‘We don’t consume art enough in Nigeria’

Ato Arinze (left), Emodi Tony, Kolade Oshinowo, Rasheed Amodu, Kunle Adeyemi, with the female artists.

Women have continued to push the boundaries of engagement in many spheres of national life. The visual art scene is no different, as women continue to own it as artists and gallery owners. And they are also expanding Nigeria’s art history conversation, as was evident recently as Female Artists Association of Nigeria (FEAAN), South West Zone, held its ART-TITUDE exhibition at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.

While it signalled a coming-of-age show, the artists also lamented lack of patronage from government and society at large. A ceramic lecturer at YabaTech, Patience Anthony-Euba, whose medium is clay, said, “clay is my medium and I use it to create whatever it is I want to do.”

She, however, lamented that government was not giving art enough attention, adding that Nigeria’s economy was not helping matters.

In her words, “If the government can invest in artists and help push their artworks, the sky will be our beginning. Every personality that represents the government should patronise indigenous artists and their works because by going out to purchase from foreign artists, you are encouraging them. Why don’t you encourage those that are here? First of all, let them purchase; government is not doing enough.

“I believe the more we promote art, the more art grows; we don’t consume art enough in Nigeria. There are international bodies I belong to; they just don’t go to the market to just buy plates. You see people, even individuals, commissioning them to produce cups and most of these things you see. Some of them are not even up to the standard of things you will see here and yet the people encourage it and the art keeps growing. The promotion we have here is not encouraging art enough.”

Anthony-Euba said Nigerian government should emulate the Chinese government, adding, “The Chinese will not buy outside; they buy Chinese products. The Chinese will produce trash and they will package it well and people will start buying. The Chinese government has the zeal to promote their skills. So, why won’t our government do more to promote our own?”

She advised the government to invest in art, stating that there are bundles of talents in the country.

Anthony-Euba also advised parents not to imprison their children’s talents, but allow them to do what they have passion for.

Meanwhile, the Coordinator of FEAAN, South West Zone, Ayoola Omovo Oluwaseun, said a lot of money could be made from artist and boosted that artists could make more money than medical doctors.

“I make more than N2 million from my art annually,” she said. “If you are a classroom teacher, they pay you N35,000, but you can sell one piece a day for N250,000; another day N150,000 and before the end of the month, you are making more than N500,000. So, people have to be patient; try to showcase your work; keep exhibiting, and stay on track.”

Omovo said every artwork speaks and is interpreted in different ways, saying, “One of my works talk about the flood that happened recently, another about the beauty of a woman; people think when a woman grows old she is no more beautiful, but that is not true. I have some work for interior design called ‘Take Me Home.’ I want every home to have art in it; everything we do is art. The plates we serve food on are designed by an artist.”

Oluwaseun said it was time people discarded old perceptions about artists being roadside artisans, adding that artists have national and international collectors, who know the value of art and pay heavily for it.

Poet, photographer and journalist, Evelyn Osagie, said the event was designed to change and influence the attitude of people through using art, saying it was the reason for the ART-TITUDE title. The multi-talented artist said she uses her photography to tell stories and explained some of her works on display.

In one, a white woman is seen wiping a boy’s tears and Osagie said, “This is a woman, who came for Osun Osogbo Festival in Nigeria. She didn’t have any business with this child; she saw a child crying and she stopped to wipe his tears. This is what we, as women, should be doing in our society.”

In another photograph about an autistic child, she said, “To get an autistic child to smile is a one-million-dollar work, but this woman takes care of them and she got this boy to smile.”

Osagie said her motivation springs from her environment and everything around her. She explained that one way she could be part of the change was to speak to her people, Nigeria and the world, through her art. She called on government and society to support artists and give them voice.

According to Osagie, “It is a very difficult for artists to live off their art because people don’t purchase art much in Nigeria. We should develop the culture of buying art. We have just a handful of collectors.”

Award-winning artist, Elisabeth Omolara Adenugba (also known a Clara Aden) advised upcoming artists to be patience and work hard at their craft.

Other artists present were Dr. Rita Doris Ubah, Esuru Belema Ichoku, Hafsat Kabir Zayanu, Oluchi Zom, Queen Nwaneri, Sophia Omon Igbnovia, Titilayo Omuigbe, and Nike Monica Okunaye. Others were Tabitha Odigli, Funmi Akindejoye, Mayen Owodiong, Jane Nwaopara, Aisha Idirisu, Dr. Stella Awoh, Jaachinman Nwaje, and Rev. Abigail Lemon.

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