroro Gallery and Studio of Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya. When the space in the Lagos Studio could no longer comfortably accommodate Onobrakpeya's students and assistants, he decided to set up the Agbarha- Otor Centre as an extension project a decade ago and, before the start of the annual Harmattan workshops. The main block of the new Centre, designed by Onobrakpeya's contemporary and fellow artist, Demas Nwoko, is very user- and visitor-friendly. It houses the prestigious Museum-Gallery and provides both exhibition and workspaces.
Onobrakpeya explains that, "the Art Centre embodies many things. The Gallery and Museum section is another aspect of the work of the Centre. It is necessary that some of the things that are produced, either here or else- where, are kept as an example of excellent things that students and people can learn from, either now or hereafter. We will construct places to e house artefacts."
It is now customary that months after the one-month long Harrnattan workshop sessions, a selection of some of the best art works produced in the various disciplines are collected and exhibited in a grand manner in Lagos. This has helped to raise the artistic profile of the Harmattan workshops, while also yielding needed revenue to administer the Centre and workshop.
The Centre and Workshop get some funding from Ford Foundation. Individuals like Perkins Foss and many others help either through direct financial donations or by buying art works from the Centre and Workshop.
What then, is the current state of the contemporary art scene in Nigeria? Four centuries ago, when the Europeans first encountered Benin Art, bronze and ivory works, they never believed that black Africans made such excellent art pieces. Since then, have there been the same cross-cultural responses from Europe and America to the work of the Bruce Onobrakpeya's generation of modern Nigerian contemporary artists?
Onobrakpeya answers in parable. "The Western people, like the tortoise, think they have all the wisdom in the world. The tortoise gathered all the wisdom, put them in a calabash, and was trying to climb up to hide it so that nobody else would have any wisdom. Some- body then said to the tortoise, look, put that calabash behind you so that your hands and legs will be free to help you climb better. He did it, and later realised that he did not have all the wisdom in the world. What the West did to us was that first they gathered our artefacts and took them away. The beauty of those artefacts inspired their own artists. With colonialisation, we started to practise art in the modern way, and they said we were aping the West. When we do things that are very, very traditional, oh they say we are copying our past. So, you never can win. But we went on and never stopped. Now... now, the West is recognising Nigerian and African artists as a force in the 21st Century."
Bruce Onobrakpeya has graciously received the long loud applause of respect and appreciation from the international art world, and he is ready to take a bow away from further limelight. He is Chairman of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, which is an instrument, and government statute that has built donor-confidence. The aims of the Foundation include a project to help with developing the different ideas that are connected with artistic and cultural development in Urhobo land, Nigeria and the rest of the world.
The Foundation serves as an instrument to accomplish these goals and protect the future of the Centre and the Harmattan workshops.
Onobrakpeya is confident that the future of the Centre and Harmattan workshop are well assured even without him being involved. "The future is very bright. This place has come to stay. What we are doing now is grooming people who have been here and enjoyed the facilities and opportunities, to take over the Centre. What I am asking them is to be ready to take over and carry on the good work we think we are doing here. In all this, I am very thankful to God, and I accept in all humility all he has given me, and pray that I be Ied on to accomplish his will and, pray that someone more able should take over the affair and develop it on divine lines."

New Book : Jewels of Nomadic Images


439 b/w and colour illustrations196 pages
ISBN: 978-2509-57-4
Binding: Soft Cover
First published: 01/June/2009

Publisher: Ovuomaroro Studio Press
Subject: African Studies
STATUS: Available


This book was originally planned as a catalogue accompanying an exhibition of a selection of artworks titled Jewels of Nomadic Images, created by the artist Bruce Onobrakpeya over a period of three decades (1978 – 2008) The pictures in the book are called Jewels not only because many of them are wearable, but also, they are attempts to capture life’s essence. They are further described as nomadic images as several of the artworks shown in the book, have gone through some kind of metamorphosis before attaining their present state. The artist takes advantage of the dynamic technique of printmaking and experimentation, to manipulate the same motif or idea to produce different design effects. Tiny line engravings have been developed and transformed into low relief sculptures called plastocasts and in some cases enlarged into bigger reliefs or paintings, and vice versa. It is this process of transformation, or migration of a design from one artistic medium, size or combination, to another, that is described as nomadic images, from which the book also gets it’s title. Features of the jewels of the nomadic Images are the aesthetic effect, various art pieces have especially when they are grouped or shown as installations. These images are at the same time, historical, cultural and innovative. The very essence of the jewels and images in the book, have been captured, in the opening chapters in essays by, Olu Amoda, the exhibition’s curator, Peju Layiwola and Ekpo Udo Udoma. Their essays give insights into a better understanding and appreciation of the works featured in the book, which is also richly and vividly illustrated with over 435 pictures, most of which are in colour. The book also gives opportunity, for the artist to explain the thoughts behind several designs, which have been profusely displayed in panels or used individually as jewelries. The final chapters, focus on a host of imaginary images, appearing singly or in groups, which were a dance series initially inspired by the novel “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” written by Amos Tutola. A lot of the names given to the pictures speak volumes of the creator of the artworks, Urhobo-centric worldview. Atasa is the Urhobo name given for instance, to narrations of experiences, or the proclamation of ideas. Some of these concepts have been treated successfully by the artist, as figures which have been displayed or paraded in horizontal formats to reflect Urhobo calligraphy called Ibiebe. There are also pictures which show tunics made of sack cloth and leather, over which pendants and other objects are suspended. The Jewels of Nomadic Images narrates a compelling story, mostly through its richly illustrated pictures, of the immensely fertile artistic landscape of Africa, as seen through the eyes of award winning artist Bruce Onobrakpeya. He seems to be affirming too, that Africa has emerged from its colonial past, and is once again asserting its own identity.

1 Three Essays
2 Jewelry
3 Nomadic Masquerades (Installations)
4 Millennium Masks
5 Dance to Enchanting Songs
6 Atasa (Narrating Experiences)
7 Tunics of Nomadic Images

Bruce Onobrakpeya is among the most successful artists to have emerged in West Africa during the 20th century, with continuing and commanding influence on the generation of artists in Nigeria, who have come to maturity in the post colonial period. – John Picton is Professor Emeritus at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) of the University of London.

Onobrakpeya’s jewels are not just mere objects for body adornment. They are a conflation of memory and histories of all kinds – economic, social and religious. Indeed Onobrakpeya like the shinning metal foil plates that characterize his works, illuminates and reflects his society and the unending conversations between cultures – Peju Layiwola lecturer: Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos. Nigeria.

The jewels and images like other objects are charged with tiny bits of spiritual essence, when many of them, though unrelated are assembled or fused in form of mixed media, the product is a visual feast which affects the observer like magic.-- Olu Amoda, lecturer: School of Fine and Applied Art of Yaba College of Technology, Lagos Nigeria.

The artist’s ability to adopt a childlike attitude that enables him to pick up ideas and inspiration from almost anything, helps him to identify new and fascinating areas of artistic exploration very easily. This to all intent and purposes, is the success story of an artist like Bruce Onobrakpeya — Ekpo Udo Udoma is of the Visual Art Association of Nigeria.

Always eager to experiment with new things, Bruce Onobrakpeya has found inspiration in certain aspects of African traditional dress sense, particularly the necklaces of sub-Saharan Africa. – Moses Ohiomokhai is Curator of the Quintessence Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Different Periods of the Art of Bruce Onobrakpeya

The Palm Wine Women from The Sunshine Period 1965
A Window into the Art of Bruce Onobrakpeya: A Slice of a Master's Oeuvre

A definitive work on the art of Bruce Onobrakpeya would have to be an intense exercise in order to capture the true essence of the artist, this exhibition, which has been confined to a two-week event that is part of several other activities, lined up to commemorate his 77th birthday, would not do justice to the subject. Therefore this presentation aims to highlight a few epochal pieces that will help the audience appreciate the influences of the artist and his response to various scenarios within the Nigerian sociopolitical milieu.
For ease of interpretation, the exhibition is divided into eight segments. Each of these segments represents specific periods in the artist's studio practice, which spans a period of 50 years.

The first segment is the Mythical Realism (1957-1962), which represents paintings, and lino cut prints that depict folklore themes, and Northern landscapes (Zaria). This is the period of his early development as an' artist, which coincided with Nigeria's Independence. The idea of projecting the African personality was of major importance to the artists of this period. It was also at this time that the Zaria Arts Society, the forerunner of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), was formed and accompanied by the propagation of the concept of "natural synthesis". Works in this category include the paintings: Awhaire & the Bird, Hunters Secret, and A Tree in Northern Landscape, and the Lino Cut Prints Zaria Indigo, Two Faces, Boli Woman and Awakening (Negritude)

The second segment focuses on the artist's workshop experiments and his Bronzed lino relief series otherwise known as the Sunshine Period (1962-1967). This is the period when he started to attend various workshops. Some of the popular works of this period include Leopard in a Cornfield (Iino print), Scarecrow (silkscreen) and Man & Two Wives (silkscreen)

The Mask and the Cross (1967-1978) series represents the period when the artist executed several Christian themes commissioned by the Church such as Nativity /I (Iino engraving), The Last Days of Christ (plastocast), Obara Ishoshi (bronzed Iino relief) and Pope John Paul (metal foil)., as well as the Plastography Period, a time when the artist developed a lot of ideas he started in Zaria in the late 1950s and early 1960s such as Travellers II, Songs of Life, and Rain & Cry at Otoragba.

The fourth segment represents the historical vignettes. These are pictures known as the Symbols of Ancestral Groves (1978-1984) They depict historical figures, mostly royalty from the Benin Kingdom such as Oba Aka. Other works in this period include Eghrighri and Ibiebe.

The Sahelian Masquerades (1984-1988) were pieces created to highlight the destruction of the environment These works focused on the on the cultures of the Sahelian regions Works in this period are also loaded with a lot of political undertones such as Horns Of Freedom, and Edjo Aton (principles of good governance), which draws a lot of attention to role of government in relation to the issues of desertification.

The Mask Series (1990-1995) represent the development of images, which inspired depictions of masks treated in different print media that bring out the philosophies of the people. They also address' the subject of change. Images I and /I as well as A Panel of 15 represent this period.

Social Unrest (1995-1999) is the period of strife within the society. This is represented by large paintings, which are prayers for divine help against military
dictatorship and political instability. Here we have drawings and pictures, which focus on the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa. On the front burner. are the ecological and socio-economic problems. In this segment you have works like Ekugbe (Unity), Nude & Protest and Smoke from the Broken Pipe

Finally we enter the Installations Period (1995 - Date), which is the period the artist embarked on installations as an art form. These works are characterized by the arrangement of different discarded materials to create works of art. These installations were essentially to draw attention to importance of protecting our environment. Works in this category include Animals of Eve, Adjene, New City III and Voices of silenced Voices.

Clearly one can see the nuances of the artist and how his works have been closely tied to the Nigerian condition. Working over a period of up to five decades, the art of Bruce Onobrakpeya has gradually transformed from isolated personal view points to more nationalistic depictions as seen in Nude and Protest and Smoke from the Broken Pipe that have now become a fountain of socio-political and historical reference points from which all are free to share.

Bruce Onobrakpeya

Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR, FSNA

Bruce Onobrakpeya was born in Agbarha-Otor, in present day Delta State of Nigeria on August 30, 1932. He is a printmaker, painter and sculptor and one of Africa’s best known and most highly respected artists. He has been described as a ‘living legend’ who was 'responsible for the renaissance in contemporary art in Nigeria'. He has had a professional career spanning several decades and many notable exhibitions at the Tate Modern Gallery, London, National Museum of African Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and Malmö Konsthall, Sweden to name a few.
Bruce is a well renowned and established name in art circles around the world.Bruce Onobrakpeya is a living memorial to diversity and has challenged and changed the art scene in Nigeria and the world over the past 50 years.Since his first one-man exhibition in Delta State in 1959, he hasparthibitions in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. His works are featured in several important public and private collections in Nigeria and abroad, such as the Vatican Museum in Rome (in commemoration of the 80th birthday of Pope paul VI and for which he received a gold medal in appreciation) and the National Museum of African Arts in Washington, D.C. U.S.A. In April of last year, one of Bruce’s works was sold for the largest sum ever paid for a piece of art in Nigeria.
2 monumental pieces of his artworks:Scavaging In a Lost Paradise, a mixed Media and installation, 2006 and Voices of Silenced Voices a 2006 painting and Mixed media will show all month long at the Harmattan Gallery in Victoria Island, Lagos. Bruce is published with his most recent book, in June 2009, being Jewels of Nomadic Images, a compelling narrative with illustrations on the disappearing culture of the environmentally challenged and endangered people of the Niger Delta.

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