Joy, relief as 17 artists bag MFAs at Uniben

Posted: April 20, 2012 in arts/culture

Wednesday, April 4 and Thursday, April 5, would always remain memorable for 17 gifted Nigerian artists; as on that auspicious occasion they finally joined the elite class of certified Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) degree holders from the what could easily be tagged one of the toughest terrain for student artists in the country, the University of Benin’s Department of Fine & Applied Arts.

Added to that, those two days announced not only relief, joy and fulfilment on the faces of the graduating artists, but also set agog the mien at the Ekenwan Campus of the first rate university, where the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, is located, going by the awe and applause that greeted the group exhibitions put up by the 17 graduating students.

Seeking academic excellence is a no mean feat, a pursuit which is made all the more tougher when it comes to the arts discipline, and in no other environment than the highly competitive and challenging Fine and Applied Arts Department of the Faculty of Arts, University of Benin.

Benin itself from its fame in the early centuries as the soul and cradle of original arts and crafts and fountain of craftsmanship has not lost a single touch as the modern city is till date even replete with some of the finest and naturally-gifted craftsmen and artists in the country, which a casual stroll along the major streets in the city would attest to.

Perhaps by virtue of the history and pedigree it inherited, the fine and applied arts department of the University of Benin, by extension, has always carried a creativity burden, of sorts, and an uncanny reputation for driving a hard bargain in its task of extracting the best from its students, who, as an old graduate once succinctly put it, ’must should be better than the roadside artist.’

Clearing the air on what has become the talk of the university’s fine art department being a mountainous task for students seeking academic excellence, the Head of Department (HOD), Fine and Applied Arts, Dr Sweet Ebeigbe, explained that the school in general and department in particular was not different from any other higher academic institution although, according to her, it takes academic pursuit seriously.

“A very high standard had already been set even before my time as HOD of the department, which I somewhat inherited. Since the time of the creation of the department the standard has been kept at that level. I strive to maintain that reputation that was already there in addition to the fact that I am also a pioneer student of this department having finished with a first class degree. Another reason for the high standard being that the University of Benin has always maintained that reputation for being the best in terms of academic excellence,” explained Dr Ebeigbe.

For the graduating artists, therefore, the relief boldly and proudly etched on their faces meant not only freedom from stress of work but also a pride in being finally included into the alumni of one of the strictest schools of art in the country, which also translates into respect and recognition among peers and contemporaries alike.

This is so because the course programme stretched from two to four years for some of them, hence, the show of excitement at eventually bagging the prestigious degree.

For reasons such as the prolonged industrial actions by the umbrella body of the university teachers at the various  federal universities, the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities  (ASUU), financial difficulties encountered by some of the students who had started feeling the economic pinch of constantly shuttling between their homes outside the city to the campus, hazards of even travelling on Nigerian roads, irregular attendances by students, all of which compounded a two year course stretching it to four.

“It hasn’t been easy. I remember falling into the hands of robbers on my way to school from Lagos, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It’s not just for me alone, I’m also speaking for a whole lot of us graduating today when I say the stress was no joke,” said Michael Ikobi, one of the graduating students with specialities in painting.

Overseen by Dr Sweet Ebeighbe, the Head of Department (HOD), Fine & Applied Arts Department, and under the coordination of Dr John Ogene, the programme’s Post Graduate Coordinator, the 17 Masters in Fine Art (MFA) graduates are spread across various disciplines in the department made up of three MFA Textile Design artists, 5 MFA Painters, 2 MFA Sculptors, 2 Print makers, one web artist as well as 4 ceramists.

The graduating students include: Victoria Akhimien (Textiles Designer), Oluseyi Martins Olaleye (Ceramist), Kehinde Hassan Shobukonla (Web Artist), Rasaq Olatunji Bello (Painter), Joy Idemudia (Textiles Designer), Samuel Viyaje (Painter), and Michael Chukwuemeka Ikobi (Painter).

The list also includes: Anguspeters Okeke Ozoekwe (Sculptor), Valentine Omem (Ceramist), Hakeem Bolaji Adeyemo (Textiles Designer), Blessing Igben (Sculptor), Stephen Ekeamaye (Printmaker), Samuel Omodhiro Akpara (Painter). Dele Iskeel Oluseye (Printmaker), Olatoye Okunuga (Painter), and two others.

On how he rates the present crop of graduates from the department under the programme he supervised, Dr John Ogene, the programme’s Post Graduate Coordinator, said he regards them in high esteem as they possessed unique talents rich with personal style and individuality.

 

“It has been a harvest of discoveries; the discovery of potential of the individual student and if you were here to see the final exhibition you’ll agree with me on that. The styles are very unique and impressive. I must also commend them for having persevered. The department laid down the requirements insisting that standards are to be maintained and kept in line with its tradition for excellence and the students keyed in to it. In fact I can confidently tell you from I’ve seen from them, they are yet to reach their full potential. They have raised the bar for others to come, which is what we do generally also,” stressed Dr Ogene.

To further explain the reason for the relief expressed by the graduating students, who include those who started out four years ago and who were eventually joined by others two years later only four out of the 14 who began the initial programme made the final 17 graduating MFA holders.

According to sources, some of those 14 had either left the country in search of greener pastures or simply dropped out for financial or work related reasons.

For the two years however, thirteen students graduated from the original 21 who initially started the programme.

“For some making the choice of living and coping with the times and education or as for some being able to obtain a leave of absence from official work were all the challenges faced. In fact it got to point where choosing between the masters programme and official work became a major decision some of our former mates had to make; from pursuing a Masters programme and continuing with the work that put food on family’s table,” explained one of the graduating students.

Explaining the rationale behind the celebrations was therefore not far-fetched seeing the challenges each of the graduating artist and Masters degree holder had to surmount, which justified the beehive of activities and revelries that hovered the skies of the Ekenwan Campus of the university.

The two days of showcase by the graduating students included a group exhibition by all the graduates followed on Day Two by defence of works on exhibition by each of the graduates.

Works on display ranged from 20 to 40 as no students showed less than 20 just as some showed up 40 works of quality which covered six halls with two to four students sharing one exhibition hall, even as some had a single hall to themselves due to the large quantity of works on display.

For Imo State-born, studio artist Michael Ikobi, the graduation was one of relief and happiness considering, according to him, the hassles encountered during the four year period of the programme

“Well I must say that I am very relieved that the journey of 4yrs had finally come to an end especially looking at the looking at the financial aspect of it as well the constant journey as and shuttling between Lagos and Benin and the hazards of the roads. I thank God that the programmes had finally come to and especially for me with a good grade,” said the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State HND holder.

For painter Viyaje Samuel, the Ogaminana, Kogi State-born Principal Instructor (Painting) at the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, in Edo State, the degree remains a fulfilment of his dreams and ambition of becoming a bigger artist.

“I feel great as the resultant painting of my Master’s programme is an honest, creative and uncompromising projection of my inner vision,” he enthused.

For some like studio artist Omodhiro Akpara, the Uniben degree honour is a wake-up call to maintain the tempo of achievement having survived the rigours of the MFA experience.

“It is great to have gone through the programme I feel fulfilled and I hope to sustain the tempo that I have evolved,” said the Ozoro, Delta State born Akpara, who incidentally also holds an MBA degree from the Ondo State University, Akungba, in Ondo State in addition to an earlier HND from the Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State.

Toeing a similar path is ceramist and first degree holder in Ceramic art from the same University of Benin, Mr. Valentine Omem. The Kwale, Delta State-born studio artist believes the MFA remains a personal victory.

“For me it’s a dream come true. I feel much fulfilled and to have come through such a thorough scrutiny in the hands of some of the best and be rated very highly is a major boost of confidence for me in my personal creative potential,” said Omem.

For home-girl and textiles designer, Mrs Victoria Akhimien, a BA (Education) degree holder in (Fine/Applied Arts) from the University of Benin, and Vice Principal, Igueben Mixed Secondary School, Igueben, Edo State, the achievement is divine.

“I feel much fulfilled, very happy and I give God the glory. I say may His be praised forever,” she said.

For Oyo State-born Textiles Design lecturer at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, Adeyemo Akeem, and Blessing Igben, the Ugheli North, Delta State-born lecturer in Sculpture at the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi – Uku, the feeling was one fulfilment and satisfaction.

“I feel so great and happy though it wasn’t easy but to God be the glory,” said Adeyemo; “I feel joyous and accomplished,” according to Igben.

“It was okay and good experience. To God be the glory,” according to printmaker and studio artist Dele Oluseye, the Ogun State-born HND in Painting holder from The Polytechnic, Ibadan and one of the two graduates of the Dr Bruce Onabrakpeya school.

 

“I feel great and fulfilled. I’m now a confirmed Master of functional ceramics in flying colours,” said ceramist Seyi Martins Olaleye, the Ogbomosho, Oyo State-born HND in Ceramics holder from The Polytechnic, Ibadan as well as Lecturer at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The department existed as two separate departments, departments of Fine Arts and department of Applied Arts, under the defunct Faculty of Creative Arts before their merger in 1987 as the Department of Fine and Applied Arts.

There are 7 units or areas of specialization, namely: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Graphic Design, Textiles Design, Metal Design, and Art History.

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Comments
  1. Sunday chukwu says:

    I wud want 2 wish all d graduating MASTER’S students d very best,g pray dat i wud emulate ur enthusiastic quest 4 knowledge…i wish u d very best in d World of arts and in life…ARTADDICT

  2. Akinremi Priscilla says:

    am very happy and i thank God on ur behalf because dis is a dream cum 2ru,just want u guys to keep praying 4 we dat are aspering to get and go beyond d stage u are presently,congratulation.

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