Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Oguntona: A deathly blow for creative arts
Written by Tonie Okpe
Saturday, 09 January 2010 04:38
This is to all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of beauty, so that through their creative work as artists, they may offer these gifts to the world”. These were the words of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II in his 1999 letter to artists of the world. Professor Toyin Oguntona, after several years of productive studio practice life, coupled with the vocation of a teacher, especially at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria for over four decades, has now moved on to eternity, but his works abound.
One of his profound statements that keep echoing in one’s mind is, “The life of an artist is mainly directed by packaging after so much work has been created, so you need to package both your works and yourself such that whenever you are called upon to make a presentation or show, you would be ready”. Oguntona lived his life to the fullest, with such pronouncements that guided his work etiquette[s] like a creed, so much so that younger artists and academics admired him not only from afar, but also from visiting his studio whenever he was working.
Aside from several solo exhibitions both at home and abroad that spanned years, Oguntona also participated in several group exhibitions and art workshops producing and showing a diversity of textile works. His academic art training for postgraduate degrees abroad did not deter him from carrying on as a studio artist on return from such sojourns, so while teaching, researching and supervising students, he created time not only to produce works of textile design, but also to author practical guidebooks as a way of further expand the frontiers of knowledge in his subject area.
His sudden death during the early hours of Thursday, December 24, 2009 came as a shock to many, both in Zaria and at his last location in Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, and even to members of his family who knew he was fast recovering from a protracted illness. Although he has gone to greater heights, his words will forever remain in the minds of his close associates and his works will also continue to be a source of inspiration for several persons who constantly witnessed his creative moments.
After retiring from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria’s Department of Industrial Design in 2003, he went further to midwife and recruit staff for the new Department of Fine and Applied Arts at Ago-Iwoye, subsequently leading the programme to its first National Universities Commission accreditation exercise through hard work and dedication to the profession.
His last solo exhibition soon after he left Zaria opened in September 2003 at Nimbus Gallery in Ikoyi, Lagos, during which he showed several new works in mixed media while keeping the tradition of his textile design training and practice. Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya in his forward to the catalogue of that show opined thus: “Of the few individuals who have given enviable leadership in either the education of artists or in the practice of the profession of art in contemporary Nigeria, Toyin Oguntona can easily be one of them…An advocate of professionalism, he has never hidden his disdain for artists who do not practise”.
That show probably provided the inspiration to form the Ibogun Group of Artists with Oguntona himself as “Godfather” and other exponents like Kenny Badaru, Johnson Oladesu and Yetunde Fashoro, among others, culminating in his last group outing christened, Opening Glee, an exhibition of the group at the Gateway Hotel in Ota, Ogun State in December 2004. He wrote the Creative Necessity in the catalogue accompanying that show and explained that, “The motivation for the formation of this group is drawn from the principle of Herbert Read: …Perfection of Art must arise from its practice, from the discipline of tools and materials, of form and function…Art must be practised to be appreciated and must be taught in intimate apprenticeship….”
Born in Lagos in 1940, Professor Toyin Oguntona had part of his elementary education in Lagos and secondary education in Benin City, Edo State. After a brief spell in the civil service of the then Western Region, he proceeded to University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana for his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1961 and graduated in 1965. He later worked with FIIRO, Oshodi, Lagos from 1965 to 1972 during which he went to Pakistan on a Commonwealth scholarship to study a diploma course in textile technology from 1967 to 1969.
On his return, he joined Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1972. In 1976, through the facility of the Federal Government Scholarship and Ahmadu Bello University Study Fellowship, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA for further postgraduate studies from 1977 to 1981 culminating in the award of Master’s and Doctorate degrees in art education.
Toyin, as he was fondly called by his peers, participated in many group and solo exhibitions in Nigeria and abroad. He rose steadily to the position of Professor of textiles in 1990 through hard work and dedicated service. In 1991, he had a solo exhibition and a textile workshop in Zaria under the auspices of the Better Life for Rural Women Programme. In 1997 also, he had a similar workshop under the auspices of Family Support Programme in Abuja.
In April 2004, he relocated to Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye where he served as Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts and Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Technology, College of Engineering Technology at the Ibogun Campus until his death in December 2009. He was married with children. Adieu, Toyin.
Okpe is a sculptor and Professor of Contemporary Sculpture at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Harmattan Holds creativity for Nigeria's Golden Jubilee

Harmattan holds creativity feast for Nigeria’s golden jubilee

By Ozolua Uhakheme

Fifty years ago, he was among the Zaria Rebels from the premier art school, the Nigerian College of Arts and Science, Zaria (now Ahmadu Bello University), who participated in the art exhibition at the independence Trade Fair in Marina, Lagos. This year, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya will lead a pack of seasoned artists to celebrate Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary at the Harmattan workshop in Agbarha-Ottor, Delta State.

Beyond that, the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF), organisers of the workshop, is considering running the event for nine months in the year to provide greater opportunity for artistic growth.

"What we intend doing is to progress in such a manner that the workshop can run for upward of nine months in a year. And we are also considering hiring a resident director, a curator and an outfit that will take charge of these events all - year round," Onobrakpeya said. He added that the centre has fulfilled its social role within the Niger Delta region.

According to him, the workshop has, in the last eleven years done very well. He noted, however , that the growth of every human endeavour should be gradual and upward. "And if we have done this consistently for eleven years, then we have done very well," he added.

Onobrakpeya, who acknowledged that he learnt much from the various artists who have participated in the workshop since inception, lamented the paucity of funds which hindered expansion of the centre and its support for foreign participants.

The annual Harmattan workshop, a retreat where artists meet to think, work, experiment and share ideas to sustain creative inspiration for the development of visual art, has evolved into four sessions, beginning from February 14 till August 2010.

The first three sessions are February 14 to 27; February 28 to March 13; and March 14 to 27, 2010. The August leg of the workshop, according to a statement by the foundation, is for artists who wish to develop their inspiration without any supervision as was the case in the three previous sessions.

Holding at the Niger-Delta Art and Culture, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, the 12

th edition of the workshop promises to be very exciting. Renowned visual artists such as the immediate past president of Society of Nigerian Artists, Kolade Oshinowo; Chief Jimoh Buraimoh, Ndidi Dike and Jide Adeniyi Jones, have indicated their intentions to be part of the workshop. Also, artists are coming from across and beyond Nigeria to work, rub minds and share experiences. Author of Nigeria’s Who is Who in the art, Janet Stanley, is expected to be at the workshop.

The workshop sessions will feature painting, mixed media printmaking, textile, metal construction, stone carving, ceramics, jewelry, photography, wood carving and leather craft; with two themes for lectures and presentations. The themes are Uhanghwa: 50 years of artistic creativity in Nigeria, and Eghwere: Hunting.

The Harmattan workshop, founded in 1998 by Onobrakpeya, an experimental artist, is an informal educational setup inspired by the series of workshops organised by Ulli Beier at Ibadan, Oshogbo, Ile-ife and the Haystack Mountain School of Arts and Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine, USA, which Onobrakpeya attended in the 60s and 70s.

It is arguably the flagship programme of the BO F, a non governmental organization. Apart from the eight weeks intensive programme (of two weeks per session), the Harmattan workshop is literarily active all year.

The galleries, which exhibit within the complex collection of art works (traditional and modern), including those of Onobrakpeya, are open to the public, students and researchers. There are enough accommodation facilities for groups and individuals. With permission, alumni members are allowed to work in the studio, using the available, particularly the etching presses, during the off season. Schools and other groups are similarly admitted for special programmes.

The Harmattan workshop is instructive and interactive, allowing for people of different backgrounds to gain theoretical and practical experiences from each other.

Facilitators, who are carefully selected are also participants who engage in their own creations during the session but are looked up to by participants for leadership and instruction during the workshop. Special crafts programmes are designed to enable some of the participants acquires skills to make a living.

Among them are Kunle Adeyemi, Dr. Peju Layiwola, Folu Folorunso, Ademola Williams, Adeola Balogun, Prof. John Agberia, Sam Ovraiti, Prince Nathaniel Momoh, Oladapo Afolayan.

Other activities that will hold during the workshop include exhibition of photographs, Reflections by Olusegun Fayemi, a Prof. of pathology at the New York University, USA, Eghwere, a mixed media installation by Bruce Onobrakpeya and eight on-going solo and group art exhibitions.

Interested participants are expected to obtain forms from Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation at 41, Oloje Street, Mushin, Lagos or 10, Elsie Femi Pearse Street, Victoria Island, Lagos upon payment of N15,000 or N10,000 (student) to Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation’s account Number 0151050000020 Union Bank PLc. Also, January 7, 2010 is deadline for submission of papers for the workshop while applicants are expected to complete all processes before January 31.

Angaza Africa


Angaza Africa
Author: Chris Spring
Publisher: Laurence King
ISBN: 9781856695480
1st Published: 2008
336 pages |
Price: N15,000

Chris Spring's book on African art is a 336-page compendium of contemporary practice in Africa.The brief introductory section showcases group practices from communities such as the Fantasy Coffins of Teshie, Ghana, and other art movements from East, through West, to North Africa.

However, the book is primarily about individual artists, the major thrust of the book being to introduce the reader to the author's view of African art. For a book that attempts to cover continental Africa with a sampling of the works of some 63 artists, this can only be a personal collection, speaking as much to the taste of the curator as to the variety of the art on the continent. This is especially so because the artists featured are sometimes no longer working in Africa. Yet, the work that has been assembled within these pages depicts a comprehensive mix of paintings, sculptures, installations and performance art from an intensely vigorous pantheon. Bruce Onobrakpeya, El Anatsui, Chris Ofili.. Those who come to this book with entrenched ethnographic expectations from African art will have their sop, but the collected artists have moved in quirkily distinct directions with both brilliance and individuality.

The quality of the art reproductions succeed for the coffee-table, but the insightful commentaries that accompany them also provide a sustained philosophy of art as the artists grapple with all the big issues. The 7 million idle guns left over after the Mozambican civil war engage four artists, Kester, Fiel dos Santos, Hilario Nhatugueja and Adelino Mate, who worked on Bishop Sengulane's Swords into Ploughshares project, recycling small arms. The work of South African artist Willie Bester is also consciously political - from the recycled metal sculpture, For Those Left Behind, and the vigorous mixed-media piece, Transition. Congolese, Cheri Samba explores this tradition with his Little Kadogo (Child Soldier) and La Chulte du 3e Baobab. Yet, the haunting pieces are intensely personal. - Like the dreaminess of Gemuce's Grandmother and Granddaughter, or the regal, sphinxlike intricacy of Mohamed Bushara's Untitled, 2006 etching - which was also the cover art of 's debut print edition.

The icons of African art are represented here alongside their less famous - and by this evidence - not less talented compatriots. From Jane Alexander's unsettling mannequins to Yinka Shonibare's hilarious ones. From Algeria, through Sudan to Uganda... it is barely possible to take the pulse of African art in 336 pages but Chris Spring has done so sensitively and with curatorial flair in this important book.