Friday, December 30, 2011

Seasons Greetings





 Very Best Wishes for the New Year, with 2012 filled with great opportunities

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rare pieces of modern Nigerian art Surface In Abuja


The Thought Pyramid Gallery, Abuja, Nigeria is proud to present 
BEYOND IMAGINATION: A COMMEMORATIVE EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS, SCULPTURES AND PRINTS BY NIGERIAN MASTER ARTISTS.
on Thursday Nov 24 at 5pm. Exhibition runs till 1st Dec, 9.00p.m. 2011 

 

West Africa flourishes with artists. The Lagos arts scene may arguably be one of the most artistically fertile spots on earth, given the sheer number of full time artist living in her environs. The West African artistic landscape has also been described as rich vibrant and often intriguing. However, very often discernable even to the common onlooker, is the towering influence of Titans of the Nigerian Artistc Terrain.  They are the Masters of Visual Arts. Their artistic backgrounds, even though roughly grouped into the formal and informal trained artists, have unleashed a tremendous amount of creativity and fervour into our artistic landscape.  All of the artists below have emerged as Nigerian Masters and by extension celebrated icons of their trade.

The first 4 constitute the Fantastic Four, of Oshogbo Art, and are also the first fruits of the illustrious Oshogbo Experimental Workshop started in the 60’s, under the tutelage and guidance of Ulli and Georgina Beier. A lot of their subject matter attests to strong beliefs, which are rooted in Yoruba culture and life.

Dancing Masquerades Bruce Onobrakpeya Metal Foil

Horns of Freedom  Low relief Metal Foil Bruce Onobrakpeya
Twins Seven Seven was a multi talented artist and performer. Even in death, he is by far the most visible artist that 20th Century Africa has produced. His works are often characterized by epic treatment of characters whether human or animal.  His human forms can often been seen with half shut or sleepy eyes, suggesting a surreal, dreamlike or trans-like state. He is a master of color and an elaborate decorator of surfaces. He is the alpha artist of the great Oshogbo school, widely celebrated even beyond the Nigerian borders. The genius of his art, is that his forms are mesmerizingly engaging and intriguing.

Jimoh Buraimoh comes from a traditional family in Oshogbo, long associated with the majestic art of crown making with beads. His innovative transfer of this traditional art form of crown making with beads, to bead making and painting on flat surfaces, places him with other great innovators like Onobrakpeya and Emokpai as having contributed to new techniques, vistas and methods of experiencing the visual arts. Jimoh Buraimoh is widely traveled and considered by many as one of  the finest folkloric artist in our shores.

Muraino Oyelami, is a visual poet who hails from Iragbiji near Oshogbo. His works have a cool blend of purple, yellow, blue and green colours, they are often juxtaposed, in his landscapes or other themes to form art that is often enchanting to behold. His art reflects and parallels the enduring appeal of Oshogbo art and culture. Muraino’s art like other great Oshogbo artists, suggests to the viewer, that as an artist, he straddles in his art to that magical  wonder world and place, where people, animal and places all converge and sometimes become one. He has exhibited widely outside Nigeria including Ghana and Germany.

The fourth in the quartet is Rufus Ogundele (1946-1996) who was born in Oshogbo. He was also a versatile performer and artist. In 1963 he participated in Denis Williams' workshop. Ogundele combined the European artistic techniques like printmaking which he developed especially under Beier's tutelage with the teachings of traditional Yoruba culture. In 1983 he was artist-in-residence at the Iwalewa-Haus in Bayreuth, Germany. He trained other artists at his studios.

Bisi Fakeye hails from Ila-Orangun, and was born into the Yoruba family of carvers of Inurin compound in South West Nigeria.  He belongs to the sixth generation of Fakeye family of carvers. In 1960, at age seventeen, Bisi Fakeye moved from Ila-Orangun to Ondo where he was attached as an apprentice for a total of seven years to his uncle, Lamidi Fakeye, in between which he trained as a teacher for one year.
Bisi Fakeye found Lagos a home and like Emokpai, he mixed and shared ideas with a new breed of contemporary artists, particularly those trained in formal art schools like Yusuf Grillo, and Ben Osawe.
He has also  participated alongside Onobrakpeya at the very prestigious Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) Exhibition, Abuja (2003). His work is highly regarded both within and outside Nigeria.

 Ben Enwonwu.  originally from Onitsha, is considered the father of modern art in Nigeria. He was formally trained at the Goldsmith and Slade Academy in he U.K. His greatest pieces show man in his finest form, elevated to the realms of gods. There are several examples of this, the best known being Shango and Anyanwu, which are sculptural pieces, but he is also well known as the painter of the famous Tutu.

Ben Osawe was also formally trained in the west, and was also the son of a Benin carver, his passion for wood for carving and bronze casting demonstrate his love for these media. Osawe loved and marvelled at the anatomy of the female form. His art must rightfully be considered as a modern day continuum of great Benin art, a position he shares with  his other  Edo/Urhobo countrymen Emokpai and Onobrakpeya.   Bruce Onobrakpeya who turns 80 next year, has shared his art and ideas through the Annual Harmattan Workshop now in the 14th Edition.   He has been described as amongst one of the most influential teachers of Nigerian artists.

As Ben Enwonwu was was an early teacher to Bruce Onobrakpeya, so too was Bruce Onbobrakpeya to David Dale. Dale is today, one of Nigeria’s most versatile artists in terms of technique usage. He is very widely traveled in Nigeria, on the merit of his ethnicity, training and professional life. All of these experiences, he leverages into the themes of his works. At heart Dale is a designer, with a passion for elaborate designs and ethnic motifs and patterns.

Erhabor Emokpai is an artist who is known for propounding the idea of dualism in his art. This idea which is similar to to the Yin Yan theory of the Chinese, has as it's main thrust that everything in nature, has a compliment. He is also considered a kindred Rebel by the art historian Kojo Fosu, because of his close association to very many of the artists of the Zaria School, of which Onobrakpeya was one. The astonishing number of works created by Emokpai, and varied techniques in which he executed them, in his relatively short lifetime, places him as an important post independence artist in Nigeria.

The final artist of note in this exhibition is Okpu Eze, he seems to have had a short spell working in Enugu as a carver of large sculptural pieces. A few of his pieces are very contemplative pieces and his works may also have been inspired by important Benin artists of his day Like Idubor.

What seems clear is that the cultural ferment of Lagos as an important art centre, destination and clearing house in West Africa, served as a catalyst and magnet for several of these masters to bloom to fruition.
Ultimately all of these artists should not be merely seen as just masters of the visual art trade, but in many ways must be viewed as cultural icons and institutions worthy of our highest accolades as a society, because their works celebrate great moments in our collective experience as a people.

Sugar Cane Truck Pushers Serigraphy Bruce Onobrakpeya 2011

As a collective the works of these masters though varied, in influence, techniques and place of execution, all speak of the inalienability and the eternal permanence of a Nigerian artistic experience, perspective and contribution to the global art of the world today.


In conclusion, may I also state that all great artworks, some of which are present in this exhibit, should carry our highest accolades. Today’s masterpieces like the great arts of our traditional society, are visual condensations of  important  thoughts, philosophy and belief systems of our people. They carry with them the seeds for celebrating our highest moments and achievements as a people.

The works of all of the aforementioned masters represent some of the modern artistic achievements of our people in nearly 5,000 years of Nigerian art. I can safely commend them to you.

We are thankful to the thought pyramid Gallery for showcasing the Visual feast. BEYOND IMAGINATION AN EXHIBITION BY NIGERIAN MASTER ARTISTS.



Mudiare Onobrakpeya
1st November, 2011
Lagos.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Onobrakpeya visits historic City of Onitsha

His Majesty Igwe Achebe with Royal fathers and Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya

His Majesty Igwe Alfred Achebe CFR, mni  with Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR at a special reception for guests during Igwe Achebe's 10th Ofala Celebration.


This month Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya visited the historic city of Onitsha on the invitation of his Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, CFR, mni to witnesss Igwe Achebe's tenth Ofala,  in Onitsha. The Ofala  festivity goes back to the beginnings of Onitsha in the 16th century. Every Obi of Onitsha celebrates a yearly Ofala, which in the days gone by, was his annual emergence, when most of his subjects had an opportunity to behold him.

The Ofala festival is remarkable in the sense that it also celebrates the beginning of the Onitsha New Year and New Yam season. The festival  brings  most of the indigenes of Onitsha from far and wide, as well as friends and well wishers to witness festivities connected to the Igwe's celebrations of his yearly Ofala.

The festival is often very colorful and  characterized by the paying of tributes, salutations and making of gift presentations to the Obi of Onitsha.  Senior ranking members of the community, who include chiefs and elders, can be seen wearing their head gears which are colourful and often made of ostrich feathers. The dance and ceremony is often accompanied by royal drums called Egwuota. There is also a spectacular parade and outing  of different age grades who pay homage to the Igwe Achebe who is also known as Agbogidi.

Chiefs and elders, can be seen wearing their head gears which are colourful and often made of ostrich feathers.
 Onitsha is  a beautiful and picturesque city  by the famous River Niger and is home to an active community of visual artists like Ato Arinze, George Edozien, George Nwazugbo and Oliver Enwonwu who have all contributed in  no small measure to the vibrancy that contemporary Nigeria art enjoys.
But by far the most popular artist to have come from this great City is the legendary and iconic Ben Enwonwu, who had mentored Bruce Onobrakpeya many years before, and represents the greatest visual artist of the 20th Century from Nigeria.
While in Onitsha Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya paid a courtesy call with a few members and artists of the Harmattan Workshop Series to the Obi of Onitsha.
His Majesty is a passionate and dedicated collector of African art, and is in part responsible and share the credit for a new wave of revival and renaissance  in the appreciation  of wood carvings  in Onitsha, a traditional artform in Onitsha which was almost lost and extinct due to waning appreciation. His beautiful home which is located in one the scenic valleys of Onitsha, is also home to  his tremendous collection of Nigerian masterpieces, which are a joy to behold. His collection include a modest but  surprising number of Nigerian masterpieces which have been painstakingly acquired from all over the country in the last 20 years.
One of this pieces is a meduim sized painting called Agbogidi by Onobrakpeya, and was done in honour of Obi Achebe who is also a long time patron of Onobrakpeya 's works.
Onobrakpeya's visit to Onitsha was remarkable and nostalgic, because it is the first time in 70 years, since he visited Onitsha with his then guardian the late Mr Onakufe who taught as a teacher in a primary school there. He also vividly remembers on his last visit to Onitsha, seeing a group of hunters on their way back from a hunting expedition, wearing their full hunting gear and  colourful regalia. This certainly made an impression on young Bruce's mind.
At the courtesy visit and reception which followed at the Obi of Onitsha's  home. Onobrakpeya thanked   Igwe Achebe for the  hospitality  extended to him and several artists during the visit, the continued support of the arts and the fatherly role  Igwe Achebe had played in nurturing Nigerian art. Onobrakpeya prayed that God should give the progressive Igwe the wisdom to continue to be a pace setter in Cultural and environmental concerns.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wanda Ibru Gives scholarships for the Arts



Community leader : Chief Wanda Ibru recently in Lagos

The 2012 fundraiser  for the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF) was kicked off this year in the month of July by Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR, who appealed to the Civic community in Nigeria, for continued support of the Annual Harmattan Workshop Series.
 Chief Wanda Ibru, a community leader based in Lagos and Agbarha- Otor, Delta State of Nigeria responded to this appeal by supporting and giving scholarships to 25 indigent community women who will be beneficiaries of the 2012 Annual Harmattan Workshop, and who other wise, will not have  been able to attend the workshop.
 The support for  the rural women, in her response was calculated at developing the skill set of community women in Agbarha-Otor, so that they  can develop modern skills like jewelry and bead making in order to empower them selves financially and improve their personal situations.
Olorogun Wanda Ibru has been a long time supporter  of the Annual Harmattan Workshop Series  (HWS), which by 2012 will be in it’s 14th edition. This 2012 support  coincides with the 80th Anniversary celebration  of the founder of the workshop, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya.
The HWS is an initiative of BOF, and has steadily grown over the years to attract trained and untrained participants, who share experiences  in a conducive learning  environment.
Generally the participants for the HWS come from all over Nigeria and beyond to the Niger Delta Cultural Center located in Agbarha- Otor, near Ughelli in Delta State of Nigeria.




Thursday, September 29, 2011

Niger Delta Arts and Culture Centre

Niger Delta Arts and Culture Centre at Agbarha Otor : Home of the Annual Harmattan Workshop Series


The  building  is a large one, about 30meters x 30 meters, on 3 floors which rises above the top of the surrounding oil palm trees. It was designed by the master builder and architect Demas Nwoko, a long time friend of Bruce Onobrakpeya.
Contained inside are several galleries and workshop spaces which form  a backdrop to the artistic activities both inside and outside.
The building is a rare jewel to behold and has had visitors, visit from the West Coast of Africa as far as Ghana.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eghwere: Reflecting on Man the Hunter


Eghwere by Bruce Onobrakpeya 2010, Mixed Media and installation 1.6m X 3m Picture taken courtesy of Dele Jegede


Eghwere is the Urhobo muse for successful hunting. It is used by Bruce Onobrakpeya as a metaphor for reflecting on man’s quest and struggle for survival. His efforts in different fields of endeavor is likened to those of  hunters equipped with bows, arrows, cutlasses and guns with which they hunt down game for food and his other requirements.

Similarly the pen, compass, camera, computer, microscope etc  though modern implements, also become tools in man's hands for achieving set goals that will help him to survive and improve his life.

Adapting the traditional shrine composition, the above concept have led to the creation of installations which show man as an achiever and crowned for his efforts with success. He is seen dressed, as a masquerade that has been embellished with many trophies, and is located in an imaginary forest dotted with standing pillars that double as  trees and animals

Like the traditional shrine, these installation changes with time . Some of the objects within  one background may be renewed with fresh colours or even replaced . Whereas the traditional shrine tends to remain fixed in one setting, the new experiments by Bruce are nomadic  in the sense that they may often be moved from one exhibition site  to the other, and for sheer compositional excitement,  the objects in different installations are nearly always interchangeable to form other groups.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Birthday of the month of August


Bruce Onobrakpeya: Artist, Innovator, and Teacher of many generations of Artists.
Bruce Onobrakpeya was born on August 30th 1932, in Agbarha-Otor in what is today known as the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. He is reputed to be Africa's greatest printmaker and one of the finest in the world.
Bruce Onobrakpeya would have very few rivals in innovative and experimentalist print making in our time. Not only is he a great draughtsman, master printmaker - in the professional sense of the word, he is also noted for his paintings and mixed media installation art.  Since 1966, he has discovered, innovated and perfected several techniques both in printmaking and relief sculpture. In addition to his experiments in mixed media and his reputation as a book illustrator, art teacher, author and folklorist, he is also one of the pioneers of modem Nigerian art and a leading member of the Zaria Art Society (renamed by the Emir of Zaria, to The Zaria Art Ambassadors). This important and now famous Zaria group, has been credited with laying the theoretical foundations for contemporary Nigerian art, in the late 1950s.  According to the critic Olu Oguibe  in 1991 “Onobrakpeya has not only proved himself an artist of unassailable worth, he has also strode the expanses of internationalism, exhibiting and executing commissions all over Africa, Europe and America and several parts of the World”
Onobrakpeya is a gifted teacher and mentor of several generations of successful artists. In 1999, for instance, he initiated The Harmattan Workshop Series, with a vision to empower artists. This annual retreat and gathering for artists now in its 13th edition, has become a new Mecca for visual artists. It is the longest running non-formal education for visual artists in West Africa. The workshop has been described as lofty, noble and life transforming because it brings in artists from all over the world to share their experiences in an atmosphere of brotherhood and camaraderie. This is perhaps his greatest legacy and contribution to the contemporary arts of Africa.
Bruce Onobrakpeya is not without honour, he was jointly designated by UNESCO and the Federal government of the Republic of Nigeria with the honour of “LIVING HUMAN TREASURE” a befitting tribute to a man whose whole life has been ruled by one passion: The Celebration of the arts of our motherland, and by extension our humanity as a people.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ulli Beier's Art Legacy: Creator of the Osogbo School

Bruce Onobrakpeya a Nigerian artist, pays glowing tribute to the work of Ulli Beier in Nigeria. He has described  Ulli  as one of the founders of modern Nigerian art, and ascribes the success of the now famous Annual Harmattan Workshop Series, now in its 13th edition, to the fact that, the Harmattan Workshop Experience was  closely modeled after Ulli Beier's workshops in  the 60's and 70's.


By Bruce Onobrakpeya

Ulli Beier was one of the few expatriates involved inthe pre- and post- independence ferment in art that crytallised into what we can today describe as the contemporary and modern Nigeria Art. The workshop series which he started, created a revolution that gave birth to what is now known all over the art world today as Osogbo School. As a great teacher, mentor and role model, he helped develop artistic freedom, drew our attention to Nigerian values by recourse to our past and traditions as well as to look beyond our immediate environment for inspiration. His passion for and invovlement in many areas of the arts has within his lifetime changed the town of Oshogbo into a Mecca for lovers of art.
Ulli Beier had several attributes, but in this brief tribute I will pay attention to his role as a great art teacher and a role model in the development of the arts and also as a vital instrument in the upgrading of a community - the Oshogbo community - into a tourism centre of world renown. The workshops he organised in Ibadan, Oshogbo and Ile -Ife, not only realigned my area of specialisation as an artist but also inspired me towards the development of an informal educational art outfit, which is the Harmattan workshop series of Agbarha-Otor in, Delta State, Nigeria.
I attended three of the art workshops he initiated and organised in the 60s and 70s. The first was at Adamasingba quarters, Ibadan in 1961. It was held at Mbari Artists and Writers club. Julian Bainet stood in for Amancia Guerdes, the South African Architect who could not travel to Nigeria. In that workshop there was a printmaking session but the main thrust was to develop our freedom in the use of found materials: metals, cement, building wire, etc.
But what I later realised to be my greatest benefit at the workshop was working with artists of different stages of development on the same project in the same classrooom. In the workshop was Akinola Lasekan who even then was already very well known as an accomplished artist. Also, I met Roland Abiodun who would later become a great scholar.
The second Ulli Beier workshop I attended came three years later in 1964 at Osogbo. It was on printmaking for which Professor Ru Van Rossen, a renowned printmaker from Tilburg University in Holland, was director. The class was not a big one. It included Jimoh Akolo and Irein Wangboje who were colleagues in the art school at Zaria. Other participants in that workshop included Twin Seven-Seven, Jimoh Buraimoh, Muraina Oyelami, Rufus Ogundele and a few others who had attended earlier Oshogbo workshops under Georgina Beier, Ulli's wife.
Through Ru Van Rossen's teaching and demonstrations and the examples of his prints that I saw, I realised that printmaking was a major area of art specialisation. That changed my direction from painting to which I was lured through peer pressure at the Art School in Zaria. Following that exposure, and equipped with materials given to me by Ulli, I launched into printmaking experiments with feverish passion and great determination which later on resulted in innovations and breakthroughs for me.
I use the word experiments because Ru made us understand from the workshop that printmaking can be very scientific and adventrous, involving the use of chemicals, tools and heavy equipment, as obtained in factories.
After attending the two workshops, Ulli watched my progress with satisfaction and as a way of motivation, he invited me to assist Ru in the Ori Olokun wokshop held at Ile-Ife around 1973. By this time Ulli had moved from Osogbo to Ife as the Director of the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ife, now the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile -Ife. In that capacity, Ulli offered me the post of Assistant Research Fellow at the Institute, Unfortunately I could not take it because my movement to Ife would retard the building up of an artistic audience which I already started in Lagos.
Ulli drew our attention to materials and themes around us - in beadworks, beaten metal, wood, clay, folklore, stones, traditional motifs, etc. These became the foundation for the great art pieces by Twin Seven-Seven, Jimoh Buraimoh, Asiru Olatunde, Nike Okundaiye, Rufus Ogundele, Muraina Oyelami and my metal foil plastograph.
Ulli did not stop with organising workshops. He monitored the progress of the artists in order to encourage them further. He would sometimes buy some of the art works produced at the workshops or at the artists' studios and exhibit them in Nigeria or abroad, accompanying the pieces with literature which would introduce the artists and explain the pieces. The Goethe Institute, the cultural arm of the Germany embassy in Lagos, cooperated with Ulli Beier, who was a German, to showcase our art regularly.
Next, Ulli encouraged his friends and art patrons to establish galleries to help sell artworks, particularly those produced by the workshop alumni. First amongst them was the Mbari Artists and Writer's Club of which he was a co-founder, followed by the Mbari Mbayo at Oshogbo. Next was Mbari Art Gallery, opened by Tayo Aiyegbusi on the ground floor of his studio at Jibowu near Ikorodu Road, Lagos.
Jean Kennedy and her husband Dick Wolford who worked for USAID, were themselves artists and friends to Ulli. They turned their sitting room in McEwen Road, Ikoyi to an art gallery where they marketed products of the Osogbo artists. We called the gallery the ‘Thursday Show' because it took place once a week for only two hours every Thursday.
My works naturally were included but the gallery also exhibited works of other Lagos-based artists like David Dale who were never part of the workshops. The Thursday Show gave me a financial breakthrough and a great impetus to continue my practice as an artist. This gave me the confidence to continue in my practice and I never looked back. Other expatriate families, one after the other, carried on the tradition after the Wolfords left Nigeria.
Ulli's promotion did not end with Ibadan, Osogbo, Ife and Lagos. He inspired the Mbari Club which was set up by Uche Okeke in Enugu. Also, he encouraged Ovia Idah to open a gallery in his house on the moat at beginning of Ekewan Road, near the Oba's market in Benin City. Ulli carried the crusade to Germany, the Iwalewa Haus Centre, which he set up there, did a lot to propagate Osogbo and other Nigerian artworks.
Ulli was totally committed to the development of arts. He cooperated with his wife Georgina in the workshops and with Susanne Wenger for the development of Osun shrines; also with Duro Ladipo for theatre, and was involved with various publications about African artists and culture in Black Orpheus. All these experiences prepared me for other workshops, residences and exhibitions abroad in Canada, India, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.
And so, when I started the Harmattan Worshop at Agbarha-Otor, Delta State in 1998, all the credit went to Ulli as one who inspired me to start it. It is his legacy that I am now propagating. The 13th edition of the Harmattan Workshop will end in August 2011 and like the previous workshops we organised, during the induction ceremonies for participants, the name Ulli Beier always comes up as the inspiration behind the project. This has been the practice since inception.
Following the example of Ulli's workshops, the Harmattan Workshop has proved to be a forum where Nigerian, African as well as artists from other parts of the world gather in many sessions every year to hone their skills, share ideas and network among themselves. The workshop has had participants from Canada, France, U.S.A, Benin Republic, Togo and Belgium. The works from the workshops, like Ulli workshops, have been exhibited widely within the country and have featured in the landmark events like the Nigerian Golden Jubilee exhibition at Abuja. Plans are underway to exhibit works from Harmattan Workshop at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. All these artistic activities are gradually helping to upgrade the status of the quiet, sleepy town of Agbarha-Otor where the workshop is situated. We hope it will be like Osogbo someday.
Ulli Beier gave a people - the Oshogbo people, nay, the people of Nigeria, pride in their cultural heritage. He came and awakened us to artistic and cultural consciousness. He laid the foundation that earned Oshogbo the World Heritage status it enjoys today.
Ulli Beier affected my life and a host of other artists whose talents would have remained dormant. He gave us wealth and international recognition. His life and passion for the arts did not only develop the art profession and raised the status of Osogbo, it also proved that the arts in its total application is a potential tool for the growth of any nation. May Ulli Beier's contributions and legacies which he bequeathed long endure.
Master printmaker, Bruce Onobrakpeya, delivered this paper at the celebration of Ulli Beier's life and works, held at the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding in Osogbo, Osun State, on July 2

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer 2011 Artistic Retreat

Summer 2011 Artistic Retreat in Delta State, Nigeria.

Participants at the Harmattan workshop
Are You an Artist?

Then, this summer The Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation will help you escape the distraction of the city and enjoy serene and rustic Agbarha-Otor, in Delta State, Nigeria, to create the art you have always wanted.

Come To The

HARMATTAN ART RETREAT


Accommodation and studio space are provided for the 2 weeks where you can work independently or alongside other artists according to your wish.

Come with all the materials you will need to create work and be responsible for you feeding, please pass along this information.

Venue: Niger Delta Art and Cultural Centre (Harmattan Workshop Venue), Agbarha-Otor Delta State.

Date: 14th – 27th August, 2011

Fee: N 5,000.00 per artist (You may pay into Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation account at Union Bank account no. 0151050000020 and present your teller on arrival at the venue).

For further enquiries call : Sam Ovraiti 234-80 3307 2344

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tribute to Ulli Beier By Segun Sofowote

On Saturday, July 2nd in the Osun State capital of Oshogbo, was held an event to ‘Celebrate Ulli Beier'. The event was attended by notable artists and several well wishers, many of whom had been associated with the Great Ulli Bier, who passed away at the ripe age of 88. Among those present were: art patriarch Segun Olusola; artist Bruce Onobrakpeya; and veteran broadcast person Segun Sofowote who gave a tribute to Ulli Bier. Please find the full text of Segun Sofowote's tribute to Beier.


ULLI BEIER

A TRIBUTE BY SEGUN SOFOWOTE

OSOGBO, JULY 2, 2011

As the host on Artists Showcase, which was regarded as the definitive Art and Culture programme on the Nigerian Television Service (NTS) Lagos in the decade from the mid-nineteen sixties to the mid-nineteen seventies, I once asked Ulli Beier a question which I should not have been obliged to pose.

He had lived and worked in the country for two decades. During that time he had cultivated quite a wide local circle of friends, a circle however that hardly extended beyond the interesting mix of the culture crowd, traditionalists, writers, dramatists, painters, sculptors and other categories of artists, many of them in their youth and fired in their creativity by the new nationalism of the period. So ubiquitous was Ulli Beier within the immediate space of his cultural field that if you were ever involved to any significant degree in some artistic expression, you were virtually inescapably bound to cross paths with him.

This fact underscores one of the essential features of the Ulli Beier agency in unveiling to the outer world in the second half of the 20th century the cultural realism of the land in which he operated. He beheld intently and recorded a lot. He had been hired to come and work in Nigeria’s premier tertiary institution of academic learning – the University College of Ibadan as it then was. But it must have clarified inside Ulli Beier either at the time he took up the appointment or pretty soon after that he was not the usual strictly curriculum- or lecture room-bound, campus-dwelling kind of creature. There was by far more town in him than gown. UNESCO, conceivably, would have been a more logical employer of his genre.

He was a lot more restless and more earthy than was regular in the exalted profession of tutoring young people in the appreciation or criticism of great works and great observations which have been captured in books and learned publications. Rather Ulli Beier was by inclination essentially a practitioner or, at the least a front-row spectator of events and practices as they unfolded in the groves, the shrines, the workshops, the smithies, the looms, the dyeing pits, the marketplace, the streets and the home. For his own personal fulfilment he needed to know names, hands, minds, myths and products that were not essentially used in the university.
That his was not the dabbling interest of a dilettante with touristic exploits or material exploitation on his mind is reflected in his path which led him to his soulful haunts and abodes and the company that he kept at Ibadan, Ilobu, Ede, Osogbo and all other locations in Nigeria and indeed the world, and what he then did with the cultural milieu and artistic setting that he came into.

His relating to what he found was not with a scalpel and forceps and such other clinical tools – if he were ever capable of that kind of relationship at all. Rather he used his cutlery and heartily partook of what was served up in this encounter. Indeed, figuratively speaking, he actually discarded such exotic picking tools and fed himself full with his fingers in the tradition of the culture that inundated his soul. In many aspects, small or big, he depicted the toiler’s status in which he had fixed himself within that culture.

In his total self-recast as a Yoruba person, as a result of which, for example, he was never again to be seen in the usual Western mode of dressing, he did not see himself in the flowing robes of the affluent ones (or pretenders to that status) or in the ceremonial paraphernalia of chiefs and titled personages. Ulli Beier never used any of his titles and never cared to look any grander than his stylised buba or dansiki could make him. And concerning such essential matters as his creative writing, quite objectively I have to say, I once remarked as director in a production of one of the plays which he wrote behind the literary mask of Obotunde Ijimere that he created the drama of an Ijaw myth with an incurable Yoruba mind.

Anyone who is so unfamiliar with the facts as to consider that observation a bit of grandstanding only needs to be factually informed that beyond Woyengi, Ulli Beier is quite consistent with that strain in the whole lot of his works, especially those standing in the names of his alter egos. Such a doubter would also have to be reminded of the way this aspect partly accounts for the compatibility between Ulli Beier and Suzzane Wenger, with whom he had started out on this journey into trans-racial self-discovery and the well-known fact of Adunni Olorisa drinking herself to complete immersion into the Osun deep.

How did the two surmount such mountainous notions as ‘fetish’, ‘primitivism’, ‘mumbo jumbo’ etc to become capable of resonating with the tones, rhythm and values which others from their background usually fail to perceive in technology-deficient cultures? It must have to do with a kind of seeing through the opacity of that background and a personal fascination with the quality of the unmechanised human essence that they encountered. They found traditional arts and crafts talking intelligibly to them.

Further, they recognised creativity in people who had not presumed to attract a lot of attention to themselves. In Suzzane Wenger’s case, it was enough for her that she was welcome and that she could freely unwrap her soul and bare her artistic insight in this environment. On his part, as far as Ulli Beier was concerned, he had found a head-shrinking rationality from which he had to offer the world another hue and taste of culture and creativity.

Having remarkably deepened himself in this culture in the manner, and to the extent to which, very few of the active and enlightened generation of the heirs of the culture themselves ever cared to apply their creative and intellectual faculties to do, Ulli Beier extensively documented, created, motivated, managed, organised, promoted and networked, all to see indigenous expressions of culture and creativity set on a footing that is self-assertive. Today the hub of cultural expression that Osogbo represents in the perception of the world cannot be divorced from the one-time synergy of activism on the part of Ulli Beier, Suzzane Wenger and Georgina Betts, later to become Georgina Beier.

Certainly a lot of reference must be made on this occasion to the historical theatre of Duro Ladipo, the new art of the set of Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh, Twins Seven-Seven, Rufus Ogundele, Nike Okundaye and the others, the peculiar stone accompaniment of Ademola Onibon-Okuta’s music, the widely patronised Ifa consultation and facilitation of Yemi Elebuibon etc, etc. Naturally a lot will be said about how much the emergence of Osogbo as the base of all these owes to the exegetic and analytical pen of Ulli Beier, his ever clicking camera, his cultural zeal, his knack for conceptualisation, his organisational ability and his international connections.

To all this I shall now add one more account which you may not be familiar with. It is about a unique entity, a world first. The inventive conceptualisation involved Segun Olusola and Ulli Beier. It was christened by me as Theatre Express. In concept it was a theatre group entirely made up of three persons. This unique concept was inspired by the chance assemblage at the time of three young theatre men who related, each in his own way, to the Nigerian Television Service (NTS) Lagos where Segun Olusola was the Controller of Programmes.

At the birth of Theatre Express in 1965, Wole Amele after studying drama at the University of Ibadan was in employment as a set designer for television; Wale Ogunyemi had just started work in the same station as a typist fresh from Ibadan and with significant theatre experience on the cusp of Wole Soyinka’s 1960 Masks transforming into Orisun Theatre; I was back in Lagos working by choice as a non-staffer broadcaster on radio and television after my years on the staff of WNBS-WNTV Ibadan and with a theatre experience that included having been a member of the 1960 Masks right from its inception. It is relevant to mention here that Wale Ogunyemi later returned to Ibadan and his place in Theatre Express was taken by Segun Akinbola, another product of the University of Ibadan who came to work in NTS Lagos.

Without any immodesty, Theatre Express is enough subject for a book or books. Similarly Ulli Beier’s support can be more copiously documented than this occasion can accommodate. Still we can voice briefly an appreciation of Ulli Beier for a number of specifics.

Though itinerant, Theatre Express was Lagos-based. That base was sourced by Ulli Beier. It was at Mbari Mbayo House where Mr & Mrs Tayo Aiyegbusi were our kind and accommodating hosts.

In contemporary times you can easily search the internet and come up with a long list of two- or three-character plays. Curiously though, that is not known to have resulted in a proliferation of three-man theatre groups. In its days Theatre Express was considerably challenged in regard to repertoire. Apart from what the likes of W. B. Yeats and Anton Chekov yielded us for adaptation, and Wole Soyinka’s The Trials of Prophet Jeroboam (for which we had to have recourse to a few guest actors), we had to depend on ourselves to come up with our own plays and sketches.

In this regard, the earliest pieces written by me and by Wale Ogunyemi were soon in print, published by Ulli Beier along with two others sourced by himself, one of which was written by him purposely for our repertoire. He called the collection the Theatre Express Sketches.

But his help with our repertoire was by no means limited to all that. As resourceful as ever, he also sourced two- or three-character plays for us from non-English dramatists who were as at that time yet unfamiliar. It was a task that involved him in translating such works from German – and maybe Portuguese too, actually.

Theatre Express was frequently on the road. With Ulli Beier’s unflagging support, Osogbo was the most constant stop in our itinerary. And Ulli it was also who made all the arrangement for the Theatre Express tour of Britain in 1967. Indeed so fond was he of this successful theatre innovation that when the time came for him to go away after more than two decades here, he endowed Theatre Express with his Citroen truck, thus giving my trusty Volkswagen beetle (my dearly loved LG 1630) a much deserved break from so much country road run.

On one of his few visits after he had departed from Nigeria the second time, he heard as Georgina and I were chatting and discovering that we were born around the same time – about the beginning of the Second World War. We then compared our experiences and perceptions of life in our different locations in the world at the time. It was enough to give Ulli one of his well-known brainwaves. “Segun,” he said, “why don’t you and Georgina write down these separate accounts in full! Together,” he added, “they’ll make such an interesting book.” There is no doubt that he would have got such a book into many a world reading list if we had obliged him.

Why do I recall this now? It is to substantiate that Ulli Beier was that kind of a tireless cultural worker, an artistic workaholic who never allowed any creative impulse to go to waste – whether his own or somebody else’s.

Well, yes, there was that question that I posed to him in my television programme, the one that I wish I did not have to ask him. It was about what a very few but quite vocal ones of the new intellectual elite of the period had started saying, to the effect that what the likes of Ulli Beier were doing was meddling in indigenous artistic traditions and that was creating a distortion in the normal development. What would he say to that, I asked him. In doing so I was only engaging in the best media practice of course.

One of the aspects of media practice that I like most is that it is not for the ignorant or the uninformed. In taking on an expert or specialist in any discipline for example, an interviewer would quite rightly declare himself a layman. In the best practice however, he ought to have taken the trouble to educate himself on the subject matter far beyond what a layman commonly knows. That is the only way he can adopt the layman’s position, assume the layman’s posture and employ the layman’s parlance to plumb the depths of his subject thus serving the best interest of both layman and expert. Quite often he plays the devil’s advocate and deliberately rocks the boat to test the stability of the expert’s vessel and/or demonstrate the same to any doubters.

So it was that I suddenly sprang this question on Ulli. I had hoped that it would provide him with one opportunity to enlighten all such cynics. But I had miscalculated! What did Ulli do? He simply waved it off and dismissed any obligation to engage in a response! Well, one is not unfamiliar with the disposition of people who are not inclined to talk about themselves, which would then make it necessary for one professionally to chip in here and there with subtle bits of the much that one knows of them. That skill was needed on that occasion and one had to steer shrewdly away from a dead end… Interestingly however, many of those who posited that way at the time are known to have since turned into avid collectors of the works of those Osogbo artists who had their technical initiation from Georgina Beier and were so actively promoted by Ulli Beier.

And now Ulli has aged and gone, the one who gave that institution in Bayreuth, Germany set up for African creativity the name of Iwalewa Haus, a name that resounds in the tones and ethos of his soul’s favourite place on earth. It cannot be doubted that Obotunde Ijimere, or Tunji Sangodare, or Ulli Beier, father of Tunji Beier would have preferred to live his last years here, for his soul to depart the earth from here and for this land to have his bones. As to why that was not permitted to be, only those who saw to it can answer.

But his extensive and priceless artistic and archival collection of Nigeriana, Africana and Oceania is firmly in our hands. So this is not in the nature of an isipa ode, or in the tradition of burying treasures with their noble collectors. We keep those treasures and send after Ulli Beier our deepest wishes that his ever active spirit will continue to mature towards an eternity of joy, unfettered by any kind of jingoism.

Good bye, Ulli.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rarely Seen Masterpieces of African Art: Installation and Mixed Media by Bruce Onobrakpeya


According to Onobrakpeya “Africa is a dumping ground for many Euro-American and Asian goods. How does one therefore, salvage Africa of these unwanted wastes and make the best of an ugly situation?”

Bruce Onobrakpeya embarked on installations as an art form during the Period (1995 - 2005). Installations and Mixed Media done by the artist, are works done which are characterized by the arrangement of different discarded materials to create works of art. The list of materials used is inexhaustible; jute bag, animal bones, hide and skin, discarded metals, foil paper, plastics, beads of all colours, used engine spark plugs, discarded computer mother board, PVC pipes, bottle corks, CDs, chains, twines, cowries etc. The unconventional materials that has been sourced by him and used in art making, exemplifies the height of material appropriation, born out of the need to solve societal and personal artistic problems.

These installations were essentially to draw attention to importance of protecting our environment. This is perhaps what motivated him to join forces to realize the overall philosophy of waste to wealth which Nigeria is preaching in all aspects of her socio-economic life.

According to Prof Egonwa in his essay the Rewards of Creativity. “The term assemblage often used to describe his installations does not carry the fullness of what the spirit of artistic assemblage in pictorial elements (items which are assembled in one composition) offer, as the French rendition of the same technique in music or theatre, ensemble presents. This is because aesthetic individuality of disparate elements given, denied, and integrated in the unity of composition evokes a higher affective presence in his works. Here the various elements manifest the beauty of simultaneity as in a musical ensemble. Here one encounters the tacto-visual equivalent of the musical kine-aesthetic ensemble. ”

Works in this category include Cathedral, Voices of silenced Voices. Standing Nomadic Forms, Divination Bowl and Environmental Regeneration.


Enjoy these breath taking and rarely seen Masterpieces of contemporary and modern  African art. 
Eghwgre (Hunting) Installation
 *Photographic Credit Prof. Dele Jegede

Wall Hanging
Cathedral
Standing Forms
Scavaging In a Lost Paradise
Twin Nomadic Forms
Divination Bowl

Environmental Regeneration 


*all other pictures courtesy of Mr. Bode Olaniran









Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Commentry On Christian Art in Nigeria


The Last Supper Lino Engraving 1969

The very idea of FESTAC in the mid 70′s, was widely condemned by many churches all through out Nigeria, as a return to fetish images, connected to curses and ancestral covenant symbols and paganism by Nigeria. In 30 years since this celebration, the mindset of many about our arts, has not altered drastically. This clearly has put a clog to the widespread appeal and appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of our art, especially the contemporary. The government has therefore approached cultural celebrations using art, as an explosive area, which has to be approached with caution, due to it’s potential for undermining political influence and support. 
Bruce Onobrakpeya a modern Nigerian artist, whose artistic pieces have been widely collected in Christiandom, including by the Vatican Museum, has suffered a high casualty of having a lot of his works burnt, destroyed or at least stiffly resisted, perhaps more than any other Nigerian artist, because of cultural intolerance for new and radical African imagery, connected to the interpretation and worship of God Almighty. This has placed his works directly on the firing line of the brunt of the intolerance of our people, who are often guided by their “inspired” pastors or pious family members. The best of our art, including the modern, will continue to be seen for some time outside Nigerian shores, where they find a safe haven, devoid of any hate, and stand protected for the generality of Nigerians to enjoy their aesthetic merits.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Great Quotations on Modern art in Nigeria by Bruce Onobrakpeya

Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya  MFR
 
  • The past, the present and the future are all part of the same continuum, as long as we take with us the best of our time tested values, we have nothing to fear. We can be assured that we will always remain relevant as Africans

  • Art itself is a reflection of the life of the people. . . The art that we create is helping to give our people self-identity. For one to call himself an artist, one has to take a leadership role. Not just merely producing art works, but producing art works which are backed by ideas and philosophies which are calculated to help upgrade and uplift the life of the people.
  • Nigerian art rivals the best in the World.  
    • My art is Linked to the Spiritual.  
      • The quality of sunlight is strongest in the tropics, West African and Nigerian art have very vibrant and bright colors which reflect this strength and luminosity of light.   
        • The modern man propelled by the spirit of the jet and information age is too busy to observe little things in nature, the artists has a duty to draw attention to these details of nature, for very often the answers we often seek, are in the details provided by nature, which are often overlooked.  
          • El Anatsui’s works have not only impacted on several upcoming artists, but his work continues to impact on, even his peers. It is this kind of relevance and creativity that institutionally the Harmattan workshop Series strives to rekindle and replicate in the contemporary art of Africa. 
            • Nigerian art is dynamic because it is the product of cross fertilization and influences from at home and outside. This hybrid quality inherent in it, means that it can never be stagnant.   
              • Every artist must have a Mount Everest which he plans to scale, in my own case, i have chosen the Annual Harmattan Workshop as a platform, which will not only artistically empower todays artists, but will also produce tomorrows greats of the future. 
              •  Ulli Beier should be rightly considered as one of the fathers of modern Nigerian art.

                    Friday, April 8, 2011

                    Ben Osawe: Enigma of Modern Nigerian Art

                    by Mr. Sammy O. Olagbaju 2001

                    Sam Olagbaju is a pioneer indigenous collector of Contemporary Nigerian Art. He started collecting in the summer of 1967. His collection in terms of breadth and quality of pieces collected in the post independence years of 60's, 70's and 80's, is unrivaled in Nigerian art.

                    "While I was a student at Trinity University of Dublin, I got to know a carefully guarded secret. I had gone to visit a friend in College in rooms that he shared with he another student. Together, they had been able to borrow from the College Art Lending Library, enough art works to brighten their room and make them really different and distinguished. The draw for particular paintings was done once a year, but I was determined to participate in the next opportunity. This was a picture lending library and my art acquisition instincts had been awakened, regardless of the fact that the library only had only reproductions.

                    I first set sight on Ben Osawe in the early part of 1966. We lived in the same close in the Suru-Lere part of Lagos and we soon got talking, first about his art, which was very visible at the back of his studio where he had all sorts of uncompleted works scattered around the place. Over the years, I soon found an object of fascination. I remember one day, walking over to Ben’s corner of the close, determined to urge him to work on a wooden sculpture, which I thought would look really magnificent when completed. I got it in the end and still have it to this day, a proud possession.
                    Ben took a strange interest in what I did for a living, which was stock broking, at that time, a rather esoteric profession. Ben was always asking what he will get in return, if he gave me say 500 pounds to invest. He also wanted to know where I would invest his money. I drew up an investment schedule for him one day with bits and pieces from Nkalagu Cement, Dunlop, daily Times and Nigerian Tobacco Company shares. These were the darlings of the stock exchange in those days and an investment portfolio will be incomplete without them.
                    I cannot quite remember if Ben actually bought and sold shares. This is no time to ask as Ben is quite likely to ask me to invest what is due to him from me and quadruples same instantly, if only to confirm my faith in the stock market.
                    I was always struck by the fact that Ben worked with his assistants relentlessly on his big works and small mainly wooden pieces, if my memory serves me right. It was fascinating to see him carving away, now chiselling, then running his hands over the work and finally giving up to have a beer with me.

                    In the sixties and seventies in Lagos, the art life rotated around the Goethe institute, then on broad street , on e of the best kept buildings at time, with regular exhibitions of works by Nigerian artists. It was at the Goethe that Twins Seven Seven, Jimoh Buraimoh and I think Muraino Oyelami had their first exhibition. I had to translate to English Twins Seven Seven Peroration about the importance and relevance of the Oshogbo artistic endeavours to Yoruba Culture.

                    But Ben is of another mould, trained in the western art traditions and idioms of the first order – just keep the beer cold and flowing for good results. We agreed about the little I knew about art, and I always had to remember that art was for Ben, his life and pleasure not merely a subject of conjecture or speculation. He knew what he was about and craved the opportunity to show his exceptional talents, his regards for tradition and his insights into the human condition. This last virtue has enriched his works and makes them to stand out.
                    The instability which our country has experienced in the last 35 years, has deprived us all of much of that a wonderful sculptor such as Ben will have given us
                    Most of the opportunities for commissioning memorable public works of art has been missed there are hardly any city in Nigeria that can boast of a wonderful to behold sculptures. Ben is still alive, thank God and has continued to dazzle us with is fascinating beautiful works. Give me the right today, and I will ask Ben to devote 10 years to creating monuments in our towns. Beautiful pieces to grace this glass and motar structures a in our cities, and incomplete without the art of Ben Osawe. It will be those sculptural monuments that we are going to steady our gaze, before we enter those crowded office blocks.

                    It is easy as a collector to be a smug. After all, I have several of Ben’s works and all of them, absolutely beautiful pieces, in my judgement! I have in fact recently been collecting some of Ben’s drawings and sketches – those he did between 1961 and 1964, all of them showing what an eye for detail he had. I am sure Ben will not mind me saying so, his sketches were like preparation for the sculptures he had in mind!

                    I don’t feel like a smug, I feel discontented that such a creative artist is amongst us and we have not paid him as much attention as he deserves. We did not as much as honour those illustrious artists that lived and passed on as eminent Nigerians Our memories are always short and our artistic heroes hard to find. Soon we will have to queue at the galleries in London, Paris Amsterdam, New York and Darwin to see works bequeathed to us by Ben Osawe.
                    To his credit Ben has trained many artists and they all adore him and thank their lucky stars for the chance to watch him work and to, learn from him. I am given a chance to see only some of Ben’s output. He does me the honour of letting me admire his past and present creations. I am for ever grateful to him for his never ending understanding and courtesy."

                    Saturday, March 26, 2011

                    Comments on the 13th Harmattan workshop

                    Mr. Sam Ovraiti
                     The recently ended 13th Annual Harmattan Series, has continued to receive high praise and accolades from several observers of the arts. The first came from Chief Wanda Ibru, a local community leader and supporter of the Annual Harmarttan festival of the arts. She spoke on the choice of Mr. Sam Ovraiti as this year’s artistic director as excellent, based on his track record as an artist, teacher and administrator. Also, the noted collector of West African Contemporary art Mr. Fred Spinnler said in commenting on this year’s workshop that “It is also great that Sam Ovraiti has the director ship, since I know him as a serious hardworking artist who has visions for steps forward in the Nigerian Contemporary Art, and the representatives from Ghana, Benin etc. will also add value in the frame of the West African Art Development” The Ghanaian artist, Kofi Dawson a first time participant at the workshop, commended the workshop as being “lofty, noble and life transforming because it brings in artists from all over the world to share their experiences in an atmosphere of brotherhood and camaraderie”.


                    The Annual Workshop Series is unique in the sense that it is the only institution of it's kind in Africa that has consistently sought to bridge the gap between the formal and informal trained artist annually, to enable shared and accelerated learning between these two groups. This year’s workshop had over 100 participants in attendance from Belgium, Canada, Ghana, Republic of Benin and Togo and Nigeria.


                    The Chairman of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR, in making a case for the need for the Annual Harmattan Workshops to continue, stated that the workshop is in the business of producing tomorrow’s great artists, today. This is done through cross fertilization of ideas, interaction, inspiration, team building and a great and conducive learning environment in the countryside for participants. Despite dwindling funding, support has continued to come from credible corporations with a high sense of social responsibility to the West African sub region.

                    Friday, March 18, 2011

                    Golden Jubilee Dance Celebrating Nigeria at 50




                    Dance of the Golden Jubilee
                    Installation by Participants of the Harmattan workshop Series under the Auspices of Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF)


                    The work which is an installation, represents the celebration, aspirations and challenges of the Nigerian people for political, cultural, social and economic emancipation since independence.
                    These aspirations are reflected in the group work which is centered around an organic tree growing that is used as a metaphor for the growth of Nigeria. It is also a metaphor for the concern for environmental issues, which become necessary as a result of the delicate balance of nature and the environment, which like Nigeria needs to be protected.
                    It is this protection of the tree and the environment that becomes the guarantee for our long term sustenance as an entity and a people. Chief amongst these reasons, is that it erases the problem of environmental hazards like oil spillage and social concerns like youth restiveness. Another reason is the economic one of large scale unemployment which can be the result of a monolithic economy instead of a diversified one, which is based on the chief exploitation of one resource. Understanding the need for the delicate balance in the environment, allows for and promotes the diversified and varied uses, of a lot of our God given resources in Nigeria to empower her people economically, instead of its chief reliance on one product.

                    These ideas have also been filtered through in the Annual workshop Experience which is arguably one of the best examples of an artist collective that seeks to renew its creative ideas by going back to its roots and fundamentals to sustain itself. The Harmattan Workshop is participatory in its approach to creativity and problem solving, and points towards the values of the following:

                    ●Conflict resolution and problem solving by participants of the workshop as a potent instrument for engendering peace and friendship.
                    ●Team building irrespective of gender and place of origin.
                    ●Research and experimentation and cross fertilization of ideas

                    The mixed media installation is a joint effort by few participants of the Harmattan workshop series at Agbarha-Otor Delta State Nigeria. The workshop series itself is the flagship programme of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation with branches at Papa Ajao and Victoria Island, Lagos.

                    The central piece (a hanging) which gives the installation its name is called “Dance of the Golden Jubilee” composed by Bruce Onobrakpeya who is the initiator of the Annual Harmattan Workshop Series since 1998. It is made up of plastocast vignettes and stained fibre. The stones works at the base were carved by Godwin Onobrakpeya, Andrew Onobrakpeya, Alaric Oviri, Uwa Usen, Ojo Olaniyi and Taiwo Sulaimon. Two wood carvings at each side were done by Anyandepo Abiye. The two pieces symbolize emergence and celebration, the trees on both sides of the pictures are encrusted with beaded jewels symbolizing the wealth of our environment. Lastly the circular disk at the foreground is a metal foil plastograph produced by Moses Unokwah.

                    The workshop advocates sustainable and renewable use of ideas and materials for creativity and leadership in the arts, some of these ideas are derived from the countryside. In the same manner, Nigeria must completely harness its diverse resources where ever found, for her long term sustenance, protection and renewal of land and people. In this way Nigeria will be guaranteed long term survival, translating into prosperity into the next century and even beyond.

                    Monday, February 21, 2011

                    Anatomy Of Three Nigerian Modern Art Collectors

                    Mr. Remi Lasaki
                    Anatomy of Three Contemporary Art Collectors
                    First published in Art Business Outlook with Mudiare Onobrakpeya
                    in Adumadan Arts Beats Vol. 1 No 2 March 16-31, 1998
                    Lagos, Nigeria.


                    • Remi Lasaki
                    • Yemisi Shyllon
                    • Kiddie Dare

                    Between the three of them, they all have a common string of connectivity. They are all highly dedicated and actualized professional people at the peak of their profession. They have shy introvert type personalities, leading very private lives, and are rarely seen in public gatherings except during art exhibitions. Their religious devotion to collecting masterpieces by great and renowned Nigerian artist border on an obsession. They collect out of the pureness and exhilarating joy of the aesthetic quality of the artworks. Arguably they have a collection valued at several tens of millions of Naira. They are Remi Lasaki, Yemisi-Shyllon and Kiddie Dare, who are all great connoisseurs of art.

                    Remi Lasaki’s zeal for acquiring master piece art is a transferred passion from his days on wall street, where he cut his teeth picking a lot of blue chip and fortune 500 stocks. He attended a prestigious business school in the outskirts of New York, where he took his training in Finance. His voracious appetite for consummating business deals like collecting artworks is simply non ending. Art for him represents the highest level of preservation of our rich traditional values and culture. “The patron has a duty to collect and preserve good art for posterity sake”, he once observed. Good art he says,” is a constant all time barometer for measuring our civility as a people”, not surprisingly then he has in his portfolio such greats, as David Herbert Dale, Jimoh Buroimoh, Abayomi Berber amongst others. Lasaki currently has an ultra modern office space built in the classical old Lagos Brazillian style in the heart of Lagos. His walls of course celebrate his deep conviction in the unrivalled beauty of African art.

                    Yemisi Shyllon can best be described a restless academic, whose versatility and intellect is awesome, at various times he has excelled in Engineering and architectural design, legal studies and marketing, he is currently a doctoral candidate in business and strategic management. Despite his apparent chaotic and erratic lifestyle, his love for the arts is unalloyed and devotional. He has the widest known collection of contemporary Nigerian art to date outside the Modern Gallery of Art in the National Theatre. Every generation of artist past and present is represented in his museum home. The volume of his work is only matched by the quality. He is currently engaged in documenting his extensive collection which one day he would donate to a Foundation in his name.

                    Kiddy Dare loves to fly and his job constantly takes him to different parts of the globe. This is one man who loves Champaign, rare wine and collecting premium artworks. He has an enviable collection of several artworks rightfully considered to be classic contemporary pieces of Nigerian art. In his opinion the single most important ingredient for being a collector is not wealth but having a discerning sense for fishing out good art. Art may very well be for him an avenue for getting well grounded, considering the break neck and tight professional schedules, he has to work around.

                    Interestingly all three, do not see art as a status symbol or a mode of wealth acquisition, they have no speculative intent for financial gain. They all agree that there is a good chance that their individual portfolios might already be worth a fortune, but for now, just enjoying and living around good art is all that counts. If someday these collection become valuable, each concludes they will also have had the added benefit of spending a life time around beautiful art.

                    Postscript Feb 21, 2011


                    Remi Lasaki's fortune may have been tied to the crash of the Nigerian Stock Market. He is today primarily now concerned with the re-invigoration of the Nigerian stock market, and rarely collects art these days. He however opens his home and collection once every year at Christmas, to people from all walks of life to see, he also commissions original art by a modern Nigerian artist once every year at Christmas, to celebrate the Civility of the Nigerian people.
                    In 2009 he commissioned an independent Valuation and documentation of his private art Collection. This collection was first started from his mother’s home in Suru- Lere, a suburb of Lagos 30 years ago.

                    Yemisi Shyllon did not complete his doctoral training in business, but runs a thriving law firm. He is today, however, President of the Omoba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Foundation (OYASAF), an organization reputed to own the largest single holding of modern Nigerian art globally. Some of his pieces have been placed in International art auctions like the Bonhams auction: Africa Now in New York 2010, to sensitize people globally about the potential of the new and sustainable emerging West African Art Market. His works are also for the same reason, now on loan to major art institutions around the world.

                    Kiddie Dare is today one of the key persons in Nigeria’s Air Traffic Control Agency, and has become completely reclusive, he was last seen in public art gatherings 10 years ago. He remains a very strong advocate though, of the use of Nigerian art in the beautification of public spaces and organizations. For 10 years he has not spoken a word to anyone about his passion for modern Nigerian art, and his art is not accessible to the public.

                    They all continue to add value to our unique identity as Nigerians.

                    Blog Archive