In law space, art incorporates African concept of justice
Whatever cultural value Nigeria has to infuse in the country’s judicial process could be found in the concept of ‘Justice and Culture’ as expressed in a figural sculpture mounted outside Faculty of Law building, University of Lagos, Akoka.
Donated to the university by a prominent art collector, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, the blend of culture in judicial process is depicted in what could pass, as a modified African version of the symbol of justice. Sculpted by the artist Adeola Balogun the ‘Justice and Culture’ lady would, in future intellectual gathering, be a subject of debate on the place of cultural value in jurisprudence.
During a brief unveiling ceremony, Dean, Faculty of law, University of Lagos Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe argued that in law the culture of a people cannot be ignored. The whole idea behind the sculpture, “is to encourage our students that culture has a place in law,” Ibidapo-Oben told guests and members of faculty shortly before the unveiling. “For example, our needs are not the same as the European’s.”
Earlier, he recalled that the mounting of the sculpture “was not accidental; we had always wanted to do it.” The Shyllon donation intervention, he explained, was well deserved given the track record of the donor’s philanthropic gestures in the country. Apart from noting that Shyllon “was an outstanding student” at the faculty, Ibidapo-Obe stated that “he is an example for us to emulate.”
The Dean’s assertion about Shyllon couldn’t be faulted. Just two days before the unveiling, the donor had extended his generosity to Pan Atlantic University (PAU) Ajah, Lagos, where he ‘donated’ a proposed-museum facility and one thousand pieces of art. Also in 2013, Shyllon donated 18 sculptures by Balogun, Patrick Agose and Jagun to Freedom Park, Lagos Island.
In his welcome address, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Rahman Adisa Bello, stressed the passion of the donor in the area of art and culture, of which the university’s Creative Art Department has benefited. While extending the philanthropic commitment to the Faculty of Law, Bello said Shyllon “shows that there is a link between law and culture.”
The choice of art and culture in his philanthropic activities, Shyllon explained, was aimed at preserving the people’s identity. The donation to the Faculty, he added, went beyond just a sculpture to beautify space, saying he hoped that “this would influence how we symbolise justice. This is Nigeria’s symbol of justice.”
After the unveiling by Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Hon. Justice Amina A. Augie, the artist explained the concept and different native motifs used in the embellishment of the statue. Balogun, a well-known signature in public space art, stated that quite a number of diverse Nigerian native contents in motifs and symbols are encrypted in the work. Some of the features on the ‘Justice and Culture’ lady include a hairdo known as shuku from Yoruba, waist beads from Benin as well as motifs from the Igbo culture, among others.
Some of Balogun’s works in public space include statues of Obafemi Awolowo on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos; Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, mounted at Akure/Ondo Junction as well as Madam Efunroye Tinubu at Union Bank building, Lagos Island and Funsho Williams’ statue at Costain, Lagos.
For each of these works, there were challenges and gains, and the Justice and Culture lady is not an exception. In a text that serves as Balogun’s Artist Statement, he disclosed that the brief given him “was to re-conceptualise the universal symbol of justice in traditional Nigerian context.”
Cast in bronze and standing nine feet tall, with marble basement of six feet, the sculpture encapsulates the universal symbol of justice while also highlighting native contents, which Balogun described as “justice, authority and honour, as signified by the eben, the irukere and udu respectively”.
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