Saturday, March 26, 2011

Comments on the 13th Harmattan workshop

Mr. Sam Ovraiti
 The recently ended 13th Annual Harmattan Series, has continued to receive high praise and accolades from several observers of the arts. The first came from Chief Wanda Ibru, a local community leader and supporter of the Annual Harmarttan festival of the arts. She spoke on the choice of Mr. Sam Ovraiti as this year’s artistic director as excellent, based on his track record as an artist, teacher and administrator. Also, the noted collector of West African Contemporary art Mr. Fred Spinnler said in commenting on this year’s workshop that “It is also great that Sam Ovraiti has the director ship, since I know him as a serious hardworking artist who has visions for steps forward in the Nigerian Contemporary Art, and the representatives from Ghana, Benin etc. will also add value in the frame of the West African Art Development” The Ghanaian artist, Kofi Dawson a first time participant at the workshop, commended the workshop as being “lofty, noble and life transforming because it brings in artists from all over the world to share their experiences in an atmosphere of brotherhood and camaraderie”.

The Annual Workshop Series is unique in the sense that it is the only institution of it's kind in Africa that has consistently sought to bridge the gap between the formal and informal trained artist annually, to enable shared and accelerated learning between these two groups. This year’s workshop had over 100 participants in attendance from Belgium, Canada, Ghana, Republic of Benin and Togo and Nigeria.

The Chairman of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR, in making a case for the need for the Annual Harmattan Workshops to continue, stated that the workshop is in the business of producing tomorrow’s great artists, today. This is done through cross fertilization of ideas, interaction, inspiration, team building and a great and conducive learning environment in the countryside for participants. Despite dwindling funding, support has continued to come from credible corporations with a high sense of social responsibility to the West African sub region.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Golden Jubilee Dance Celebrating Nigeria at 50

Dance of the Golden Jubilee
Installation by Participants of the Harmattan workshop Series under the Auspices of Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF)

The work which is an installation, represents the celebration, aspirations and challenges of the Nigerian people for political, cultural, social and economic emancipation since independence.
These aspirations are reflected in the group work which is centered around an organic tree growing that is used as a metaphor for the growth of Nigeria. It is also a metaphor for the concern for environmental issues, which become necessary as a result of the delicate balance of nature and the environment, which like Nigeria needs to be protected.
It is this protection of the tree and the environment that becomes the guarantee for our long term sustenance as an entity and a people. Chief amongst these reasons, is that it erases the problem of environmental hazards like oil spillage and social concerns like youth restiveness. Another reason is the economic one of large scale unemployment which can be the result of a monolithic economy instead of a diversified one, which is based on the chief exploitation of one resource. Understanding the need for the delicate balance in the environment, allows for and promotes the diversified and varied uses, of a lot of our God given resources in Nigeria to empower her people economically, instead of its chief reliance on one product.

These ideas have also been filtered through in the Annual workshop Experience which is arguably one of the best examples of an artist collective that seeks to renew its creative ideas by going back to its roots and fundamentals to sustain itself. The Harmattan Workshop is participatory in its approach to creativity and problem solving, and points towards the values of the following:

●Conflict resolution and problem solving by participants of the workshop as a potent instrument for engendering peace and friendship.
●Team building irrespective of gender and place of origin.
●Research and experimentation and cross fertilization of ideas

The mixed media installation is a joint effort by few participants of the Harmattan workshop series at Agbarha-Otor Delta State Nigeria. The workshop series itself is the flagship programme of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation with branches at Papa Ajao and Victoria Island, Lagos.

The central piece (a hanging) which gives the installation its name is called “Dance of the Golden Jubilee” composed by Bruce Onobrakpeya who is the initiator of the Annual Harmattan Workshop Series since 1998. It is made up of plastocast vignettes and stained fibre. The stones works at the base were carved by Godwin Onobrakpeya, Andrew Onobrakpeya, Alaric Oviri, Uwa Usen, Ojo Olaniyi and Taiwo Sulaimon. Two wood carvings at each side were done by Anyandepo Abiye. The two pieces symbolize emergence and celebration, the trees on both sides of the pictures are encrusted with beaded jewels symbolizing the wealth of our environment. Lastly the circular disk at the foreground is a metal foil plastograph produced by Moses Unokwah.

The workshop advocates sustainable and renewable use of ideas and materials for creativity and leadership in the arts, some of these ideas are derived from the countryside. In the same manner, Nigeria must completely harness its diverse resources where ever found, for her long term sustenance, protection and renewal of land and people. In this way Nigeria will be guaranteed long term survival, translating into prosperity into the next century and even beyond.