Onobrakpeya, Ovraiti, Others Highlight Artists And Politics
Challenges in long travel time and rough roads from Lagos to one of the border towns, Olambe, Ogun State could not hold back art enthusiasts who flooded Greenhouse Art Empowerment Centre, for a group art exhibition titled Nigerian Visual Artists and Politics, featuring Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya as a guest artist. Attached to the exhibition was a lecture, The Role Of Visual Arts In People’s Empowerment And Politics In Nigeria, delivered by Onobrakpeya.
Since opening two and half years ago, the Princess Theresa Iyase-Odozi-led Greenhouse, which sources say is a household name in community resource field, is, perhaps, having its biggest exhibition till date, showing till November 30, 2015. Other exhibiting artists with Onobrakpeya include Sam Ovraiti, Iyase-Odozi, Stella Awoh, Olojo Kosoko, Dr. Mabel Oluremi Awogbade, Ato Arinze, Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce, Bolaji Ogunwo, Stella Ubigho, Oke Ibem Oke and Evelyn Osagie.
In a welcome address shortly before the formal opening of the exhibition, Chairman of Greenhouse, Mr Victor Odozi described Onobrakpeya as “a mentor of mentors,” from whose fountain of knowledge the founder and CEO of Greenhouse, Iyase-Odozi has benefited. Odozi reminded the guests of the three-in-one situation of the event: exhibition, lecture and launching of Greenhouse Art Journal.
A crowd of visitors from Lagos joining others in the host community and choking the view of the works on display notwithstanding, it was still possible to have a bit of dialogue with the diverse texture of works.
The exhibits include a wall-to-floor installation of fabrics by designer and textile artist, Awoh; Nigerian Conundrum II, a collage rendered in newspaper cuttings and labels, shaping the geographical map of a troubled nation, by Iyase Odozi; Ovraiti’s abstraction in layers of colours titled That Way Out; debutant, Osagie’s captures of people and places in the field of journalism, assembled as Nigerian We Hail Thee; and Olojo’s painting impression of a failed-state in the piece titled Reaction. Other works on display are a portrait by Ogunwo Heal the World, which attempts to xray the reflective state of despise Nigeria is going through, suggesting the urgent need for a smile on the face; stylised figures in plastograph, The Politicians Additive by Maja-Pearce, a likeness of Nigerian state’s “vulnerability” to the fragility of pre-puberty young ladies; metal sculpture, Antenna of Inspiration by Oke, bringing abstraction as a medium in analogous link between creativity and inspirational content; ceramists Arinze and Awogbade bring Debacle and Set Me Free into the gathering adding voices to the call of artists towards a sane Nigeria.
As the period of denial has been flushed away with the era of impunity, paving way for ‘change’, Onobrakpeya pays solidarity to the kidnapped Chibok girls, imploring an installation Sambisa Forest. Hidden in the installed totems, which explain the artist’s thoughts, comes his Letter to Chibok Girls. Quite some touching words; “As grand parents, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, citizens of Nigeria and the world, we share your pains,” are among the over 200 words the artist writes, and dated 09-09-15. “…dear girls, don’t lose hope, your present state may be a design, by the creator to put you at the top of the world,” Onobrakpeya adds.
In what looks like a phenomenon in contributing to rural development, Greenhouse Art Empowerment Centre really impressed the host, Olambe community. This much, a representative of Olambe traditional leaders, Otunba Rahman Ogunremi expressed when he read the town’s goodwill message to visitors. He noted that the centre, “is built to take care of students, women and youths in creative arts and culture.” Otunba Ogunremi described Iyase-Odozi as “pillar of support for Olambe community.” Present at the event were Baale of Olambe, Chief Wahab Sangodina and Chief Adewunmi Ogunremi.
Earlier, Prof Layiwola of Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos (Unilag), had also made a profound statement on Greenhouse and community development: “whoever we are – lawyers, doctors, any professional – you should use the profession to support your community as Iyase has done to the people of Olambe.”
For clarification, Iyase-Odozi, during a chat warned that the empowerment focus of the centre is not about teaching participants how to create art such as painting and sculpture. “We empower youths and women to use art in enhancing other creative profession. For example, if you are a designer, event manager, jeweler, craft person and any creative profession, knowing the rudiment of art is important.”
After a tour of the works on display, Onobrakpeya took guests through the art history lane, suggesting that since Nigerian modernism, dated to the emergence of Aina Onabolu, artists of the country have been contributing to global art vocabulary. He listed ten areas to support his claim of a dynamic Nigeria that should not be shut out in efforts towards the development of the country. “Our visual artists, through experiments, innovations, inventions, domestication of ideas, rediscovery of lost techniques, etc., have developed unique styles which continue to form art pieces that can over time only be described as Nigerian because they originated from Nigeria.” Onobrakpeya, an artist caught between the second and third generation of Nigerian modernists stressed the dynamics in the country’s art space. “These forms not only blaze the trail for the creation of new and exciting products but also constitute our contribution to the global art repertoire.”
He listed some of the artists that should be so revered: Aina Onabolu, “credited as being the first to introduce perspective and realism to drawings and paintings,” in Nigeria; .Ben Enwonwu, gained “both Nigerian and international recognition and becoming a role model for younger artists,”; Ladi Kwali “transformed Nigerian pottery into collectable ceramics which made Nigeria famous globally,”; Uche Okeke, who “developed new drawing and painting styles from Igbo body and wall paintings and decorations called Uli,”; and Oladapo Afolayan, who revived the art of stone carving for which Esie in Kwara state was once famous”
The guest artist also added to thie list, his work and invention in plastograph. “Onobrakpeya invented the plastograph and other techniques and developed printmaking to a major art form. Also he developed the Ibiebe Ideograms and alphabet.”
Taiwo Olaniyi known as Twin Seven Seven, according to Onobrakpeya, “created drawings and paintings which drew images from folktales, myths and legends. By using repeated patterns he helped create mystic and timelessness.
Others include Lamidi Fakeye, and George Bandele who, “through their induction at the Oye Ekiti workshop were among the pioneers created a new Christian art form from traditional African art.”; and Yusuf Grillo, “appropriated the stained glass technique from the West towards the creation of the Nigerian Christian art.”
He also listed, El Anatsui, Jimoh Buraimoh, Asiru Olatunde
Nike Okundaye, Susanne Wenger, Abayomi Barber, Olu Amoda, Olu Ajayi, kolade Oshinowo and J.D. Ojikere.
When the centre opened nearly three years ago, Iyase-Odozi listed areas of coverage as skill acquisition in Music, acrylic painting, Oil painting, Mixed Media, Tie & Dye, Designs (freehand and computer-aided), bead-making, Fashion Designing, Goldsmith, Sculpture / Ceramics, Draughtsmanship, Candle Making, Soap Making, Hat Making/Millinery, Drawing/ Sketching, Water colour painting, General Crafts
Greenhouse Centre houses Art Educational Museum section of the GreenHouse, she said features “collection of replicated artefacts of Ancient and donated works of contemporary art,” adding that the ancient works represent different historical eras and kingdoms in Nigeria.” The rooms are thus labeled: Contemporary Museum 1900-1960; 1961-1975; 1976-1985; 1986-1999. Ancient Museum: South West (Benin, Ife, Osun, lagos, Owo; East, south South (Ifbo Ukwu, Iriji, Mwenka, New Yam, A`bia, Enugu); North (Nok, Argungu, Hausa, Kogi, Igala).