Emmah Mbanefo opens historic solo at Nimbus Gallery

Posted: April 20, 2012 in arts/culture

Nimbus Art Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos will seek to re-establish its once prominent place as the centre of art activities following nearly six years of absence when it presents one of the foremost versatile multi-media artists in the country, Emmah Mbanefo.

The gallery will from Friday, April 20 till May 6 showcase a historic solo exhibition titled:  Ambivalence,’ an Endotelic exhibition of sculptures, paintings and installations by Emmah Mbanefo, which will be declared open by a leading patron of the arts, His Majesty Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, who on his part is expected to draw the crème of Nigeria’s art patrons, critics, amongst others.

Explaining the theme of the exhibition, Mbanefo, at a special media preview, Tuesday, at Nimbus Art Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, noted that: “Ambivalence is premised on the understanding that in all things there is a foundation, one which is predetermined and beyond control. However, that singular foundation is challenged, pushed and pulled as we fight to define ourselves. Ambivalence is the search for the good, the spirit of humanity. In exploring ambivalence, the work explores, and sifts through humanity, interrogating emotions – strong feelings.

“The collection of which is simply ambivalent, made up of both the positive and the negative. Yet, when one looks deeply enough therein lies a foundation of goodness, in the individual spirit and in humanity as a whole, goodness that is defined by humanity’s balance, association  and place in accordance with the laws of nature. It is the quest to see this goodness, to bring out this goodness in day-to-day life that the works of ‘Ambivalence’ explore.”

Remarking, Mr. Chike Nwagbogu, the Creative Director of Nimbus Gallery, said the exhibition remains the much sought after opportunity for art patrons to assuage their cravings; given the creativity and versatility of the artist.

“As social entrepreneurs committed to using art as a vehicle for fostering societal change, we at Nimbus are proud to collaborate with Emmah Mbanefo in presenting Ambivalence,” Nwagbogu said, adding: “Nimbus Art Gallery is proud to host the first solo exhibition of this sublimely talented artist. Indeed some art patrons have made bold to state that Mbanefo falls into the mould of artists often described as ‘Artist’s Artist’”.

Continuing, Nwagbogu also noted that “Mbanefo’s inspiration and driving force is the continuous pursuit of artistic originality and perfection with the fervent belief that through his work, this spirit of excellence can be set loose on the greater Nigerian and African psyche for true freedom of expression to reign.”

Emmah Mbanefo was born 1960 in Jos, Plateau State. He studied Fine Arts at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, majoring in sculpture and textiles. Over the years, Mbanefo has developed a reputation for producing bold and imaginative works. During this period, he has had close working contact with such masters as Ben Enwonwu, Ben Osawe, Okpu Eze and Bruce Onobrakpeya.

Mbanefo’s works take pride of place in public spaces and in private collections within and outside Nigeria.

Mbanefo’s career has traversed a number of decades. During this period, he has had close working contact with such masters as Ben Enwonwu, Ben Osawe, Okpu Eze and Bruce Onobrakpeya. His works take pride of place in public spaces and in private collections.

His inspiration and driving force is the continuous pursuit of artistic originality and perfection with the fervent belief that through his work, this spirit of excellence can be set loose on the greater Nigerian and African psyche for true freedom of expression to reign.

Mbanefo is a disciple of the Endotelic branch of arts; a field where the artist explores his own individuality without recourse to any rules. According to Ben Enwonwu, the positive end of Endotelic art seeks “the objectification of the artist’s beliefs, his feelings, meanings or significances, and volition”.

Heavily influenced by the pioneer African modernist, Ben Enwonwu, who incidentally, along with Mbanefo hail from Onitsha, the rich cultural heritage of Onitsha is very evident in their works. It is a heritage that has also produced quite a number of artists including Oseloka Osadebe, and Okechukwu Odita, who were members of the Zaria rebels, the group that revolutionised Nigerian arts.

In 1980, Mbanefo began his professional training as an apprentice to an Onitsha based carver, Mr. Michael Orji of the Orajis carvers, while two years later in 1982, he enrolled at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, now Edo State, where in 1985, he obtained the National Certificate in Education (Sculpture/ textile option) and a Certificate of Excellence.

In 1986, Mbanefo established a visual art studio in Onitsha, as he also taught art at the Okpari Grammar School, Okpari Waterside, Ughelli in the current Delta state. In the same that he married Ekwy Genevieve nee Menkiti (their children are Ikechukwu, Obiamaka, Emeka and Ifeyinwa).

In 1988, he built the impressive statue of Sgt. Egbunike and Monsignor Obelagu, commissioned by Nnanyelugo Jas Egbunike, and in the same year also built the statue of Chief Nkwocha Okonkwo (Obudulu), commissioned by Chief R.O. Nkwocha (Ide of Enugwu-Ukwu and Umu Nri); and thereafter meeting with Ben Enwonwu at his Ikoyi residence for the first time in company of Nnanyelugo Jas Egbunike.

Also in 1988, Mbanefo is named Creative Director for Pablo Best Limited Lagos;  builds the Eko Doctor for Eko Hospital Ikeja; builds the statues of military Heads of State for Okada Wonderland and a year later in 1989, is involved in first group exhibition (Vision for Excellence), in Lagos.

In 1991, Mbanefo organized the first art exhibition for the young and budding artists in Onitsha at the Ime Obi Onitsha, “Onitsha Mythologies”, in honour of distinguished pioneering officials of Total Nigeria Limited in Onitsha. Messrs J.C. La Page and J.C. Boilon (sponsored by P.O Balonwu, SAN, while in 1992, built and mounted the statue of Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony at Ikeja.

In 1995, he built the Obi Uruagu-Nnewi sculptures, Nnewi, Anambra State (Commissioned); Independence Anniversary Exhibition (SNA) art exhibition, Joedon shopping mall, Onitsha; Independence Anniversary exhibition SNA exhibition, Onitsha Sports Club, Onitsha.

In 1998, he holds the “Flower in the desert” exhibition at the Minata Gallery Ikoyi, Lagos; 1999, the  “MUSON First Festival Art Exhibition”, at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos; In 2000, the  “MUSON Festival Art Exhibition”, MUSON Centre, Onikan Lagos; “Voices”, Nimbus Art Centre acquisition; Architectural sculpture commissioned by Chike Nwagbogu, Lagos.; 2001: Artistic furniture commissioned by Nn’emeka Maduegbuna, Onitsha.

In 2002, he holds the “Changing Attitudes” exhibition during the 4th PACA Biennial exhibition, Pendulum Art Gallery; the crown of the 21st Obi of Onitsha commissioned by His Majesty Nnaemeka Achebe, CFR, mni; 2003, “Olokoto, Songs of Chima”, premier exhibition of Onitsha Ado artists, Pendulum Art Gallery Lagos; 2004:  Commences development of artistic art as stock instrument; 2005:  “Nigeriatude” Pendulum art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos; In 2007:  Modern and contemporary art “Auction”, Art House Contemporary Limited, Lagos.

In 2008, the “Moulding Matters” exhibition at the Pan African University, Ajah Lagos; Moments and Movement (Things Fall Apart), commissioned; 2009:  “Art Expo”, Pendulum Art Gallery, National Museum, Onikan Lagos; Passes through the training faculty of “Development Initiative Network” led by its founder/executive director Bola Fajemirokun PhD (supported by the Ford Foundation) and earned the certificate of participation in the following: Art law, Elements of risk management and insurance for artists, Principles and practice of copyrights and trademarks.

In 2010, he holds the “Things Fall Apart” illustrated exhibition, Terrakulture, Lagos; “International Art Expo” Treasure House Fine Art, National Museum, Onikan, Lagos., “Thresholds” Protea Hotel Ikoyi, West Wood, Lagos; 2011:  “Nka” (images in original languages) private saloon; Passes through the training faculty of “Development Initiative Network” and obtained certificate of participation in Creative Enterprise Master Class.

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