Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oreze Art exhibition, Onitsha

visitors to Oreze Exhibition opened by Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya

                                  ROYAL PALACE ONITSHA
7th October 2012

Your Excellency, Dr. Peter Obi, the Governor of Anambra state, Your Royal Highness, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe Agbogidi, the Obi of Onitsha, members of the Onitsha Council of Chiefs, members of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, fellow artists, ladies and gentlemen. 
It is an honour and a great privilege to be the Special Guest at the opening of the Oreze Art Exhibition.  I am indeed grateful to His Royal Majesty whose initiative it is to make this exhibition one of the events of the celebration of the 2013 annual Ofala Festival and subsequently to be a permanent feature of the festival.

The Ereze exhibition features 53 artists from within and outside Nigeria: 3 from Ghana, 2 from the Republic of Benin, 1 from Togo, the rest are Nigerians living in Nigeria or in the diaspora.  Among the Nigerian artists we have 12 Onitsha Ado artists; the other 35 are from different parts of the country.  Some notable names in the exhibition include Jerry Buhari, Wiz Kudowor, Ben Osaghae, Olisa Nwadiogbu, Edosa Oguigo, Duke Asidere, Emma Mbanefo, Abraham Uyovbisere, Dominique Zinpe, Ndidi Dike, Sam Ovraiti and Abiodun, Olaku.  The exhibition is open for 3 days from today 7th, to 10th of October 2013.

I salute the participating artists whose ingenuity, hard work and dexterity created these beautiful, thought - provoking pieces on display which reflect our various world views and environment.  The “Oreze, literally translated as, the king’s crowd, as earlier mentioned, I understand is to feature annually as part of the Ofala Festival.  This is a very good omen for the Visual Arts. We thank the Agbogidi for this initiative of considering artists as part of the king’s in-crowd. This is signaling a new dawn - a renaissance of royal patronage which in the past was the bedrock of our timeless art treasures envied all over the world.  These works now all over the world in leading museums and in the hands of private collectors constitute a rich repertoire of our cultural values that are the bedrock of modern art practice in Nigeria and abroad.

Obi Achebe is not just a patron. He is an avid art collector determined to make Onitsha once more an important centre of the arts.  I call on other Royal Fathers across the country, who are the custodians of our art and culture to take a cue and emulate this noble step by not only empowering artists in their domain by patronizing and showcasing their works, but also by erecting infrastructures for the optimum presentation of their pieces.  I also use this opportunity to appeal to all levels of government to similarly build infrastructures that will promote and develop our arts.  Solid investments should be made in the arts as is done in the Western world in order to reap the full benefits of an industry that is a renewable and alternative source of income.

 Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to view the Oreze exhibition not only as a renewed call for Pan - Africanism in the contemporary, modern and post modern art, but also as an agent of world friendship, integration and peace. With these remarks, I declare the exhibition open to the Glory of God and service to mankind.

Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya   MFR

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

40 years of Bruce Onobrakpeya in Contemporary Visual Art

TITLE OF BOOK:                 Forty years of Bruce Onobrakpeya in Contemporary Visual Art.
PUBLISHER:                        Ovuomaroro Gallery and Studio Press

 ISBN: 978-2509-64-7

Most publications on contemporary Nigeria Visual artists are not sufficiently detailed. Usually what happens is for catalogues about these artists to have very little information about them, or their works, instead the emphasis seems to be to have a lot of pictures included without detailed artistic statements or information about the life and work of these artist.

The book consists of three interesting sections.  These are as follows:
i.                     Introduction
ii.                   Essays
iii.                  The artists resume and the Appendix.

In the introduction Mr. Ikpakronyi starts by discussing the retrospective exhibition which the catalogue is meant to accompany.  Simon is of the opinion that every artist should look forward to this kind of showing of their works in their life time.  Some of the Nigerian contemporary artists that have marked important anniversary celebration with exhibitions, include Ben Enwonwu, Irene Solomon Wangboje,  Uche Okeke, Jimoh Akolo, Yomi Adetoro, Demas Nwoko and Bruce Onobrakpeya.

According to Mr. lkpakronyi the marking of forty years of visual practice is a new development  which Bruce Onobrakpeya is one of the first to do such.
 Before discussing Bruce Onobrakpeya  Mr. Ikpakronyi  looks at a genesis of contemporary Nigerian
Visual  Art.  According to him, this will help the readers to understand how the contemporary Nigerian art started, the point where Bruce Onobrakpeya started and how he  has been building upon the structure he met on the ground to help him attain his present status.
He starts with the period (1900 -1950) which he put as one. The protagonist artist of this period he stated is Chief Aina Onabolu. Some of his contemporaries included Akinola Lasekan, J.A. Akeredolu .He traces how they were trained and the kind of Art they were producing.
The next period (1950-1960) include artists like Ben Enwonwu, Etso Ugbodaga Ngu, and Afi  Ekong. He also states how this group had received their training in art and the types of and the types of art they were producing. However Mr. Ikpakronyi   seems to lament over other artists of this period that  were not  given attention by art historians, writers and educationists.   These include Goffrey Okolo, Albert Odunse, Eyo-Ita, Nkure F estus Idowu, Holloway, Osula, Odunbanja, Solanke, Ajidasile and Orishadepe, others are C.C. lbeto,  D.L.K Nnachi, A.D. Umana, J.O. Ugoji and Uthman Ibrahim.  According to him these names started when Enwonwu started  and that it is unfair that most of these names are being forgotten in the Contemporary  Nigerian art scene.
 The artists of the third decade (l960 -1970) according to his grouping include Yusuf Grillo, late
Simon Okeke, Uche Okeke, BruceOnobrakpeya, Felix Ekeada, Oseloka Osadebe, Okechukwu
Gbonnaya, Nwagbara, late William Olaoshebikan and I.M. Omagie (woman). These he said
were members of the famous Zaria Art Society. Others who were not members of the Zaria Art society but were trained in Zaria include Jimoh Akolo , Irein S. Wangboje, T. A. Fasuyi, Isiaka Osunde etc. According to Mr. lkpakronyi, all the names mentioned above were the most popular among the contemporary Nigerian artists of the third decade.
He discussed their various activities in contemporary Nigerian art scene and said that Bruce Onobrakpeya stands unique among them, "This he said is due to the aspect of art (prints) which he chose ,developed and popularized. According to Mr. Ikpakronyi, the  idea of printmaking  has always been there but that Bruce Onobrakpeya has succeeded in adding new dimensions to it. New terminologies as Bronzed Lino Relief, Plastograph and Plastocast Relief are synonymous with him. Most of his works, he said have intricate designs with interesting textures that are aesthetically appealing. Printmaking and the use of traditional imageries and symbols through which he puts his stories/messages across to his audience, this, he further stated has made attain his present height and visibility in Nigerian art.
 Mr. Ikpakrony has said so much about this genius and concludes  thus: “Bruce Onobrakpeya is one of the most accomplished Nigerian artists, and has contributed immensely to the development of art and the image of artists  through defining a new role  for artists in Nigeria, Africa and the the world at large through his works. His creative power and sense of innovation especially in printmaking can hardly be attained by any artists in this millennium, thus he remains the most outstanding.”

The Essays
The essays are twenty four in number and written by a select group of practicing artists, art historians, educationist, administrators, writers and collectors among whom are Prof. Ola Oloidi of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr. P. C. Dike, Director of the National Gallery of Art, Lagos; Prof. Osa Egonwa of the Department of Fine and Applied Art, Delta State University, Abaraka, David Dale, International Artist, Lagos, Dr. Donatus  Akatakpo, lecturer Department of I Architecture, University of Lagos; Kolade Oshinowo, Artist and lecturer Department of Fine and Applied Art, Yaba College of Techno logy, Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Adepegba and Dr. Pat Oyelola of the University Ibadan, Engineer Yemisi |Shyllon of Nigerite Limited Lagos; Prof. Yomi  Adetoro of the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos; Prof. Uche Okeke, Dr. G.G. Darah and a host of others. This is an interesting part of the book as their various essays reveals certain aspects of Bruce Onobrakpeya's life that many people do not know about.

The Artist's Resume
This has comprehensive and a full resume of artistic activities on Bruce Onobrakpeya. All that he has been doing are neatly packaged in this section. The section include the contributors list, Appendix, notes and references.
The entire information about Bruce Onobrakpeya can be meaningful if the whole text is property read.
Therefore  this book is highly recommended to scholars, artist, art promoters, collectors, curators, libraries, institutions and researchers  who are encouraged to acquire to acquire copy/copies.
Dr. Paul Chike
Director/Chief Executive
National Gallery of Art Lagos.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Invitation to Artists

Talks by Invited Artists
A 2-Day International Conference in
Partnership with the Brunei Gallery to Compliment the Harmattan Workshop Exhibition April-June 2014

The Annual Harmattan Workshop which takes place at the The Niger Delta Arts and Cultural Centre  organized by the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF) in conjunction with (Engr.) Dr. Prince Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Professorial Chair for Visual Arts & Design, University of Port Harcourt and The Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London warmly invites scholars and students in the field of African and cultural studies to engage significantly in debates and discussions that would highlights the localities and contexts of popular development imperatives of Nigerian Arts. The conference which is part of the centenary celebration of the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria will find expression in such areas as in visual arts and its practices, the performing arts,  poetry and literatures as genres of collective endeavors as African peoples, and in global spaces. Perhaps, the outcome of the conference shall be to provide the narratives as answers to critical issues of development agenda for Nigeria and the Niger Delta peoples as focal point where the Niger Delta Cultural Centre is domiciled; as we are aware that the Niger Delta region of Nigeria is one of the richest wetlands of the world where human and material resources abound and socio-cultural activism have in the recent past been phenomenal. Thus, the conference seeks to promote the understanding that the Visual arts of Nigeria and in particular, the Niger Delta can be regenerated to provide the needed wealth and character for development realignments in the Nigerian space.
The organizing committee invites interested scholars as panelists to submit panel proposals for inclusion in the conference programme. Panelists are at liberty to establish one or more sessions. Each session should comprise of one or more presenters, with no more than three papers. There shall be a chair and a discussant.
Submissions should include:
·        Panel title
·       Names and affiliation(s) of possible panel proposer(s)
·       Names and affiliations of possible panel participants
·       A 250 word (maximum) outline describing the panel topic
Submissions should be made in PDF format to or
The official language of the conference is English although translators shall be provided where necessary.
Deadline for panel proposals 1st March, 2014

Friday, February 8, 2013

Contemporary art in Nigeria and Ghana

Book Review
Title: Contemporary Art in Nigeria and Ghana
Author: Ester Adeyemi
Publisher Alfred F. Spinnler
Friedrich Reinhardt Verlag: Basel 2005

Reviewer: Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR.

This book contains a selection of the works in the collection of the publisher Chief Alfred F. Spinnler, the CEO of Swiss Pharma Nigeria Ltd., (Formerly Roche Nigeria) a pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Basel, Switzerland .

The book has 299 pages with 115 plates representing the works of 40 artists made up of 32 Nigerians, 5 Ghanaians and 3 non-Africans who have either lived or worked in Nigeria at one time or the other. According to Spinnler, the book was inspired by his passion as a young boy for Africa, and this was further stoked by his godfather’s collection of African traditional art, which he acquired from soldiers who went to fight in different parts of Africa during the Second World War. This was way back in the 1940’s. However when he came to Nigeria in 1984 as manager of one of Roche’s Divisions in Nigeria he encountered a new form of art-Contemporary African Art.

This very fascinating story is contained as part of the publishers preface to this book. As a follow up to this discovery Spinnler decided to encourage this new art and the artists that produced them by supporting the contemporary Nigerian artists. In this wise he started collecting their works.

In putting this collection into a single volume, he engaged the services of Mrs. Ester Adeyemi, a Swiss art historian and a regular art reviewer in Swiss newspapers as well as an organizer of exhibitions, readings and musical events before she moved to Nigeria in 1999.

This book, which is published in German and English, is divided into five sections. The first section contains all the pre-text materials such as the title page, copyright page, dedication and table of contents, the publisher’s preface, the author’s foreword, which includes a brief explanation of Spinnler’s collection and the structure of the catalogue. Finally in this section you have the author’s Introduction, which is further divided into seven sections.

In the Introduction, the author attempts to give a background to contemporary Nigeria Art and a brief review of the state of art in Africa in the 19th Century. She also looks at the development of Art education in Nigeria . She explains how Aina Onabolu persuaded the British colonial government to introduce art in schools. Her treatise is quite accurate in terms of the general flow of the events as they unfolded. The author goes ahead to talk about the opportunities for artists to exhibit in Nigeria , a brief note on the literature on Nigerian art and peculiarities of Nigerian art.

The second section presents the Nigerian artists whose works are featured in the catalogue. In this section each artist’s work is preceded by a brief narrative on the artist followed by a description and analysis of each of the works shown. The artists featured are: Tayo Adenaike, Joseph Adeyemi, Samuel Amurawaiye Ajobiewe, Duke Asidere, Jimoh Buraimoh, Eugene Chime-Age, Nike Davies-Okundaye, Uche Edochie, Emmanuel Ekefrey, Victor Ekpuk, Obi Ekwenchi, Kunle Filani, Krydz Ekwuemesi, Rom. Isichei, Osahenye Kainebi, Marcia Kure, Wole Lagunju, Mavua Lessor, Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo, Christopher Odunkwe, Ebele Okoye, Mike Omoighe, Bruce Ononbrakpeya, Donald John Onuoha, Chike Onuorah, Ben Osaghae, Kolade Oshinowo, Sam Ovraiti, Muraina Oyelami,  Fidel N. Oyiogu, Emeka Udemba and Tola Wewe.

The third section deals with expatriate artists who have lived or worked in Nigeria at one time or the other. In this section you have Cora de Lang, wife of the former Director of the Goethe Institut, Lagos ; Djamina Linger, a Swiss German who lived in Nigeria for a year and exhibited her works in 1995, and finally Jonathan Stoeckle, a Swiss whose parents lived in Nigeria and so visited Nigeria from time to time. His works are highly influenced by Northern Nigerian scenes.

The fourth section focuses on the Ghanaian artists namely: Emmanuel Adiamah, Kofi Agrosor, Ablade Glover, Ammon Kotei   and Wiz Kudowor.

The fifth section is the appendix, which contains the biographies of the artists and their photographs where available; bibliographical references for further reading, as well as brief biographies of the Publisher, the Author and the Photographer, Michele Kappeli, who took all the wonderful photographs of the works in the book.

The style of the author is free flowing and makes for easy reading. There is indeed evidence of intensive study and in terms of dates and other specific facts she cannot be faulted. In terms of research, the information in the book is certainly well researched. There are 73 bibliographical references for further reading, and from a perusal it would appear that there is evidence of a clear understanding in the area of the historical development of contemporary art in Nigeria and Ghana . It is also interesting to note her observations of the differences between Nigerian and Ghanaian Art. In Adeyemi’s analysis of the art scene in Nigeria , she described Ben Enwonwu as “ developing two art styles of painting, one academic, the other African.” While one appreciates that she is trying to emphasize the fact that Enwonwu’s works vacillated between western style realism and stylized forms akin to traditional African art, her statement seems to suggest that African art is not academic.

Her reference to the Sango monument in front of the NEPA (now PHCN) building as the Nepa Monument takes away from the context within which the statue was produced. While the author is correct in saying that the statue represents the Yoruba god of thunder, the correlation of the NEPA building being the head office of the nation’s national electricity corporation is de-emphasized thereby making the choice of Sango as subject for that commission lost. This would have helped to strengthen her discussion on the contributions of Kenneth Murray, who was Enwonwu’s teacher and the emphasis he (Murray) placed on drawing from African tradition for subject matter.

Her description of the state of media coverage of the arts may also have been a little over exaggerated; it would appear that today the media is doing more coverage of the visual arts. Most newspapers cover the arts in their columns and now on both government and private television there is an increased coverage of the visual arts. However like always it is still not enough. There is also an off-handed description of sculpture as an art form that has dwindling chances of survival in her essay on The Structure of The Catalogue. Although it is true that more exhibitions are dominated by paintings and a greater number of artists engage in paintings, it is not entirely true to say that sculpture, even though not as popular as painting, is diminishing. There are Nigerian artists who are practicing sculpture at a serious level and they are getting commissions. Many state and local governments have commissioned sculptures for outdoor spaces while individuals are equally commissioning works most especially statues and busts for their homes.

The catalogue section is well presented and the pictures are well placed on the pages with only the captions neatly placed on a straight line below the pictures. The artistic styles of the artists vary in theme, materials and conception. There however appears to be no attempt to present them in any analytical order. The artists are just presented in alphabetical order. While on its own, there is nothing wrong with that, it nonetheless gives the impression that all the artists are at the same level in terms of age and artistic practice. While one appreciates the fact that Adeyemi being a foreigner may not be familiar with the Nigerian contemporary art scene and she actually admits not making any attempt to classify the artists, she should at least attempt some sort of art historical process. 40 artists who are certainly not within the same age bracket nor are they from the same background nor did they even start practicing at the same time should not be lumped together. Dividing the artists into groups would have helped readers and scholars have a good art historical perspective of the collection.

Indeed there is a dearth of appropriate literature on Nigerian contemporary art, but this is not to say that there is no literature on current developments. Increasingly more books and publications are coming out. The National Gallery of Art for instance has published a few books on contemporary Nigerian Art. But these are not as frequent as one would have liked them to be. I also think that it would be unfair to say that in the past 20 years government has not supported any art initiatives. The National Gallery has supported art projects in the past and they are still doing so. The major challenge is how to get more attention as always no money is ever enough.

The book Contemporary Art in Nigeria & Ghana definitely stands out because it is the first attempt in Nigeria by an individual collector to put his art collection of a specific region in one volume for public consumption. It is indeed a vital contribution to knowledge. The publisher has exhibited a broad and robust perspective of the art of the region. The book has been able to provide information that could be used in studying Nigeria and Ghana’s contemporary art. It highlights some of the key players who are practicing now. It also provides some in-roads to Africa’s 20th Century art, as well as gives an insight into the art of the 21st Century. This volume also helps to promote the artists featured and create for them a sense of fulfillment, while scholars will have an opportunity to see works by the artists that will not be in the public domain.

It would however be misleading to assume that the works in this collection ultimately represents the contemporary art of both countries. Most of the Nigerian artists featured either live and practice or exhibit frequently in Lagos. There are several other artists in Nigeria who practice outside Lagos. In the same vain, it would not be surprising if the same could not be said of the Ghanaian art scene. The publisher himself admits that he only bought the artworks that appealed to him. This therefore means that what we see in this volume are actually the publisher’s preferences, which are personal to him. It would therefore be more appropriate to have titled the book The Spinnler Collection of Contemporary Paintings from Nigeria and Ghana .

After all has been said, I congratulate the publisher on his foresight and tenacity. I also thank the author for the extensive research, which she undertook to produce this volume that should be an essential document for scholars, students, collectors and general interest readers. I therefore recommend the book to all and sundry.