Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holiday Season

With Very Best Wishes to you for a Merry and Beautiful Christmas


2011 New Year full of Joy & Prosperity!

Thank you for your patronage throughout the year.

Sincere Greetings

Harmattan Workshop Gallery

10 Elsie Femi Pearse street,
Victoria island Lagos, Nigeria

website: www.bofoundation.org
Email: Bofound.ng@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Masterpieces of Nigerian Art

Masterpieces of Nigerian Art Catalogue

Title: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art
Author: Ekpo Eyo
ISBN: 978-878-8204-08-4
Binding: Hard Cover
Year of Publication: 2008
Publisher: Federal Republic of Nigeria

Masterpieces of Nigerian Art is a bold tribute to the artistic heritage of the country's ancestors. The works included in this colourful 255-paged book are spectacular and breath-taking. The quality that shines through this book could only have come from such master art scholar as Prof. Eyo. Works in the book tell the story in its entirety about the great skills, vision and deep thoughts that went into the works. What comes through is a feeling of awe as the reader is drawn to drink deep from the creative wisdom that fashioned them. The two hundred pieces presented in this book are clear testimony to a glorious civilization that the present generation can be proud of, which was by no means primitive.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest Artist of the Month: Midahuen Yves (Midy)

Midy is an emerging West African artist from The Republic of Benin. He
got his initial impetus for creating professionally from training
with Ludovick Fadairo, to whom he was apprenticed for several years.
In artistic circles, Fadairo's name bears with it a mark of
distinction, as he is widely recognized as a master painter. Midy got
further exposure from his academic training in Ghana.

Midy is widely traveled in the West African sub region and has also
featured his works in Paris, France, where he also visited. In Nigeria
his works have been shown at the Harmattan Gallery 2007 and The Art
Expo in 2009 and 2010 respectively.His works have also been featured
at the 2009 edition of ARESUVA, an important biennale of visual arts
which takes place in Abuja

Midy's current works imbibe with it the institutional philosophy of
the Harmattan Workshop Series, an Annual event organized by the Bruce
Onobrakpeya Foundation. At this art gathering and retreat for visual
artists, which he has attended several times, best practices in the
formal, informal and traditional arts are shared with participants.
These ideas serve to sustain and rekindle their artistry and
creativity. Midy's current works show examples of the gains of this
vision and therefore must be commended.

Midy and a host of others artists like Ovraiti and Duke Asidere, who
show demonstrable examples of understanding this important and
critical fusion of best practices in the arts, deserve our support and
commendation. Midy and artists of the Harmattan Workshop
Experience, serve the important role of not just being relevant in our
collective search for community, but also answering the question, by
redefining the issues, of what new Role the Contemporary arts of
Africa must fill, to produce it's most enduring images.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bruce Onobrakpeya on El Anatsui and the Annual Harmattan Workshop Experience

“El Anatsui’s works have not only impacted on several upcoming artists, but his work continues to impact on, even his peers. It is this kind of relevance and creativity that institutionally the Harmattan workshop Series strives to rekindle and replicate in the contemporary art of Africa.”

Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya in 2009, speaking during the presentation of the Prince Claus Fund Award to the Nigerian/Ghanaian artist El Anatsui at the Dutch Embassy in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria on the 18th of Dec 2009. The award was accompanied by a modest purse of 25,000 euros. This award is widely considered a befitting tribute to the artist whose work, while in Nigeria in the last 35 years has influenced a lot of younger artists.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010



Beginning from the Nigerian Independence 1960 which is 50
years ago the contemporary Art of Nigeria continue to grow,
striving to be more and more relevant to the people who now
use it as a potential instrument of change.
The Nigerian government, the elites and the ordinary people
appreciate it as a means of passing on folklore, culture
and values; creating identity, effective cultural
diplomacy, a source of renewable wealth, a potent tool for
creating awareness and the development of communities.
Artists are respected and the profession is now
considered a worthy one. Therefore contemporary Nigerian
Art has moved from hobby to big business. And from being
provincial, to world class. However, there are still many
things to be fixed in order to reap the greatest benefits
derivable from art.

Internationally, our contemporary art works have equally
moved from ethnographic shelves to being hung side by side
with the best from all over the world. Within the period,
Nigerian contemporary art works , created at home or in
disapora have not only being entered for the world’s most
prestigious biennales, but have also won the much envied
gold medals. The art works produced by Nigerian artists
today, have now been accepted by the West as both
contemporary and modern, acknowledging the fact that as
members of the global village we have the freedom to draw
from and upgrade our inherited values as well as
domesticate good ideas which are foreign. And that whatever
form or philosophy the contemporary Nigerian art adopts,
the important thing is that it fulfills the role of a
barometer for measuring our times.

The first agent in this continuing development is the
Federal and State governments which set up art schools
institutions and programmes. The independence Trade Fair
which showcased art was one of the programmes which started
off the period under consideration. Works of pioneer
artists like Aina Onabolu, Ben Enwonwu and Akinola Lasekan
were shown side by side with those of younger artists
amongst whom were some students from Zaria (N.C.A.S.T) who
would later be credited with a philosophy that
revolutionized our post independence art.

Furthermore, in 1977 she staged FESTAC which gave the
contemporary art an international focus. This kind of
boast was repeated in recent years, although at a lesser
scale by other international shows called ARESUVA (2008
and 2009). From time to time either working alone, in
partnership with UNESCO or other national governments, the
federal government continue to boast contemporary art with
awards to deserving practioners or to canonize projects or

Over the past 50 years, private non profit organization
established by individuals have played very important role
in the growth of our contemporary art. Described as
migratory education by Prof. John Agberia because they are
seasonal, art workshops have become forum for informal art
education. Instructive and interactive, skills are
introduced while ideas are shared by all participants
creating freedom for experiments with new materials while
old and dying art forms are revived. And because the
workshops bring artists and other people from all over
Nigeria, West Africa and abroad, it helps to engender
understanding and peace. In many ways it has helped to
upgrade the communities in which they are cited. It was
started in early 60s by Prof. Ulli Beier at the Artists and
Writers Club Ibadan and was later moved to Mbari Mabyo,
Oshogbo and then to Ori Olokun in Ife. Inspired by the
successful experiments other workshops were established at
Asele Institute in Nimo by Uche Okeke, at new Culture
Studio Ibadan by Demas Nwoko and at the Harmattan workshop
Agbarha-Otor by Bruce Onobrakpeya. The workshop as
alternative to academic art education has produced a number
of eminent Nigerian artists.

Some foreign missions in Nigeria, clubs and individuals
have contributed to the development of our art. The
British council, Geothe Institut, USIS, Alliance Francaise,
Italian Cultural Institute, to mention a few, not only
frequently showcased works of promising Nigerian artists
but also sent some of them abroad to study and exhibit. The
“Thursday show” organized by Jean Kennedy and her husband
Dick Wolford passed from one expatriate to another in the
60s and 70s, connecting artists to collectors. Large
Multinational Corporation like Shell, Guiness, Nestle,
Texaco, Ford Foundation and Art House Contemporary Limited
e.t.c and many individuals sponsor art exhibitions give
grants to run workshops as well as publish books and
facilitating other related art activities. In no small
measure, these contributed to the development of
contemporary Nigerian art.

Beginning with Gallery Labac in the 60s, contemporary
Nigerian art today attracts a large number of commercial
art galleries which are gradually developing into secondary
art markets. But by far the greatest impetus to the
development of contemporary art in Nigeria is the imergence
of art auctions. It started with the Nimbus Gallery in
Lagos and in 2008, Art House contemporary limited, under
the directorship of Kavita Challerams floated a second
auction which created supper prizes, setting off a ripples.
Now, contemporary Nigerian art works are being collected
for auctions even in London and New York.

A few very serious collectors all over the country have
emerged and have done the nation good by buying and
retaining good art pieces which should have found their way
out of the country. In the Lagos axis, names like Sam
Olagbaju, Yemisi Shyllon, Apostle John Edokpolo and chief
Odimayo have now become household and are responsible for
the leap in the development.

Religion has always had immense contribution to the
development of art in any given age. It has done the same
for Nigeria within the last 50 years. Christian religion
is clearly on the lead. St. Paul Catholic Church in Ebute
Meta for instance, is like a museum. Sculptures (mainly
carvings) by Fakeye, Osifo, Otoro and the paintings of the
Stations of the Cross by this writer Bruce Onobrakpeya,
draw visitors. The stained glass decoration by Yusuf
Grillo and David Dale are attractions in many of the
churches, Demas Nwoko developed Nigerian architectural
style which he has used to build the Dominican monastry
in Ewu, Delta State.

The other side of the story is that the new churches with
ever increasing population are not encouraging the use of
art particularly those inspired by traditional motifs and
symbols. Some sculptures in public square have been
condemned as fetish and destroyed. These draw backs not
withstanding, there has been resurgence in the celebration
of local festivals and carnivals in our main cities,
bringing back the masquerades thus encouraging the
creation of new art pieces.

Our artists working assiduously at different levels are
important factor in the development of the contemporary
arts. He or she is a teacher, a mentor, a writer, a
documentor, a researcher, an architect, an innovator, a
publisher, curator etc. As a result, there is
collaboration amongst the different discipline of the arts.
The artists have themselves generated considerable
literature to help people understand better what they are
doing, and have contributed new terms like Uli,
plastography, Ibiebe etc to the international art

The media have played a vital role in the growth of the
arts. It criticizes and amplifies what the artist have
created, allowing the messages to reach the larger society.
It makes both the artists and their art works very important
and therefore marketable.

As a concluding part of this sketch one must mention that
the emergence of contemporary art as a force in our overall
development would have yielded more fruits if some aspects
of it have not been neglected. For example, the endowment
policy has not been ratified by the government. Artists
work under poor conditions and no legal backing to make
them claim royalties, particularly those arising from
resale of art works in the secondary markets or auctions.

The country lacks art collection policy and good
infrastructure. Many of our best works are allowed to
leave the country. Corporate bodies and individual are not
given the tax incentives to enable them buy and donate
pieces to galleries and museums. Artist groups
particularly the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) which
have membership in almost every state of the federation is
not given adequate subvention to enable it function
property in the country as well as participate in
programmes of International Art Association (IAA). With
these and more gaps filled, Nigerian contemporary art in
this first part of the 21st century will help the country
to attain greater heights.

Bruce Onobrakpeya
July 2010.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bruce Onobrakpeya is Recipient of National Creativity Award 2010

The Nigerian Copyright Commission has nominated Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya as the recipient of the National Creativity Award 2010, as part of the commemoration of this year's National Day of Creativity, that was marked on Tuesday, 14th September 2010.

In recognition of the importance of creativity and contributions of authors to national development, the Federal government in 1995 declared Sept 14 as the National Creativity day. Subsequently, The National Creativity Day was instituted to honour outstanding personalities in the Creative industry.

According to Dr. Adebambo Adewopo, who is also the Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission. “The award was given to Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya as a further recognition of his numerous achievements, as a multi media artist who has not only pioneered a uniquely Nigerian technique in deep-etching, but has also achieved a harmonious blend between traditional and contemporary expressions, without compromising the artistic integrity of the medium. As a pioneering graduate of the famous Zaria Art School (Ahmadu Bello University), he has through his wealth of knowledge brought honour to his profession and Nigeria, while his various training and mentoring programmes continue to discover and inspire young talents in the field of visual arts”

The last recipient was Chinua Achebe a distinguished literary author.

Bruce Onobrakpeya who is also the receipient of the Living Human Treasure Award (2006) by UNESCO, turned 78 in August 30th, this year.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

7th Harmattan Workshop Catalogue

The book Agbarha-Otor 2005, edited by John Agberia and Pat Oyelola, is a documentation of lectures, seminars, artworks, and other noteworthy activities that emerged from the 7th Harmattan workshop held between February 24 and March 23, 2005, at Agbarha-Otor in Delta State, Nigeria. Primarily, it is an exhibition catalogue of all the artworks produced in the various sections of the workshop. The exhibition of artworks takes place in the same year usually towards the end of the year.
Book will be formally Launched on 2nd Oct. 2010 at the Harmattan Gallery.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Birthday of the Month of August

Bruce Onobrakpeya is one of Africa’s best known and most highly respected artists. A Nigerian Urhobo printmaker, painter and sculptor, he has been described as a “living legend” who was ‘responsible for the renaissance in contemporary art in Nigeria’. He is acknowledged as being one of the leading print-makers in the world and credited with significant advances in printmaking techniques. In the early 1960s, he was a leading member of the ‘Zaria Revolutionaries’ who changed the course of art from a reliance on European concepts and practice towards a distinct African aesthetic. The fusion of his training in western techniques and his own heritage and creativity, produced an exciting new art which expresses the vitality of Africa’s great traditions in a modern style for the contemporary world. He also helped to establish the Society of Nigerian Artists in 1964.
Bruce Onobrakpeya was born in Agbarha-Otor, in the Ughelli Local Government area of Delta State, Nigeria in 1932. He studied Fine art at the Nigerian College of arts, Science and technology, Zaria (now Ahmadu Bello University), and graduated in 1961. He taught art at the old western Boys’ High School, Benin City, his alma mater, Ondo Boys High School, Ondo and St. Gregory’s College, Lagos, at various times between 1953 and 1980, where he nurtured successive generations of art students, some of whom have themselves grown to become famous names in the field. He has worked as a guest teacher and artist in residence in Europe and U.S.A., and has participated in over 100 exhibitions in Nigeria and around the world. Bruce Onobrakpeya’s works are in many international collections, including the Vatican Museum in Rome, the National Museum for African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C., and the Museum of African and African American Art and antiques, New York. His art is also represented in the collection of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 11, Head of the commonwealth, and in the collection of various statesman and celebrities around the world.
His public commissions range from murals for the Nigerian independence Exhibition pavilion (1960) and the Idi-Araba site of the university of Lagos, now College of medicine (1963) to a design of 1/6d Nigerian postage stamp in 1970 and glass etched panels for the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
Bruce Onobrakpeya is developing an international art centre that will include folk museum of art, as well as a gallery of Contemporary African art in Agbarha-Otor, delta state. The centre has hosted the Annual Harmattan Workshop Series for visual artists since inception in 1998, this centre was initiated and sponsored by Bruce with support from corporate organizations. It was created with a vision to provide opportunities for artists to come together to experiment, share ideas and carry out research, the workshop which is also one of the longest running in Africa, has gained international recognition and is the only such forum for artists in Nigeria, where artists of all backgrounds come together for up to 6 weeks to engage in artistic and academic projects.
Bruce Onobrakpeya has received numerous prizes and awards, including the British Council Award (1969); the Pope Paul V1 Gold Medal for participating in an exhibition to commemorate the Pope’s 80th birthday celebrations (1977); the Full-Bright-Hays Award (1979), the Solidra Circle Award (1985); an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Ibadan (1989); Fellowship of Nigerian Artist (1989); Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) National Merit Award (2002) and Living Human Treasure Award (2006) by UNESCO and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

‘If we must use art to unite Africans...’

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 00:00 By Tajudeen Sowole Art - Arts

When Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF) had a reception for its foreign guest, Ludovick Fadairo, TAJUDEEN SOWOLE found out that the yawning gap between African artists and governments cut across the continent.

VISITING Beninois artist, Ludovick Fadairo has warned his counterparts on the consequence of depending on governments’ initiatives in using art and culture to address Africa’s quest for unity and economic empowerment.
Fadairo who was the guest of Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF) stated this during the weekend while speaking on African unity and the failure of leadership in the continent.
African artists, he argued, “have the challenge of confronting politicians’ lack of respect for art if we must use art to unite Africans.”
Fadairo, 63, is a recipient of UNESCO Prize for Promotion of Arts (2004) and one of Africa’s renowned multimedia artists.
The artist who spoke through an interpreter explained that because art takes its strength from the larger society, artists can still impart on the people with little or no government’s contributions.
Perhaps a model of government’s effort towards integrating art into the economy of the continent is the two editions-old African Regional Summit and Exhibition on Visual Art (ARESUVA). Organized by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) Abuja, it’s designed to promote visual art as a strategy for achieving rapid economic development in the African region within the context of the African Union’s (AU) New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). Such initiatives, Fadairo noted, often come with arrogance from governments. Artist, he stressed, should use their art to challenge the “arrogance of politicians given the fact that money used for such initiatives comes from the people.” Neglect of art and culture by African leaders, he warned has reached an alarming state.
In African art and culture lies the solution to the economic empowerment of the continent, Fadairo argued. “Nearly everything the world needs has been invented by the west. The only thing that the west cannot create or re-invent is African art and culture.” The artist however lamented that the leadership of the continent is yet to recognize this fact. He cited example of a recent situation in “Mali when the government had 0.3 per cent of its budget for art and culture.”
Responding, his host and Executive Director of BOF, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya (MFR) stated that artists can collaborate with governments by “starting some initiatives” to prove a point that indeed, “we are relevant in the development of the continent.” Onobrakpeya however urged artists to develop “spiritual commitment” for consistency to enable them gain confidence of the people. He also likened Fadairo’s thoughts on artists’ resurgence to a “confederation” under which practitioners can form a common front.
Still not convinced of the sincerity of governments of the continent, Fadairo advised younger artists to take cue from Onobrakpeya who – without government’s funding – has used his art to empower the people of his immediate environment and beyond. He mentioned the Harmattan Workshop initiative which holds at Agbarha Otor, Delta State as one of the contributions of Onobrakpeya which has proven that indeed, African art has a role to play in economic emancipation. The harmattan workshop, which attracts participants from across the country trains interested natives of Agbahar Otor every year in art and crafts. Fadairo said, “although I have not attended the workshop, but I have heard so much about it and look forward to taking part.”
And just in case anyone wants to keep faith with assistance from overseas, Fadairo, insisted that, “we should not wait for grants to come from abroad.”
Perhaps a good model of overseas-funded art project in Africa is the Dak’Art biennale, which holds in Dakar, Senegal every two years. Fadairo disagreed, arguing that such grants come with conditions, which only serve the interests of the donors. In fact, he disclosed that, currently, France’s funding of Dak’Art is going through a crisis as a result of sudden ideological differences between the two governments as regards contents of the biennale. He traced the issue to the 2006 edition when France “dictated to the organisers to feature only sculptures and installations.” Fadairo argued that such dictate is unacceptable and contrary to the spirit of self-expression. He also noted that, politically, “President Abdullah Wade of Senegal is not in good terms with the French government.” It is therefore expected that eventually, Dak’Art, will suffer further funding from France, he warned.
As the visitor was taken on a tour of his host’s Ovuomaroro Studio and Gallery, he stressed that Onobrakpeya’s work is a typical example of what he described as inherent self-expression of Nigerian and Anglophone artists. Comparatively, artists from French speaking countries of Africa, he argued, are not as independent minded. He likened this to the difference in the colonial ideology of the former French and English colonial masters. He argued that, “the French manipulated the people’s psyche before colonising them. The English, though colonised the people, but not their mental ability.”
The French attitude, he said, has not changed till date which perhaps explains why “my work is not popular in France. Any artist whose work is like Fadairo’s is not accepted in France.” He said, he has been able to confront this imperial mentality because “my Yoruba culture is strong enough to challenge any western ideology.”
And the commonality of ancestral artistic expression in the work of Fadairo and his host came to bare on a brief introductory ritual at the beginning of the reception: there was an exchange of cultural values. Onobrakpeya had presented kola nuts and a little sum of money to his guest and asked for a blessing of the reception. Fadairo, in return accepted the Urhobo tradition of his host just as he requested to add “my culture which says when a young man knows how to wash his hands, he shall dine with the elders.”
Fadairo gave his host a gift of hand-woven cap and slippers. He said the gifts “are symbols of crown and power” to a print master “whose work has been an inspiration to me.”
Onobrakpeya, in return, showed that self- documentation has been part of his strength as he presented his last book Jewels of Nomadic Images and two CDs titled Bruce Onobrakpeya: Brief Introduction and Harmattan Workshop 2009. To update his visitor on the recent development in Nigeria’s visual art scene, Onobrakpeya also gave Fadairo the catalogue of Art Expo 2009. Receiving the gifts, Fadairo said the honour “is not just for me, but the ancestors of African art as well.” He also stressed that in documentation, the contemporary must not take over the past.”
Earlier, Onobrakpeya had presented a copy of the book Jewels of Nomadic Images to U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders.
Fadairo is currently living and working in Bingerville, Ivory Coast.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ekiti Kete:People and Places

Recently in Ado Ekiti, the capital city of Ekiti State, was the exhibition Ekiti Kete: People and Places. An exhibiting of paintings and photography showcasing the cultural affinity and tourism potential of Ekiti State.

The exhibition which ran from April 28, lasted till May 10, 2010. The exhibition took pace at the reception area of the governor’s office in Ado Ekiti. The exhibition highlighted over 30 experimental works done by New York based Ekiti indigene Olusegun Fayemi.

Fayemi in the last 30 years has focused his energy, on his work as a documentary photographer traveling widely internationally, lecturing and sharing through several of his award winning photography books, images that seek to capture and celebrate Africans in a positive light.

The themes captured in this exhibition spread through the entire gamut of traditional practices, historical landmarks and people, folk and cultural practices

2 works on exhibit, that were of particular interest was that of a black and white work which was a monochrome pigment print on paper. The picture shows the pose of a titled older man, possibly a chief or bale, rendered majestically in a long flowing robe called agbada in western Nigeria. The robe is hand woven and done in the traditional hand made Aso-Oke, a craft native to the Ekiti people and the rest of Yoruba land. The gentleman is sited and can be seen wearing a traditional beaded crown with matching ornamented shoe, depicting royalty. He is also holding a decorated scepter or staff adorned with colorful beads and fly wisk, both indicative of class status or power and authority over a people.

The man who is also royalty and king, in this black and white picture beckons through his highly decorated regalia, the viewer to behold the majesty of Ekitiland. This piece represents a prayer for the preservation of the grandeur of the obaship or other positions of traditional influence and institutions in Ekiti land

The second is the Ikogosi waterfall, another pigment print, done in mild hues of colors. Here we see an attempt by the artist to give us an inner glimpse of the exhilarating pulsation of the victorious water falls of Ikogosi, considered by many, as the pride of all in Ekitiland. The picture represents a metaphor of the undwindling, inimitable, and God given strength, vigour and stamina of the people of Ekitiland.The water fall also speaks of the fervent prayers of the people of Ekiti land to provide leadership in the areas of culture, education, agriculture and industry. A prayer consistent with the aspirations of many parts of Nigeria.

Fayemi’s works given the experimental range of media used, places him in a class of his own among artists who use the photographic medium. He is however part of the elite corp of very passionate Nigerian photographers like Don Baber, Pa Ojekere, Sunmi Smart Cole and Tam Fiofori whose works seek to redress the image of the Nigerian and by extension the African, as a largely disconnected, exotic, and often time, victim, and a creature of the circumstances he finds himself. Fayemi’s images in Ekiti Kete presents with such freshness the image of the African as very much connected with the larger scheme of things, whether spiritual or physical and ultimately, indeed very much a shaper of his of his or her own destiny. We see through Fayemi’s lenses the faces of victorious Africans who are ready to assert and hold their own in today’s world, in a most befitting and dignifying way.

Fayemi’s exhibition titled Ekiti Kete was clearly a joy to behold. The exhibition establishes his mastery of multiple experimental media in photography. It also gives him great credit as a documentary photographer in search of Community, however defined. This exhibition which is the first of its kind in Ekiti land suggests that the people of Ekiti State have such a rich repertoire of artistry and culture, and are willing to share this with the larger world. Every part of Nigeria can take a cue from this.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tribute to Fred Archibong (1959 - 2009)

Fred Archibong (1959- 2009)

Young Fred went to school at the prestigious Federal Government College, Warri in present day Delta State of Nigeria, in the late 70’s. He easily excelled in the Fine Arts. In fact it is on record that in his graduation year from high school, he won most of the prizes available at the secondary school level, in fine art, in the then Mid-Western region of Nigeria.
He later left for Chicago in the U.S., where for a short while, he studied dance and choreography, before proceeding to the Chicago School of Fine Art to study Fine Art, where he specialized in sculpture.

On his return to Nigeria, in 1988, Fred dived neck deep into the very turbulent professional life, of being a full time practicing Studio artist in Lagos. In this regard Fred was a pace setter, as there were very few, full time artists working in Lagos or anywhere in West Africa at that time.

Fred is easily remembered for his monumental sculptural pieces which were executed in cement or fiber glass in his Bode Thomas studio in Suru-Lere, Lagos. His teeming number of apprentices made it possible for him to execute his art works and commissions very fast, and this partially accounted for his popularity, which soon soared. His earliest collectors included Fred Agbeyegbe and Chris Ogunbanjo who gave him very early exposure in his career. However, by far, the single most decisive patron who gave him impetus, in his early years, was the architect Fola Alade, who gave him great visibility and artistic milage, by commissioning him, to do a lot of frescoes and outdoor relief works of art, which soon became the hallmark of his trade as an artist.

Some of his works could be found at the Nigerian Security and Printing Company and Nicon Insurance House in Abuja, Nigeria. Fred was clearly an artists’ artists and developed extensive networks in government and artist groups like the Society of Nigerian artists, where he had as many admirers as he had foes.

He was not an exhibiting artist, however he was part of the hugely successful Common wealth Heads of Government Summit (CHOGM) Exhibition titled "Celebrate Nigeria" in Abuja, Nigeria in 2003, that had such names like Bruce Onobrakpeya, Bisi Fakeye and Nkechi Nwosu Igbo showing side by side with him. This show was seen by over 10,000 people and had Her Majesty the Queen of England in attendance.

Fred as he was often called, will best be remembered as an artist, who struggled very hard to integrate tourism with arts and culture for over three decades. To his credit is a tourism company which he founded, BHS, which was geared at not only creating hundreds of jobs for Nigerians in the area of tourism, but showcasing Nigeria as a world-class tourism center and preferred destination point. A hard sell even today.

Fred's company also led a consortium of investors and facilities managers, to acquire a 30 year lease to manage the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) facility, a multi-million Naira facility, in Lagos, Nigeria. This was no mean achievement by any standard, as it required cutting through red tape, tremendous financial, mental and physical exertion to consummate. This singular project, which he sought to execute, remains the greatest testimony, to this man's indomitable and outstanding artistic vision, industry, passion and drive.

After life's fitfull fever, Fred Archibong sleeps well. He passed on at the tender age of fifty. He will be greatly missed by the Otu-Ewena group of Artists. A group founded by Bruce Onobrakpeya, which acknowledged the inter connectivity between art, architecture and the beauty of the environment.

Jewels of the Harmattan Workshop Experience

The Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation will be delighted at your esteemed presence
as you honour us at a Group Exhibition of Paintings, Multi-Media Paintings and sculptures

Titled: Jewels of the Harmattan Workshop Experience

This exhibition showcases over a decade of works produced by participants in the Harmattan Workshop Experience and is a special exhibition to celebrate the Golden Jubilee anniversary of Nigerian Independence, exhibiting the wide range of the work by artists who have participated in the Harmattan Workshop. These include artists such as Bruce Onobrakpeya, Sam Ovraiti, Tam Fiofori, Ndidi Dike, Lara Ige Jacks, Duke Asidere, Oladapo Afolayan, Tola Wewe, Jerry Buhari, Midy and many more

Opening at 3:00p.m.

on 2nd of October 2010

@ Harmattan Workshop Gallery
10 Elsie Femi Pearse street
off Kofo Abayomi Street
Victoria Island, Lagos.

Exhibition runs for 2 weeks
9:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily

On Saturday 9:00p.m. – 4.00p.m.

This exhibition is supported by the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, Art Galleries Association and the Harmattan Group of Artists

Friday, June 18, 2010

August Workshop 2010

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


Fee N10,000.00

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

This session is for artists who wish to develop their own inspirations, without any supervision as was in the three previous sessions. They can work on their own or in concert with other persons if they so wish. The serene environment of the workshop provides an excellent ambience for serious creativity. They will be provided accommodation, studio space and free use of equipment, provided they know how to use and handle them.

They are required to bring along their own palette knives, brushes colours, canvas, etching plates, wood, gloves, nose masks, paper etc. Stone carvers and ceramists among them are free to draw from the stock of stones and unprepared clay available at the premises. No corrosive substances of any description are allowed to be brought in .

Participants are required to donate one of the works they produce to the Foundation
Venue: Niger Delta Art and Cultural Centre (Harmattan Workshop Venue), Agbarha-Otor Delta State.

Date: 1st – 14th August, 2010

Fee: N 10,000.00 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).


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is available at the workshop cafeteria at an affordable price of N250.00 per plate. However, participants are free to buy extra plates as need be. There are shops in the town and at the vicinity of the workshop where participants could purchase toiletries and other consumables if needed.


Participants are allocated rooms at the Harmattan Workshop Cabins. Depending on the number of participants for each session and space in the room, participants are paired either two or three in a room. However we occasionally must assign other accommodation to address this issue. Rate includes housing.

*Alternative housing plans could be made by participants who wish to stay outside the workshop complex.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Exhibition by Midy

The Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation will be delighted at your esteemed presence
as you honour us at a Solo Art Exhibition of Multi-Media Paintings

Titled: Freedom

BY YVES MIDAHUEN (Midy): An Emerging International Artist and Harmattan Workshop artist based in Cotonou, Republic of Benin, West Africa

Father of the Day: Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR
Founder of the Annual Harmattan Workshop Series

Guest of Honour: Emmanuel Inua, Executive of Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN)
Opening at 3:00p.m.

on 27th of November, 2010

@ The Quintessence Gallery, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos

Exhibition runs till 11th of December 2010
9:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily

On Saturday 9:00p.m. – 4.00p.m.


MOSES 08033857151
Quintessence Gallery

This exhibition is supported by the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, Art Galleries Association and the Harmattan Group of Artists

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Bruce Onobrakpeya: The Legacy.
Lecture Delivered at the Grillo Pavilion, Ikorodu
Saturday, April 3rd, 2010
dele jegede, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Art
Miami University
Oxford. OH

Prof. Dele Jegede delivering Lecture: Bruce Onobrakpeya The Legacy

Icons of Modern Nigerian Art: Bruce Onobrakpeya, Dele Jegede, Yusuf Grillo at the Grillo Pavillion

Visitors at the Lecture Delivered  by Dele Jegede at the Grillo Pavillion

all pictures used are courtesy of Prof. Dele Jegede

Let me start with a caveat: this is not a didactic lecture on Bruce Onobrakpeya. It is neither an exegesis of his creative work nor is it a critique, of his techniques and methodology. I will also try not to give you his life history. It would be a waste of our precious time, Ibelieve, if all I did was rehash threshed and recycled information, which by virtue of Onobrakpeya's status, has been narrated into our common history. Why would I bother re-informing you of the date of his birth, which has not changed since 1932 when he first arrived in Agbara-Otor? Yes, I will dwell on his Urhobo ancestry, but only to the extent that it assists us inperceiving the totality of the enigma. Here is my point: if by any chance there is anyculturally literate Nigerian who, upon hearing Onobrakpeya's name, asks "BruceWho?" please check to see where that person received his education. Or check if,as my danfo brothers would ask, that person is from Yaba apa osi. I will not attempt to analyze every piece of the artist's creative portfolio; that would be an impossible task even if I had a whole day, which I do not intend to do.

Those who are interested in learning more about the prodigiousness of the artist are advised to avail themselves of any of his innumerable publications. My concern, therefore, is to attempt to extrapolate some lessons from Bruce Onobrakpeya's life and work. This lecture is about the legacy of one of Africa's most celebrated artists; an individual who is extremely comfortable in his own skin, and whose sojourn as an artist, humanist, and benefactor deserves to be re-examined and leveraged for the benefit of all. The opportunity to focus on Onobrakpeya allows us to examine issues that are central to his legacy. Among these are, of course, Zaria and the problematics of rebellion. I will look at the extent to which Onobrakpeya is, in his work and practice, Urhobo personified. I will look at the legacy of Onobrakpeya: as a quintessential student in perpetuity; an eclectic, life-long learner; a documentarist; an integrationist; and a benefactor. Did I also mention that he is an artist? I will focus on the implications of the eruption of a new creative force, which his Ibiebe alphabets symbolize and then examine
his ability to conflate creative boundaries with his installations. His Agbara-Otor project will be touched upon as will the implications of his legacy for art education at the tertiary level. Critical to all of this is the matrix without which the arts will flounder. And it is with this that I now begin.

Patronage and the Arts

There is one word that captures the reason why I am here today. It is the same word-or idea-which explains your presence here also. It is patronage. It is what galvanizes artists to attain those heights, which ennoble nations and immortalize their mores and ethos.
Patronage fuels the arts and perpetuates a people's history. It generates and sustainsthe passion without which creativity will wither. Those superb cultural icons which have placed Nigeria on the world cultural map the exquisite sculptures from Nok, Igbo - Ukwu, Ife, and Benin-would not have been possible without sustained patronage. But patronage is vibrant only where there is a coterie of individuals or entities' whose unbridled love for the arts is matched by the will, wherewithal, and determination to exert an affecting presence. Desirable as the institutionalization of political patronage is, it often proves nightmarish essentially because it is perceived as the most vulnerable of portfolios. Officialdom, has become accustomed to treating culture as the most dispensable unit of national attributes. Even in the best of economies, the arts are often erected upon structures that are susceptible to political vicissitudes. A national endowment for the arts should be an integral part of any national agenda not as a perfunctory concession but as an essential aspect of our national identity. There is more to culture and patronage than donning a type of babanriga or spotting politicized caps.
you will recall that in 16th century Italy, the High Renaissance was as much about the dominant artists of the time-da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bramante, and Raphael-as it was about the patrons, especially the House of Medici, the papacy, and Pope Julius II. In our own clime and time, considerable improvement has occurred since the sixties and early seventies, when Euro-American interests dominated patronage. Of course, the cultural arms of the various embassies have continued to play their roles of using art to promote cultural diplomacy. The difference between now and the early sixties is that theirs is no longer the dominant platform. The quickest way to delude ourselves, however, is to believe that this is the best that we are capable of doing. All that we need do is look to other countries-Senegal and South Africa come to mind-in order to cure our hubris. The creative efflorescence that took roots in defiance of Babangida's Structural Adjustment Program policy has now crystallized into a flourishing enterprise, with galleries that survive as small businesses and, most importantly, auction houses, which bring impressive monetary rewards for a number of artists, many of whom are, happily, alive and with us in this gathering today.

The Euro-American tribe of yore has now happily yielded to a small but growing class of avid patrons, among whom we must count Mr. Sammy Olagbaju, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, and Engineer Yemisi Shyllon. This brings us to the facilitator of today's event, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, to whom we are indebted for creating a platform that appears to be spurred by a an unstinted desire to endow society and benefit humanity. For when all is said and done, the arts encapsulate the language, thoughts, and attributes of a people. They encode their character and telescope their foibles, aspirations, and identity. The arts, above all, are the visual manifestation of abstract ideals. They reify those intangible and fugitive notions, which define our collective. It takes excellence to recognize today's prophets in their own country and Chief Gbadamosi's munificence deserves our appreciation. The establishment of the Grillo- Pavilion represents a milestone in Nigerian patronage and offers a measure against which we may now compare Nigeria's very humble beginnings. Here, I am thinking of the old but faithful forum on the Marina: the Exhibition Center. Or Gallery LABAC and other early art centers. Gbadamosi's Grillo Pavilion also seems quite keen on establishing a contemplative temple where visual art is at once displayed, critiqued, intellectualized, and spoken. But our focus today will be on the doyen of innovative printmaking in Africa who, in five decades of creative foraging, has become an exemplar for the seminality of
his oeuvre and the infectiousness of his persona: Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya.

Contextualizing Zaria Since I first indicated in 1983 that activities of members of the Zaria Art Society amounted to an act of mild rebellion, so much energy has been invested, and appropriately so, on this phenomenon. If you expect me to run with this thread, which I believe is well worn at this point; you will be right. It is simply irresistible. At the risk of sounding tautological, let me crave your indulgence to briefly revisit the disciplined defiance that the Onobrakpeya group demonstrated during their years in Zaria. It is important to re-examine the key issues that are associated with this epochal manifestation in order to obviate the tendency to reduce it to a fleeting sound bite. I know that some scholars- Adepegba, Oloidi, and Okeke-Agulu, for example-have written on this topic, as have the Nigerian media and many others. What we have not adequately done is to contextualize Zaria. Our shortcomings in this regard- our inability to locate Zaria firmly within the larger firmament of pre-independence Nigeria-will most likely eventuate in puerile academicism, which does nothing but exacerbate the situation at the same time that it trivializes the achievements of members of the Zaria Art Society. The headiness, or deliberativeness, or revolution; or rebellion in Zaria has, alas, been turned into a buzzword-"Zaria Rebels” which, though sexy, probably sacrifices the historic import of this development at the same time that it resuscitates the popular cliché about rebels without a cause. There are two key points that I would like to highlight here.

First, what is the profile of the Onobrakpeya group in Zaria? With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say without equivocation that many of the members of this group displayed a combination of astuteness and a precious grasp of socio-cultural issues that were in sync with the political environment of pre-independence Nigeria. But these were not your average kids either. By 1959, the average age for four of the key members of the Zaria Art Society-Onobrakpeya, Okeke, Grillo, and Nwdko-was 25.5 years. In today's parlance, they were non-traditional students: adults who were keenly aware of their place in one of the country's highest institutions of learning in pre-colonial Nigeria. These were not your regular undergraduates in that they went to Zaria as mature students who were by no means impervious to the pervasive air of nationalism in which the country was caught on the eve of independence. We must recognize that the gritty determinedness that characterized the behavior of the students and the modulated tempo of their action was caused by nothing more than sheer nationalism, which the presence of European instructors in Zaria and the impending independence helped to accentuate. Recognize that at this time, the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, andTechnology was one of three major institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. Compare that to what prevails today, with twenty federal universities and more than twice that number for state and private universities. Polytechnics number almost as many as all the universities combined. It is important, too, to note that there was no comprehensive policy on art education in colonial Nigeria. Indeed, the colonial establishment was more interested in training the "natives" to be proficient mainly in those areas that benefitted Her Imperial Majesty. More efforts were expended on destroying indigenous art than in establishing paths for teaching art. Add to this environment European operatives, many of whom imbibed the notion, which has since been proven misguided and downright Eurocentric, that they occupied a higher rung on the social evolution ladder, it becomes relatively easy why Onobrakpeya and his colleagues would strive to preserve their own identity. Parenthetically, our educational system in general has not kept up with our ideals and aspirations in terms of curricula quality and its capacity to provide admission for the burgeoning number of students. This year, for example, the information regarding admission into tertiary level is grim: there is provision for only 500,000 out of about 6.4 million candidates.

Compared to what we now experience in Nigeria, the fifties was a time to be proud to be a Nigerian. Much earlier, in the 1930s, national pride had galvanized the Nigerian Youth Movement-and here, let us go ahead and drop some names: Samuel Akinsanya, H. O. Davies, Ernest Ikoli - to protest what they perceived as the junior or inferior status that the colonial administration assigned to Yaba Higher College in 1936. It was this nationalistic ardor that motivated the founding of Zik's West African Pilot, which became a hibernating ground for the first cartoonist in Nigeria: Akinola Lasekan. The small but powerful educated class in Nigeria at that time seemed to delight in making life unbearable for arrogant colonial officers. Students claimed the power to participate actively in etching the outlines of an emergent Nigeria. This was the climate that produced the likes of Onobrakpeya.

Second, the Onobrakpeya group was in Zaria to study art at a time when there was only a handful of artists in the, country. A roll call would produce the familiar class: Chief Aina Onabolu; Akinola Lasekan; and Ben Enwonwu. Add Felix Idubor, Festus Idehen, Afi Ekong, and Lamidi Fakeye and you would have exhausted the list. This was also a time when there were Virtually no Nigerian critics. The dominant critical voices-an Ulli Beier here, a Michael Crowder there-spoke a language that was not totally devoid of individualism, which was wrapped in a triumphalist, almost messianic veil. Of course, they meant well. Indeed, we should erect lofty edifices that commemorate the contributions to Nigerian arts of the Beier Clan: Ulli, Susanne, and Georgina. For regardless of whatever philosophical disagreements that some may have with Ulli Beier, no one can accuse him of not being fervid in believing in the power of the arts; no one can claim that he or she out- maneuvered Ulli Beier in so far as patronage and - advocacy were concerned. At the onset, however, what transpired was a philosophical and doctrinal battle between two groups of Europeans in Nigeria-the instructors in Zaria on the one hand, and the ideologues and advisors on the streets of Ibadan and Osogbo on the other-over the soul of the new Nigerian artists and the direction that the new art should follow. Onobrakpeya belonged in a group that demonstrated fundamental
allergy to neo-imperialism regardless of its ancestry. They were not impressed, for example, with Enwonwu's coziness with colonial officialdom and felt that he was not a strong advocate for indigenizing the arts.

Onobrakpeya's Ascendancy

Nearly thirty years ago when I had my first serious professional encounter with Onobrakpeya, I convinced myself that he had attained the height of his professional development. My conviction was influenced by two key intertwined ideas, which spoke
eloquently to my generation and those that have followed: the incredibly nuanced and bejeweled elegance and newness of his work, and his unflinching dedication.

Here is a man with a massively disarming and brutally empathetic disposition. With a charming 'and magnetic aura, Onobrakpeya's life is his art, literally and metaphorically. Perhaps without realizing this, his prints-indeed, his body of-work-are nothing but a visual re-presentation of his aspirations and relationships. In 1982 when I began my first intimate study of this master, I was convinced that he had reached that creative plateau that would allow most artists to put their signature op any item and expect to be rewarded. He had established a brand: the Onobrakpeya brand, and had compelled the world to embrace, respect, and recognize it. He had given a clout, to Nigeria and branding long before Akunyili began her mesmerizing play on the idea.

I believed then that I was right: you didn't have to be a graduate student to be able to acknowledge an unusual combination of virtuosity and simplicity. After all, his prints had been widely sought after by monarchs and commoners, diplomatic emissaries and rustic folks. Was this not the man who showed that you could actually live on your art? This was the art teacher who had the audacity to leave his daytime job in St. Gregory's in order to devote himself full-time to studio art. And he had proved, to be quite successful at that, building a home-studio space in Ajao's wilderness at a time that Oloje, the street which Onobrakpeya enlivened, was only a suggested path. His Oloje residence gave him the latitude to commit to a ceaseless cycle of prodigious creative activity. His work had made the cover of African Arts, the premier journal in our field, and he had been the object of several local studies and major international exhibitions. For me at that time, Onobrakpeya was the epitome of the modern day spectacle: a contemporary artist who had shown how profitable it was to dispense with narcissism and intensify his focus on cultural reinvigoration instead. You would see him in his home or studio-there were hardly any boundaries-shirtless and shoeless, dashing from one floor to another with visitors, artists, and students milling around him. His commitment to art and the profession bespeaks an unfettered drive that became obsessive. As a young student in Zaria he majored in painting and, out of his love for teaching, obtained the Art Teachers' Certificate. This is a trait that has now crystallized into a hallmark of the Onobarkpeya mystique. Let us make the claim here then: one of Bruce Onobrakpeya's legacies is anchored on the principle of life-long learning in art and an unwavering commitment to a progressive, inclusive, and often non-traditional pedagogy. A brief expatiation
is in order here.

Going by the early review of his work in the sixties, Onobrakpeya was not a dazzling painter. He was not supposed to emerge as Nigeria's version of Paul Gauguin or, in fact, of any such artist of Western manufacture. At this time, he neither had the technical wherewithal nor the desire to be anybody but himself: B. P. O. Onobrakpeya. At any rate, whatever he lacked in epic landscapes or penetrating portraits he certainly compensated for with his penchant for eclecticism, which is one of the artist's most compelling attributes. His work, no less than his approach and education, is integrationist. Onobrakpeya has developed an astounding capacity to meld a catholicity of cultural practices and educational systems into a cohesive claim, one that is unmistakably Onobrakpeyaesque. Take a look at his titles, as an example. They are almost always drenched in fascinating Urhobo: Emudia Kugbe (Standing Together); Esirogbo; Agbogidi; Izobo; Omo Voni (Mother and Child); Onoriode (Who Knows Tomorrow); and, my favorite title, Ivwrite R'Egbo
(Ram's Scrotum).

Titles, as you may have surmised by now, are just that:, indicators. Literal interpretation is sometimes an invitation to anguish. What matters is that Bruce Onobrakpeya has narrated Urhobo into our consciousness, in his approach to art and in his propagation of the core ideals of the Urhobo. What matters with regard to titles is that they are largely
causative; they command our attention and guide our gaze to their presence. Titles of artworks are one of Onobrakpeya's several ploys to accentuate his surreptitious attempt to underscore the preeminence of, cultural pluralism. Hear him: "I only want to regard
myself as a child of my society-as one born into a very rich heritage of the Urhobos and the other Edo-speaking culture; the heritage of lbo, Yoruba and NOk:; of the linear art of the Muslim north, or Yoruba adire motifs…”

But, as often happens with most visionaries and artists, Onobrakpeya's work was occasionally misread and condemned. One example pertains to the murals for the fourteen Stations of the Cross at St. Paul's Church, Ebute Metta, which he executed at the instance of Reverend Father Kevin Carroll The experiment of commissioning Nigerian artists to interpret biblical subjects in styles that localize Christian contexts had gained strong traction in Oye-Ekiti decades earlier. But some vocal members of the Ebute Metta parish considered Onobrakpeya's interpretation of the bible as contemptuous in its characterization. The subjects looked so Yoruba to the one writer, Father M. O. Sanusi perhaps a Yoruba man himself, that he felt that it represented a distortion of history. After 'all, there were no Yoruba men or women in Jerusalem at the time of the Romans. He concluded: "Any school boy or girl who has read ancient history of the Romans or the Jews would neither be impressed nor moved to pray by looking at this so called 'African Art' which some Europeans are trying by hook or crook, to force into the liturgy of the Church in Africa." Yet another member of the parish went as far as warning that Onobrakpeya's rendition of sacred biblical subject in familiar veins amounted to idol worshipping .

The Leopard in Ibadan

Ibadan marked a significant milestone in the trajectory of Qnobrakpeya's professional development. It is one of the few milestones, which would be matched twenty-one years later by yet another epoch that took place again at Ibadan: his visitorship at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. This would initiate yet another phase of the artist's growth. I said a few minutes ago that I thought that by 1982, he had reached his zenith. I must confess that I have been proven wrong in my assessment. Of course, Onobrakpeya's prowess remains unassailable. In the quarter-century since his Ibadan visitorship, he has, by sheer volume, range, diversity, and quality of work, and by the institutionalization of initiatives that will undoubtedly immortalize his attainments, shown that he is endowed with a deep and seemingly fathomless well of mesmerizing inventiveness. If any proof is needed, all that we need to do is take a cursory look at his body of work over time.

And this is a task that the artist has made effectively easy for anybody. Among contemporary Nigerian artists, no one-and this is not an exaggeration-no one has devoted as much clinical attention arid as much personal resources to documenting his or her own work as Onobrakpeya has. Most practicing artists know the significance of documenting their works. But how many actually devote the necessary attention, resources, and energy, as Onobrakpeya does, to archiving their work? In his own case, it is not enough to provide the titles, dimensions and year of manufacture. Be documents the unique story behind each work. He narrates the essence of each work and delves into the meanings behind every piece. He provides the rationale for the multiplicity of a single image in assorted shapes and formats. He explains the motivation for his thematized exhibitions. He offers the secrets of his trade: the experiments that turned ugly but eventually produced spectacular outcomes. The integrationist in him brings people together - experts and accomplices-to ponder his work, I offer their opinion, and commit their thoughts to paper. There is hardly a small Onobrakpeya exhibition catalog. What passes as exhibition catalog for many contemporary Nigerian artists will hardly qualify as a chapter in any of Onobrakpeya's exhibition catalogs- monographs that have themselves become collectors' items. Consider, for a moment, the entailments of producing a 200-page monograph with hundreds of color reproductions: from photography to text, throughediting and on to final product. Onobrakpeya does not only regularly produce new body of work, he also provides posterity with all the tools that are necessary to ensure that future generations are aware of the thought processes that led to the creation of his works.

This is yet another dimension of the artist; it is a dimension that we have not paid sufficient attention to.As archivist and self-documenter, he leaves no doubt regarding the raison d'etre for his numerous pieces. I suspect that deep within his depository, he must have full details concerning every sale, who purchased what, and for how much. Good as the practice of self- documentation is, it probably is dangerous for art historians like me because it turns us into a self- indulgent and lazy class. What then are we supposed to do after he has done our research for us? He has figured out our stock-in-trade and proceeded to provide nearly all the details that we need. He. appears to have anticipated the questions that art historians might ask and has given all the testimonials, which are supported by pictorial evidence. Now, doesn't the beauty of research lie in digging out information about extant work, figuring out why they were done, inputting meanings to them even where none existed, hypothesizing and indulging in our pastime, which includes the intellectualization and the narrativization of works that artists are so lazy to document or so careless to provide any hints about? Somebody should ask Bruce Onobrakpeya to please leave something for art historians to do.

New Creative Paradigms

The outcome of his University of Ibadan residency is a new body of work, something akin to a creative eruption. It becomes a coda for the doodles and motifs that he had indulged in over several years: Ibiebe alphabets. It does appear that we are yet to appreciate the transformative power of Onobrakpeya's seminal achievements in this direction. Certainly, he has produced outstanding pieces into which aspects of the Ibiebe ideograms are incorporated. That is not the central issue. We should be concerned about the concept itself: the originality of the thought and the outstanding newness of the product. In a short introduction to the ideograms, Pat Oyelola draws our attention, quite appropriately, to some of the continent's ideographic and pictographic traditions: in Egypt; among the Akan in Ghana; and, here at home, the Igbo uli and the nsibidi of the Ekpe Society. What Onobrakpeya has done with his Ibiebe ideograms is fundamental, cerebral, and creative. The field of contemporary art is often plagued by the notion of newness: creating an amalgam of work that may use appropriation or hybridity in advancing a new pictoriality. We are accustomed to the production or exhibition of controversial works: artworks that assail our moral, cultural, racial, or puritanical sensibilities. Onobrakpeya's Ibiebe ideograms does not exist on those platforms. His quest for a new graphic characters to symbolize Urhobo ontology is profound in ways that we have yet to acknowledge. This may be because we are too close in time to the artist to appreciate the uniqueness of his innovation. This new creative explosiveness strikes at the core of the Urhobo society; it empowers them to keep their own language alive by speaking it and by developing it. Language, as you may agree, is central to the way that we organize our thoughts and communicate our ideas. Onobrakpeya's ibiebe alphabets and ideograms locate him on the same high stratum as Frantz Fanon and Ngugi WaThiong'o. Onobrakpeya's work straddles the intersection between art and language. It is, in that regard, comparable to the way that art has always elucidated thoughts and ideas. We see that in our traditional religious practices across the African continent, where specific iconography signifies certain .. spiritual essences.

To have a command of language is to be able to influence A people's thought process in a significant way. The missionaries did that successfully when they reduced our languages into writing. Language was one important weapon in the arsenal of European imperialists, and they used it quite effectively in their colonization project. It continues to generate multiplier effects in a variety of ways, including the way that we remain mentally subjected to the colonizing culture. In all probability, we may not be able to measure Ibiebe's catalytic power in our lifetime; it will take future generations to fully appreciate the import of Onobrakpeya's work. Art becomes a handmaiden of ideas and an effective handle in the way that we, and more directly, the Urhobo, expand our vocabulary.

From his exploration of the two-dimensional surface, Onobrakpeya moved to the next phase: installation and three-dimensionality. This, it seems, was his professorial admonition to those who had worked themselves into a frenzy on whether or not installation was new to Nigeria. Previously, his plastocasts reveled in invigorating surfaces. Their beauty is accentuated by the secondary activities that the surfaces are engaged in. What you often see are kinetic and agitated fields of high relief, which are mediated by distinctive color fields that emphasize ongoing dialog. Whereas many of the plastocasts remain framed by their grounds, the new installations are independent and yet connected. It is this dichotomy-of interdependence and interconnectedness that empower Onobrakpeya's installation. This is the core of his contemporariness: the ability to push the boundaries in response to the dictates of his creative muse. When artists become enamored of their own particular style, stultification is most likely the eventual outcome; they are more likely to become stylistically ossified.

Nomadic masquerade series testifies to the artist's capacity for boundless inventiveness. Old forms are reincarnated and rehabilitated with new objects to create a new family of design featuring industrial detritus and an agglomeration of seemingly incompatible objects. It is perhaps the integrationist touch of Onobrakpeya that could fuse spark plugs with beads and other found objects in a bricolage of disparate elements and still attain a compelling composition. The work of Onobrakpeya of the last two decades calls our attention to one fundamental question: what is art? It is a question that admits of no easy answer. For Onobrakpeya, art is contemporaneity; it is currency; it is claiming and proclaiming; it is appropriating and re- categorizing. With his use of discarded computer parts, the incorporation of chronometric bits, the recycling of previous ideas from low relief and metal foil to three- dimensional accruals, new forms emerge from the embers of the past. It does not matter that a computer motherboard has been transformed into an aerial equivalent of Onobrakpeya's bejeweled compositions. It is art simply because Onobrakpeya has said so. That is the power of his creative legislation. But more important for us is the implication of the liberties that he has taken, and why he has been as successful as he is. After all; there is probably only one Onobrakpeya to perhaps everyone hundred professional artists in Nigeria. What is his legacy? Why is he as successful as he is, and what can we learn from his approach?

The first crucial element is Onobrakpeya's mindset is education. And I use education in its broadest sense here. As the first of twelve children-six from each of his father's two wives-Onobrakpeya grew up within a setting that socialized him into the Urhobo culture and gave him his early education, which was an immersion in Urhobo culture. He grew up in colonial Nigeria and honed his integrationist skills. In Zaria, it was easy to subscribe to synthesis as a doctrine. While his education in Zaria gave him an exposure to European perspectives, he eclectic impulse would take him to informal settings where he enriched his educational outlook. Now, the sage is back straight to the beginning: Agbara-Otor. There, he laid the foundation that will concretize his legacy: he founded the Niger Delta Art and Culture Center and began what has now become annualized: the Harmattan Workshop, which has just successfully concluded its twelve edition a week or so ago. The Agbara-Otor Workshop is a summative experiment that integrates the artist's several years experience as a student, participant, and conductor at various international sessions, including those at Ibadan; Osogbo; He-Ife; Deer Isle in Maine; Elizabeth City in North Carolina; and Harare in Zimbabwe.

Agbara-Otor should not be seen as a mere workshop. It is an edifice that testifies to Onobrakpeya's philosophy of inclusiveness and integration; of synthesis and indigenity; and a pragmatic tensility that recognizes that a single pedagogic dictum does a lot to circumscribe learning in the arts. Agbara-Otor reifies Onobrakpeya's doctrine of life-long learning and generous sharing . Agbara-Otor is a testimony to the power of imagination and the clarity of vision. Onobrakpeya could have chosen to invest his resources in pursuits that benefit him and members of his immediate family. He could exercise the option, following the lead of the political class, of building mansions in Lagos, Abuja, or anywhere else with complementary bullet proof hummer and a f1eet of luxury cars. Rather than indulge in vainglorious exhibitionism, Onobrakpeya directs, through his action, our attention to issues in the education of artists in Nigeria with particular reference to the ongoing rush by studio artists to obtain doctorate 'degrees in order to be
fully compliant with NUC directives for those who desire to advance in the academe.

It is important to make it abundantly clear that no one is opposed to, or afraid of, doctorates in art. The question that remains unanswered is: in what particular area of art is the NUC mandating the acquisition of doctorate degrees? If, as it seems, the directive gives a broad cover, which will then require that those who are in studio art must obtain Ph.D. degrees, perhaps this is the point at which we should throw up our arms and call for help. I see the relevance of advanced degrees in areas of critical theory, for example. Doctorates in art education, art criticism, and art history are normative, Just as are those that focus on other theoretical, methodological, curatorial, or interdisciplinary approaches. It remains to be seen, for example, how a Ph.D. in studio practice will trump the M.F.A, which is the internationally recognized terminal degree. How does the acquisition of a doctorate degree produce a more profound printmaker than Onobrakpeya? Or a more elegant painter than Grillo? How does a Ph.D. in architecture surpass the living structures designed and built by Demas Nwoko? Uche Okeke's drawings and paintings did not attain their profundity because he became professor and dean at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. When we add to that list other major artists including Lamidi Fakeye, Erhabor Emokpae, Kolade Oshinowo, David Dale, Obiora Udechukwu, and Bisi Fakeye, we come to the conclusion that the skills needed to teach excellence in studio practice in our tertiary institutions are met in the terminal M.F.A. degree.

What we should be concerned with is the appropriateness of discipline-based terminality, and not the salutation that comes with the Ph.D. prefix. Art is nothing but the ability to master the skills that are necessary to re-channel our intuitive capacity. Art is at once a process and a product, which has the capacity to provoke sometimes deep or visceral reaction in the viewer. You learn it by doing it: by engaging with the process and the media. Your formal education endows you with 'the capacity to indulge in self-evaluation, which further provokes the meditative process. The education that we give our students in the visual arts- and, indeed, in all other spheres of learning-should be centered on a dialogic process that is facilitated by assessment. Unless our formal art institutions have a system that allows our art teachers to assess what we teach and why we teach it, our doctoral programs will be ineffectual. For our terminal (M.F .A.) degrees to serve local and national needs, it must be grounded firmly in progressive curricula, which allow students to take ownership of their own education. This, we must recognize, is the legacy of Bruce Onobrakpeya; it is a legacy that he acquired as a member of the Zaria Art Society, which practiced critical thinking even at a time that such a phrase was unknown or unused. It does appear that the insistence by the NUC that the acquisition of Ph.D rather than the terminal M.F.A degree is mandated for advancement in our universities was an answer searching for a question. In the rush to meet these requirements, the probability exists that the quality of instruction will suffer. This directive has the possibility of anaesthetizing the academe: through the production of half-baked "doctors" who cannot cure colors, curate exhibitions, or articulate thoughts that cohere with clarity.

The Leopard at Large

Onobrakpeya is the sum-total of his work. His dominance in the contemporary arena-his ability to explore and inhabit a dualistic space-owes a lot his authorial tensility. He refers to this as synthesis but I call it creative tensility. For synthesis is a function of intellectual tensility; without one, the effectiveness of the other is compromised. He was the curious wanderer, the quiet but discerning inquirer who participated in Ru Van Rossem's printmaking workshop in Ibadan in 1963 and latched upon a medium that suited his spirit. He has never been the same since Ibadan. And the man who was not expected to be a Gauguin turned out not to be one after all; he became an Onobrakpeya!

Onobrakpeya is a wanderer; the ubiquitous but lonely soul that ferrets cultural landscapes, verdant or arid, and brings to our attention the preciousness of nondescript items or the hidden treasures of things inestimable. Onobrakpeya is the Sahelian masquerade and guardian of our deserts of culture: deserts that are constantly threatened, plundered, and desecrated by elected or appointed political or bureaucratic philistines. He is the nomad; the irredeemable voyager; and the perennial visual and spiritual pilgrim whose main goal is to collect, extrapolate, and meld ideas and thoughts into an aesthetic presence that is both transient and graspable. His foresight which we refer to as ingenuity is an ability to powerfully inhabit that space between today and tomorrow: that interstice between discernment and circumspection, intellect and, virtuosity; liminality and luminousness. He elucidates art as in idea that transcends visuality; as something that fuses tradition with modernity. Onobrakpeya is the leopard in the cornfield who ruptures constructed boundaries and empowers us to visualize a world in which our inhibitions are causative to our freedom to create our own worlds.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ibiebe Idieograms and Writings

ISBN: 978-2509-49-3
Binding: Hard Cover
First published: 2006
Publisher: Ovuomaroro Studio Press
Subject: African Studies
STATUS: Available
Contact: Bofound.ng@gmail.com

Ibiebe is a concise package of most of the signs and symbols found in Onobrakpeya's paintings, prints and drawings. The ideograms, numbered over 100, are put together in a handy catalogue in the 48-page publication, encapsulating explanations of the veteran artist’s cryptic signs and coded abstract patterns are offered.
The collection comes with two introductory essays on the artist and his works. In the first review, Dr. Richard Singletary, author of an Onobrakpeya biography, noted that 1983 through 1984, the artist took some time out of his very active full-time art career to "think, and draw", inspirations from his earlier works.
"One thing that came out of that period was a series of doodles. From nowhere he got designs of drawings from which some of them are like animal forms, some in abstract forms. He didn't do much about them. But it was later that he realised that they were some kind of forms that meanings could be attached. He started to redraw them and ascribe meaning, which reflect concepts in Urhobo philosophy.
Thus evolved a complete set of forms which he now calls Ibebe or Ideograms which helps to bring a kind of symbols or thought in Urhobo treated in a decorated way," Singletary observed this in his piece entitled Ibebe Alphabets and Ideograms.
The other essay, Signs of the Times by Dr. Pat Oyelola, sees Onobrakpeya's signs as akin of the some other remarkable forms of cryptic art expressions from the African continent, such as Uli, nsibidi, adinkra among others.
According to Pat Oyelola, in her essay, she states that Onobrakpeya started the experimentation he developed in Ibiebe when he was artist-in-residence at the University of Ibadan. Through the researcher, it was learnt that the globally popular painter and print maker has used his Ibebe to evolve "ideograms for the desiderata of the Urhobo culture, Ufuoma (peace), Idolo, (wealth), Otovwe (longevity) and Omakpokpo (health)." She observed that every "viewer will bring their own imagination to bear on the interpretation of these symbols."
The catalogue is described thus "This is perhaps a tribute and indeed a triumph of the capacity of artforms to weld, bridge and enhance the understanding of different ethnic groups or cultures. It also shows demonstrable evidence that art works can offer strategic access and bridges of friendship into various cultures, thereby fostering understanding of people and their values. Players and entities who profess community knowledge and social responsibility, will do well to understand the instructive nature, subtle dynamics and the translation a book like this provides...
This catalogue is not a definitive work on the universe of expressions by the Urhobo. However, like other very recently published books, such as The Urhobo Language Primer, it is hoped that it will serve as a catalyst to challenge other artists and writers drawing from the same pool of inspiration of values of the Urhobo, to produce further ideas that express in a fresh manner the lore's and customs of their people.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Art School Development: Historical Overview and analysis of Style

The Art School in the Development of Contemporary Nigerian Art Practice: An Historical Overview & Analysis of Style

By Ekpo Udo Udoma

The story of contemporary visual arts practice in Nigeria goes right back to the turn of the 20th century, when Aina Onabolu (1882-1963) pioneered art practice as we know it today. This development though gradual, led the British colonial government to introduce a curriculum for Art in Nigerian schools, with the assistance of Kenneth Murray, a British colonial officer. (Onabolu, 1963: 295; Wangboje, 1977: 10; Fosu, 1986: 7; Babalola, 1987: 79; Udoma, 1989: 2)

The Aina Onabolu School

Aina Onabolu started his art practice by copying pictures from magazines and books, and perhaps buoyed by the need to disprove the notion that Africans were incapable of depictions in anatomic realism, he pursued an aggressive artistic practice that enabled him to start selling pictures for money. In 1902 Onabolu painted the portrait of Mrs. Spencer Savage, his first known commissioned job. His proficiency in art was severally acknowledged and it later earned him a scholarship, from some of his patrons, to study art in Europe in 1920.

On his return, Onabolu devoted most of his time to encouraging talented people to practice art. He did this by first of all encouraging the government to introduce art as a subject of study in secondary schools. To further emphasize his commitment he offered to teach in most of these schools himself.

Inspired by Aina Onabolu’s tenacity, others took up art as a vocation. Some of those who followed his footsteps include Akinola Lasekan (1916- 1972) who became famous as a cartoonist for the West African Pilot a newspaper published by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, first president of Nigeria. He also later taught at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and was the first indigenous Head of Department (Nnadozie, 2008: 49). Others were Eke Okeybolu (1916- 1958) and J.D. Akeredolu who followed in Onabolu’s tradition of representational art characterized by naturalistic images and technical competence in terms of conscious realism reemphasized by the laws of perspective and anatomical accuracy. This was informed by the need to debunk the commonly held view, at the time that Africans had never painted or sculpted in statue before (Onabolu, 1963:295; Okeke, 1979; 13; Aig- Imoukhuede, 1984: 6; Fosu, 1986: 7; Udoma, 1989: 2; Ikpakronyi, 2003: 31).

The Kenneth Murray Intervention

By the 1940’s Kenneth Murray, who was hired by the colonial government on the prodding of Aina Onabolu, introduced an art curriculum for Nigerian schools. Ola Oloidi (2008) notes that before the institution of the Ibadan College, which later moved to Zaria in 1955, to be known as the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, no stylistic ideology was strong enough in Nigeria to challenge or compete with the art of Onabolu.

Technically, between 1900 and 1960, it was the stylistic school of Onabolu that dominated the Nigerian art scene despite some ideological divergence. This was to become a sore point between Onabolu and Murray. Kenneth Murray saw himself as a saviour of sorts. His attitude was that of a man drafted to save the Nigerian / African culture from extinction. Oloidi once again explains “Onabolu became uncomfortable and through personal contacts and letters advised Murray about the ‘negative’ ideological blitz. Murray frowned at the way the traditional Nigerian art and other values were being devalued or oppressed by colonial political and cultural intolerance. He encouraged his students, particularly the pioneer ones (sic), to make their art depict or reflect the aesthetic of indigenous forms especially in sculpture. Murray urged his students to be themselves. ‘Be yourself and not others (European) in your pictures’. Murray’s pioneer students, Ben Enwonwu, P.L.K. Nnachi, Uthman Ibrahim, C.C. Ibeto and A.P. Umana were always shocked at their teacher’s anti-western art-naturalism ideology. Without doubt, nearly all of them were uncomfortable with Murray’s teaching and were in fact stupefied by his anti-European sermons”. To Onabolu’s consternation the ideological dialogue went on unabated.

While some students of Murray became reasonably adaptive to their teacher’s prescriptions, some like C.C Ibeto and Ben Enwonwu were not seriously affected by his hyper-critical position as Enwonwu himself later confessed ‘we were really surprised that Murray told us to do this or that in our art lessons, which was not why we chose to study art…we wanted to make art like Onabolu…and of course; I personally began to follow his direction outside our class’” Oloidi (2008:9).

Ben Enwonwu & African Consciousness

The emergence of Ben Enwonwu (1921- 1994), who later became the art adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria in the 1960’s, on the art scene coincided with the fervor for African nationalism in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Artists at the time were painting and sculpting more political and philosophical themes, as well as propagating the idea of African personality, the concept was known as negritude and it was pioneered by Leopold Senghor of Senegal to promote black consciousness especially in literature and poetry (Udoma 1989: 3; Agiobu-Kemmer, 1978: 11; Irele, 1977: 1; Jahn, 1961: 206).

The naturalistic trend of the early pioneers was infiltrated by stylistic rendering, which reflected a consciousness of the aesthetic value of Nigerian traditional forms. This can be seen in Enwonwu’s paintings like Negritude, Olokun and Dance Forms which are all works in the collection of Nigeria’s National Gallery of Art. Other works by Enwonwu include Anyanwu a bronze sculpture at the main foyer of the United Nations Headquarters in New York, U.S.A., a replica adorns the façade of Nigeria’s National Museum building in Lagos; Sango statue in front of the Lagos office of National electricity utility company known as Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the statue of a drummer at the Nigerian Telecommunications company (NITEL) building also in Lagos. Other artists in this group included Etso Ugbodaga-Ngu and Udo-Ema who were given scholarships to study art abroad and excelled as art educators. While Ugbodaga-Ngu was one of the early staff at Ahmadu Bello University and the University of Benin, Udo-Ema helped to start the art department at the College of Education, Uyo (now the department of Fine and Industrial Art University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State).

Zaria Arts Society

By the time Nigeria attained independence in October 1960, a new crop of artists had emerged most of them from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Kaduna State. This group included artists like Yusuf Grillo (b. 1932), Bruce Onobrakpeya (b. 1932), Uche Okeke (b. 1933) and Demas Nwoko (b. 1935)( Beier, 1968; Okeke, 1982; Fosu, 1986; Babalola, 1987).

This represented a period of sober reflections when Nigerian artists began to question themselves on the role they ought to be playing in modern Nigeria. Their attitude towards
Art was such that the conflict between traditional forms and western techniques was of little significance to them (Beier, 1961:31). According to Bruce Onobrakpeya, they were”….rising against the secondary role or position assigned to contemporary artists, who were placed below the traditional artists in Africa….” This group formed the nucleus of what came to be known as the Zaria Arts Society and the forerunner of the Society of Nigerian Artists. They introduced new ideas hinging on the concept of Natural Synthesis which was essentially a fusion of African motifs, concepts and techniques with western ideas. Explaining further the aims of the society of which he was an active member, Onobrakpeya emphasized that …” apart from the things we learnt in the class we retired to our cubicles to discuss what African art is…” ( Onobrakpeya, 1985: 22)

The members of the Zaria Arts Society produced works that were characterized to a large extent by individualism in various styles and techniques, which in most cases constituted a complete break with the Nigerian contemporary art of the early period, thereby creating a new trend in the development of Art in Nigeria. At the Yaba Higher College (now Yaba College of Technology) a kindred spirit had imbibed the new ideas. One of its major protagonists was Erhabor Emokpae (d. 1980).

The Art School In Contemporary Nigerian Art

As higher institutions were being set up in the country, some were introducing the Fine Arts into their curriculum. Through these schools the ideas and ideals of the Zaria Arts Society began to blossom. In most schools the new ideas and theories created a groundswell of a variety of art expressions that are now prevalent. This has led to a phenomenal growth in the number of formal art schools.

Formal art schools

The Zaria School refers to the Department of Fine Arts and Industrial Design of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria founded in 1953 as part of the Ibadan branch of the old Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology, which moved to Zaria in 1955. In 1957/58 the school was affiliated to the Slade School of Art, and later the Goldsmith School of Art, both of the University of London.

The School has produced the cream of Nigerian Artists. The list is endless never the less mention shall be made of a few: Solomon Wangboje, Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Uche Okeke, E. O Odita, Demas Nwoko, Roland Abiodun, Dele Jegede, Gani Odutokun, Shina Yusuff, David Dale, E.O. Nwagbara, and S.A. Adetoro. Among the younger graduates who are making significant contributions include Jerry Buhari, Muazu Sani, Tonie Okpe,Oladapo Afolayan, Nse-Abasi Inyang, Uwa Usen, Joe Musa, Abraham Uyuvbosere, Duke Asidere, and Emmanuel Inua.

The Yaba School refers to the Department of Arts and Design of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. This school was established in 1952/53 as a technical institute. The school produced many well known artists; many of them however went on to further their education in Europe. Among them included Agbo Folarin, Isiaka Osunde, Erhabor Emokpae, Osagie Osifo and Festus Idehen. The second phase of the Yaba School started with the upgrading of the college to a Higher National Diploma awarding institution. This coincided with the addition of Yusuf Grillo and Kolade Oshinowo both graduates of Ahmadu Bello University to the staff. The influence of these two artists can be seen in a number of the later graduates namely Abiodun Olaku, Tolu Filani, Segun Adejumo, Kunle Adeyemi, Lara Ige, Felix Osiemi and Edosa Oguigo to mention just a few.

The Nsukka School was established in 1961/62. The School which is made up of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka became famous for the evolution of the Igbo traditional art form of body and wall painting known as Uli into modern usage. This art form was introduced by Uche Okeke who joined the department in 1970 after the civil war. Its introduction is evidently linked to the concept of Natural Synthesis, which had been propagated by the members of the Zaria Art Society. One can however say that this art form can be extended beyond the Igbo traditions to embrace other African cultures as in most African traditions body and mural decoration is common.

Other lecturers in the school that have experimented with uli include Chike Aniakor, Chuka Amaefuna (d. circa 1990), Obiora Udechukwu and El-Anatsui. Others include Tayo Adenaike, Olu Oguibe, Ndidi Dike, Krydz Ikweumesi, Chuka Nnabuife, and Uche Edochie.

The Ife School comprises those that graduated from the department at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife which was established in 1968. Spurred on by a desire to look inwards to examine form and content of their works, some of the graduates felt they should explore further a particular trend noticed as common to Nigerian artists. They therefore examined the decorative nature of decorative motifs, ornaments, patterns and designs peculiar to the rich artistic culture of Western Nigeria. The Ona group was then formed. Exponents in the group include Moyo Okedeji, Tayo Ojowu, Don Akatakpo, Victor Ekpuk, Biodun Akande, Kunle Filani, Mufu Onifade and Stephen Folaranmi amongst others.

The Auchi School is made up of Art graduates from the Auchi Polytechnic Auchi, which started in 1974. Their style is characterized by lavish use of colours to express mood. A concept pioneered by Ademola Adejumo, a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University. Prominent among the exponents include Edwin Debebs, Sam Ovraiti, Tony Okujeni, Pita Ohiwere, Alex Nwokolo, Olu Ajayi, Ben Osaghae and Zinno Orara amongst others.

The Benin School, this is made up of Art graduates of the department at the University of Benin, established in 1975 under the mentorship of Solomon Wangboje. Among these groups include Fred Akpomuje, El-Dragg, Miracle Maseli, Egbibo, Jude Ovie- Wilkie, and Anthony Okonofua among a host of others.

There are arts schools that were set up after 1985. These New Schools as one may call them include in no particular order, the University of Uyo, University of Port-Harcourt, University of Maiduguri, I.M.T. Enugu, Delta State University, University of Lagos and several other polytechnics and colleges of education all over the country.

Informal Schools

There are also informal schools. These schools had an entirely different kind of instruction that were privately supported. Among them include the Mbari Mbayo Workshop at Osogbo in present day Osun state. This was established as a response to a new development in post- independent Nigeria, which began with the formation of the Mbari artists and writers club of Ibadan and Enugu.( Odita, 1970: 39-40; Okeke, 1970: 17) This club was founded by a group of young writers working in and around Ibadan in 1961. Artists, theatre and radio producers were involved. Among them included Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clarke, Christopher Okigbo as well as painters like Uche Okeke and Demas Nwoko and Ulli Beier, a German art critic and writer (Nigeria magazine, 1963:223; Mount, 1973: 65; Okeke, 1979: 12). The club gave musical and dance recitals, as well as, plays by leading Nigerian writers. Art exhibitions were also held. It was the success of this club that encourage Duro Ladipo, a playwright and composer to form the Mbari Mbayo workshop in Osogbo in 1962, with the support of Ulli and Georgina Beier as well as Sussane Wenger, an Austrian artist who later made Osogbo her home.

The Mbari Mbayo workshop brought into focus the benefits that can be derived from informal art training, as the workshop had attracted a number of student’s mostly residents of Osogbo and environs. The roll call included Twin Seven Seven, Muriana Oyelami, Adebisi Fabunmi, Nike Okundaye and Jimoh Buraimoh amongst so many others. The works produced were derived from traditional Yoruba mythology, deities, as well as, individual fantasies (Mount, 1973: 151). They made use of bright colours, stylized and disjointed figures, as well as unconventional materials. Today the extensions of the Oshogbo art can be seen in the establishment of the Nike Arts Centre

At the same time the Osogbo workshop was nurturing what could be referred to as the Osogbo School another art school was developing what would be regarded as the Maroko School. (Odimayo, 2000: 22). According to Olaseinde Odimayo, an art dealer of many years standing, the Maroko School was never deliberately established as a school with any articulated manifesto. “…there is no documentation, books, exhibition catalogues or press reviews on it…” the school is believed to have been started in 1963 by Micheal Obodiwe and Agboma who operated in the shanty town of Maroko on Victoria Island. Now demolished, the school developed through an apprenticeship system. Some of the apprentices included Prince Okuku, Akpukpu Yekini, Emmanuel Ekefrey, Amonis and Silas Adeoye among others.

Following in the apprenticeship system was the Abayomi Barber School, started in 1971 by Abayomi Barber who was born in Ile Ife, and attended several primary schools before enrolling in St. Stephen’s School Modakeke, where he received prizes for Drama, Poetry, singing and Music. In 1952 he moved to Lagos and enrolled at the Yaba College of Technology after a brief interaction with Ben Enwonwu who was then Federal Art Adviser. Although his stay in Yaba was very brief some of his class mates then included Yusuf Grillo, Erhabor Emokpae and Isiaka Osunde.

From 1957 to 1958 he joined the Yoruba Historical Research Scheme at Ibadan under the Chairmanship of Dr. S. O. Biobaku and catalogued, drew and labeled all the art works in the collection of the Yoruba Research Scheme and went on field research with William Fagg, Frank Willet, Dr. Bradbury and Reverend Father Carroll. In September 1960, Barber was sent to England. He worked for some time in the British Museum, while he enrolled in the evening class at the Central School of Art Crafts, Holborn. While he was in the United Kingdom, he worked with the Scenic Art Studio at Notinghill gate and Fredrick Mancini in Wimbledon and Oscar Neman, a great authority on Churchill sculptures, for four years before coming to join the University of Lagos in 1971.

Barber is an artist who believes that it is only when ones technique is fully developed, that ones imagination, originality and individuality can come into play and be of any use. The objective of the school was to produce hard core professional works of art. He had since then succeeded in training a generation of young Nigerians, whose activities have culminated in the emergence of what has been known as the Abayomi Barber School, a school that bases its inspiration on the classical Ife bronzes. Some of the disciples of this school, which started as part of the centre for cultural studies, University of Lagos include Olu Spencer, Rufus Olanrewaju, Micheal Egbuna, Akin Savage, Ekpeyong Ayi and Archibald Etikerentse to name a few.

Towards the end of the 20th century we have witnessed greater activity in the informal sector with the establishment of the Harmattan Workshop Series by Bruce Onobrakpeya who was an active participant in the Osogbo Workshops and one of the few academically trained artists who participated. The Harmattan Workshop is an annual artists’ retreat started in 1998 with just eight artists. Today with over 10 editions it has become a pilgrimage of sorts, with an average attendance of 50 artists each year. The workshop, which is being organized by the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, has been sustained by the support of the Ford Foundation, the National Gallery of Art, Abuja and other corporate organizations from time to time. Some of the artists that have participated include Mike Omoighe, John Agberia, Peju Layiwola, Nse Abasi Inyang, Olu Amoda, Salubi Onakufe, Uwa Usen, Duke Asidere, Sam Ovraiti, Emmanuel Ekpeni, Tony Emodi, Anthonia Okogwu, Lara Ige-Jacks, Oladapo Afolayan, Bunmi Ola –Afolayan among several others. Over 300 artists have participated in the workshop since its inception.

In conclusion therefore one can say that the development of contemporary expression in the visual arts in Nigeria has blossomed in the last 100 years from the seeds planted by a few dedicated people. The groundswell of activity indicates a growth of art practice in both the formal and informal sectors thereby providing a platform for projecting Nigerian art globally as we enter the second decade of the second millennium.

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