Friday, July 28, 2017

CITATION For the Honourary Degree of Doctor of Arts (Hon. D. A) to Bruce Onobrakpeya from the Delta State University.

Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya the universally acclaimed master printmaker, painter, sculptor and poet was born at Agbarha-Otor on 30th August 1932.

After attending elementary and secondary schools in Ughelli, Sapele and Benin from 1941 to 1951, he won  a Federal Government Scholarship in 1957 to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and
Technology, (now Ahmadu Bello University), Zaria where he studied and earned a Diploma in Fine Arts in 1962 and also a Postgraduate Arts Teacher's Certificate.

He began his working career in 1953 as an Arts teacher at Western Boys' High School, Benin- City. He relocated to Ondo Boys' High School in 1957. He was from 1963 to 1980 the Arts teacher at St. Gregory's College, Obalende, Lagos. 

Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya
 Bruce Onobrakpeya is a living art avatar who shares the same hallowed platform with Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Angelo in the universal configuration of artistic influence! He was in the vanguard of the "Zaria rebels" led by Uche Okeke that championed the decolonisation of African visual arts by privileging traditional influences in their practice. Much of the motif of Onobrakpeya's art is rooted in his Urhobo tradition as he gives visual representation to e t h n o-p h i l o s o p h y, folklore, politics, environment, religion, modernity and related themes. While Urhobo tradition provides his collage, the world remains his canvas.

As a master artist in a class of his own, it didn't take long for Onobrakpeya's  skilful hands to attract global attention. He became an Artist-in- Residence at Haystack Mountain of Art and Craft
in Maine in the United States of America in 1975. He has, since then, held some of the most prestigious Art Residencies and professorship around the world, seven of which were in the United States. He also enjoyed the same rare privilege at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, and the National Gallery of
Zimbabwe which is one of the world's most notable arts galleries. He has since 1998 organised and participated, annually, in the Harmattan Workshop for artists at Agbarha-Otor. 

In the course of his enchanting career as an artist, Onobrakpeya has held more than one hundred art exhibitions. The first of which took 
place in Ughelli in 1959. Since then his art works have been standing  taller than any other at exhibitions in Lagos, New York, London, Berlin, Moscow, Warsaw, Washington, Bologna, Nairobi, Illinois, Toronto, Bradford, Holland, Zurich, Bonn, Zimbabwe, Abidjan, Dakar, Dubai, etc. I must not forget the one at the Vatican Museum in Rome in 1977. I am sure Pope Paul VI must have told God about the marvel of Onobrakpeya's art.

In recognition of his sublime art, he has received over fifty awards, honours and prizes from all over the world. He is a winner of the Pope Paul VI Gold Medal. In 1989, the University of Ibadan, awarded him an honorary doctor of letters. He was the second person after Chinua Achebe to win the Nigeria Creativity Award in 2010. Many other prizes came from across the seas; USA, Britain, France, Iraq, Czechoslovakia, etc. The Federal Government of Nigeria conferred the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) on him in 2002. Very significantly, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) canonised him as a Living Human Treasure in 2006! Art connoisseurs have long reached a consensus that had there been a Nobel Prize for Visual Arts, Onobrakpeya would have long won it!Today, Onobrakpeya's art works can be found in all the continents of the world. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Nobles, Commoners, all stand before his works in adoration! 

Onobrakpeya' s astonishing portfolio of achievements is reinforced by ibiebe an Urhobo alphabetic system he invented, fourteen published monographs and fourteen illustrated books. The number of theses written on his works by art cognoscenti is now in the realm of the uncountable!

Before us today is one of the most significant artists of global resonance for all times. At eighty- five, Onobrakpeya is the youngest among today's honourees, but he is the oldest known practising artist in Africa now. Whatever he touches becomes art. Art works immortalise the artist. So let it be with Owena Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya.

Sunny Awhefeada, PhD
Public Orator,
Delta State University, Abraka.
22nd July, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Bruce Onobrakpeya
Bruce Onobrakpeya, a force in the Nigerian contemporary art movement, was born in 1932 in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, Nigeria to an Urhobo carver. Onobrakpeya’s family moved to Benin City where he attended Western Boys’ High School and was introduced to art by teacher Edward Ivehivboje and by drawing classes at the British Council Art Club. Upon graduation, Onobrakpeya taught art at the Western Boys’ High School and the Ondo Boys High School.

In 1957, Onobrakpeya was granted a Federal Government Scholarship to attend the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, now the Ahmadu Bello University, where he studied fine arts and arts education. While a student, the Zaria Arts Society, later called the Zaria Rebels, was formed with the aim to “decolonize” the visual arts as taught by Europeans. Onobrakpeya states that while college taught him technical skills, the Zaria Arts Society taught him confidence in his ability to form a personal style.

Throughout the 1960s Onobrakpeya participated in artist workshops and apprenticed with sculptor Ben Enwonwu. In 1964 he became a founding member of the Society of Nigerian Artists. From the 1970s until the 1990s, Onobrakpeya was an artist-in-residence and professor at numerous institutions in the United States, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Much of Onobrakpeya’s work comprises stylistic elements and compositions rooted in traditional African sculpture and decorative arts. Onobrakpeya has no definitive style but instead specific periods of work that differ in content and media. His works range from lino cut prints, bronze, paintings, drawings and installations. The themes found in his works include folklore, Zarian landscape, Christianity, the Benin Kingdom, environmental degradation, politics, tradition, philosophy and social unrest. A testament to his skill and creativity as an artist, Onobrakpeya innovated several unique printmaking and relief sculpture techniques such as bronzed lino relief, plastocast relief, plastograph, additive plastograph, metal foil deep etching, metal foil relief print and ivorex. Furthermore, Onobrakpeya innovated and uses Ibiebe, a writing style that features invented script of ideographic geometric and curvilinear glyphs.

Onobrakpeya has taught and exhibited in the United States, Italy, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, Kenya and Germany. In 1999 he founded the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation which organizes the annual Harmattan Workshop Series in Agbarha-Otor, encourages creative interaction among artists and scholars and aims to increase public awareness of African art. His work is held by various collections and he is the recipient of many honors.Onobrakpeya lives and works in Nigeria.
Onobrakpeya standing before Akporode Installation

As an experimental artist he was lucky to have had an early breakthrough, through the innovation of plastography in 1967. He is also a founding member of the Zaria Art School.  His exhibitions have contributed to a large body of literature which not only placed him as a contemporary and modern artist, but also created an artistic continuum for Nigerian art after Nok, Benin, Ife and Igbo Ukwu legacies.  He has exhibited at the Vatican, the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian institution in Washington D.C., U.S.A, and London Museum to mention a few places

As an installation artist, he has pioneered, developed and emphasized installations as an art form, since the early 1990s.  His inspiration has been drawn largely from the example of traditional African shrines.  Another inspiration for his installation art is the availability of numerous discarded objects, particularly those from used computers and the automobile industry.  A good example of his installation is a work titled Akporode which was shown in 2002, at U.C.L.A. Fowler Museum.  This piece is now on permanent display at the Onobrak Museum in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.

We at BOF Salute and Celebrate our avatar  Bruce Onobrakpeya​  for bringing an elevated consciousness of our immeasurable valuable asset of Culture. As he is being honored on the 22nd of July 2017, with an honorary Doctor of Arts Award from the Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State, Nigeria, we wish him continued and enlightened Guidance as he journeys.