Archive for the ‘arts/culture’ Category

Three of the recently graduated Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) students of the University of Benin, Edo State, have described their degrees as a realisation of their life-long dreams of becoming masters in the visual art genre, just as they expressed gratitude to God for surviving the rigours of the programme.

The graduates; Stephen Ekeamaye, Olajide Opaleye and Olatoye Okunuga, are among the 17 who became Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) degree holders after their final exhibition and defence of works at the at the Ekenwan Campus of the University of Benin, Edo State.

It would be recalled that last month, 17 gifted Nigerian artists graduated from the prestigious the University of Benin’s Department of Fine & Applied Arts.

Supervised by Dr Sweet Ebeigbe, 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, five MFA Painters, two MFA Sculptors, two Print makers, one web artist as well as four ceramists.

Describing the experience garnered during programme at the Department of Fine & Applied Arts, ‘interesting’ Ekeamaye said the degree bagged at the end was also a dream come true for him as an artist and presently a lecturer in Graphic/Printmaking art at the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi Uku.

“My experience on the MFA programme is quite interesting. I’ll say it was a dream come true for me. And I feel really elated and I give God all the glory,” said the Sapele, Delta State-born Ekeamaye, who equally holds a HND in Graphic Design.

Also reacting, Osogbo, Osun State-born ceramist Olajide Kehinde Opaleye thumbed up the lecturers just as he commended the quality of the course programme leading to his Master’s degree award.

“My MFA experience has been very rewarding, thanks to the good lecturers I had and the will to succeed. My thanks also goes to all my course mates for their support and contributions as I pray for the Good Lord to continue to keep and guide them all,” prayed Opaleye.

The artist who also holds a second master’s degree in Visual Arts from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State is presently a lecturer in Ceramics at the Kogi State College of Education

On his part, Ile-Ife, Osun State-born painter Olatoye Okunuga, said his Master’s programme afforded him the opportunity to master the conversion of Yoruba architectural forms and motifs into a grotesque asymmetrical formation of organic and geometric shapes.

“My works have been used as a weapon of propaganda for social political reforms and as a document of faith for democratic ideals,” said the artist who attended the renowned Edo College as well as the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi School of Art.

The artist who has participated in various exhibitions in Nigeria in addition to handling several commissioned works, explained that his works  produced during programme involve ‘the liberating use of symbols, shapes and signs of Yoruba heritage, plucked from numerous artisanal traditions and reworked as a form of modern cryptography.’

“During my Master’s programme, I worked under three currents; (1) representational: this is when you can relate with my paintings just at a glance. (2) Stylization: representational forms are distorted and mutilated with motifs of harmonious colours, derived from the Yoruba traditional architectural forms. (3) Abstraction: found objects of wood cuts, ropes cover bottles spoons etc but mostly woodcuts into various shapes, reminiscent of angular shapes found on portals, windows, pillars arches, fretworks on afro-Brazilian style of building practices,” he said.

Rating the present crop of graduates from the department under the programme he coordinated, 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.

The Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe (Agbogidi), has reiterated the need for an urgent review of the National Policy on Arts and Culture in order to enhance the development of the industry.

Achebe, an established patron of the arts, made this call while declaring open ‘Ambivalence’, an endotelic exhibition of sculptures, paintings and installations by renowned artist, Emmah Mbanefo, last Friday, at Nimbus Art Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos.

“I wish to reiterate the need for a greater focus on our arts and culture in order to give these the pride of place that they deserve,” said Achebe, adding: “In this regard, there is an urgent need for the review of our National Policy on Arts and Culture and its implementation with a view to achieving greater relevance and sustainability; such that our art and culture will become key development resources.

The policy should provide for massive investments by the government and its agencies; as well as the organised private sector, communities and wealthy individuals. The purpose would be to entrench and popularize arts and culture in our educational institutions as well as build relevant institutions and facilities such as museums, galleries, theatres, and others that will bring our arts and culture to the level of the common man. After all, art should not only be appreciated by the elite for its aesthetic potentials but should also be seen as a major defining element of a people’s identity.”

The solo exhibition Ambivalence, scheduled to run till May 6, is a historic first for Emmah Mbanefo, whose works in over three decades of practice enjoy prominence in public and private collections.

Describing the theme of the exhibition, Mbanefo, said: “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.”

Bruce Onobrakpeya, the internationally renowned printmaker, painter and sculptor, in a testimonial of Mbanefo, hailed his mastery in depicting the rich cultural heritage of the Igbo race in his unique works.

“Exhibitions and the catalogues that document them are building blocks for moulding the personality of the artist,” he said. “They also constitute important materials for writing the history of a people. Being called upon, therefore, to introduce Emmah Ifeanyi Mbanefo’s solo art exhibition, ‘Ambivalence’, I have a feeling of witnessing, as well as contributing, to the writing of our art history. I feel deeply honoured by the invitation.

In Mbanefo’s works I see the leitmotif of the mask and the masquerade, which in the Igbo cosmos, particularly the Onitsha Igbo, are the manifestations of the spirit of the world. The departed ancestors return to the world as masquerades during festivals to interact with the living ones. This is the theme perfected by the pioneer artist and foremost Nigerian sculptor and painter, Ben Enwonwu, in his Ogolo series.”

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.

Amid growing concerns over the seeming decline in cultural and social values in the face of encroaching globalization and the attendant popular culture of the West on the continent of Africa, clamours by traditionalists groups, cultural experts and scholars alike have continued to be on the rise for the continent to revert to its traditional value system.

While on one hand a school of thought lodges the blame for the falling value system in Africa and by extension, Nigeria, at the doorsteps of the globalization which they stress tends to be inhospitable to smaller or weaker cultures, others believe the problem lies in the lack of any political will by African governments to accord greater positions to the traditional cultures that propagate these values in the society. However, many still posit that the problem is a totality of all factors thrown up in the discourse on African traditional cultures.

The rightful place of the African traditional cultures in the socio-cultural development of present-day African societies has always remained as contentious as the issue of culture and its adherents itself, in an age when the average African on the street is supposedly either Christian or Muslim, with being neither vehemently frowned at.

Government and other official documentation and data are collated without provisions for the traditional religions, in the same way as oaths of office are taken without any form of recognition for the traditional religion, thus flaring opinions in some quarters that this trend has continually fuelled corruption in the country and by politicians and other public office holders who pillage the economy.

The occasion of the courtesy visit by the Ayan Agalu Soungobi Foundation and the Association of African Traditional Religions, Lagos State chapter, last Wednesday, April 18, to the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Broad Street, Lagos, again provided another veritable platform for stakeholders in African culture to restate commitment at promoting African culture and protest their continued neglect by successive governments at the various levels.

Leading a delegation of the Association of African Traditional Religions (Lagos State chapter), to the CBAAC office, Chief S.L Shodiya, noted that African religion as the father of all the other religions by virtue of its being indigenous to the peoples of the continent has suffered undue neglect and disrespect at the hands of national policy formulators in the country who have persistently and deliberately refused to accord it its rightful place with others.

“Whenever the orthodox religions want to do anything the federal government appropriates allocation for them but when it comes to the traditional religion which is even the mother of all religions it is neglected and overlooked. And it is us who coronate the obas, emirs and other traditional monarchs in the country and yet they neglect us,” lamented Shodiya.

The traditionalist who also used the opportune occasion to announce the association’s Isheshe traditional festival slated for August 20, this year, further pleaded with the government to legislate on appropriate roles for the traditional religion with a view to promoting and preserving traditional cultures and the in indigenous value system, which, he stressed, was fast eroding in the country.

“We want financial support for our Isheshe Festival on August 20, in the same way the federal government accords the rights to the Christians and Muslims. We want holidays for our festivals also just the government gives to the other religions. Traditional religion has been cheated enough. We therefore want our own. We are their fathers. Even the oaths of offices in traditional religions have been overlooked which would have brought some sanity among public office holders in the country. Look, any time they call for national prayers, the traditional religions are never called upon to give theirs. And we are supposed to the father of all these religions in the country. Nigerians of today are all products of the traditional religions,” he stressed.

According to Shodiya, it has become imperative for the federal government to address this seeming slight on the strength of the fact that the risk of the people losing their cultures was staring the country in the face, in the same way as the identity and value losses that are already impacting on the everyday lives of the present-day Nigerian.

While reiterating support for the activities of CBAAC, which he described as a partner in African traditional cultures promotion and preservation, Shodiya said his association shared the same advocacy and cause with CBAAC hence, would continue to support the latter in prayers.

“It is as if CBAAC was created for us, therefore, when I look at the Isheshe festival coming up on August 20, we want you to be our mouthpiece for all we want to do on that day of the event. We thank government for also sustaining an agency like this to provide that platform for us to continue our advocacy for promotion and protection of the African traditional religions and cultures.

Also in the delegation, Chief Lekan Ajirotutu, explained that the body was a microcosm of all African religious bodies spread out in the continent and even beyond represented on the occasion by their heads at the local government levels in the state.

“We are custodians of the traditional cultures and on the basis of what CBAAC also does, we believe you can an intermediary between us and the federal government which is the reason for our visit to seek the assistance of CBAAC to lift our organization in its task of propagating, promoting and preserving the African traditions which forms the basis of our agenda as an organization. We seek your cooperation since we have come to realise that CBAAC is also doing the same at the government level,” Ajirotutu remarked.

Responding, Director General of CBAAC, while noting that it is organizations like the Association of African Traditional Religions, Lagos State chapter that are promoting the culture of the people and without whom ’our cultural values and traditions would have died with the coming of the colonialists’, then urged the members to pass on their knowledge to the future generations so as to sustain the culture.

Babawale who expressed support to the clamour by the group for recognition at the highest level in governance, noting that in Benin Republic there was a national holiday for the voodoo religion, however, urged the group to seek to co-opt their various local representatives at the Houses of Assembly with a view to starting the advocacy at the grassroots level in the country.

“On the national holiday for traditional religion, that requires concerted effort from us at CBAAC and also from you because the necessary legislation does not rest with CBAAC even though we are totally with you as the one of the aims and objectives behind the setting up of the agency are exactly the same as the ones your association n our part will begin the advocacy from the media. If you have members at the state Houses of assemble, begin with them there. In Benin Republic, they have holidays for their voodoo, so why can’t we have the same,” Babawale stressed.

In the same vein, the Ayan Agalu Soungobi Foundation while also soliciting the support of CBAAC ahead of its forthcoming Ayan Agalu Talking drum Festival slated for Ibadan from June 1 through to 7, reiterated its call for a much more realistic policy on the part of the federal government aimed at protecting and propagating the cultures of the various ethnicities in the country.

Led by Chief Yemi Ogunyemi, the foundation set up to promote African traditions and cultures through the teaching of the talking drums at its various schools in the country, had used the occasion of the visit to also seek further support presence, and international reach of CBAAC for its planned festival themed Beats and Sounds for Peace.

“We are doing everything to make sure that our culture does not die. Our culture is our treasure; and that is the only thing we have going for us now as a nation. It is the only thing that we can sell to the outside world at a time when practically every other industry we used have has collapsed. It is the only thing we have that does not need to go through the factory. So we should not allow our culture to die,” Ogunyemi stressed.

Responding, Babawale noted that the talking drums as a symbol of the country’s rich natural heritage had slipped in relevance in the same way as its significance in boosting national economic growth had remained unnoticed to a greater extent.

According to him, the job creation opportunities inherent in the drumming profession may have been neglected by the present-day policy makers as against when it time past it was a major occupation that sustained families and its practice was a heritage passed on from generations to generations.

“Do you know there over 400 types of drums on the land today? Drums are primarily not just for communication, ceremonies and others. It has provided job opportunities for people in time past. How many traditional drum makers do we still have today? We can globalize our drums and the making cottage industry to provide mass employment industries for the youth of the country,” he stressed.

He therefore told the Foundation’s members not to ‘relent in the project and future you are making because that is where our future lies. A people without past have no future. Those in the Diaspora better appreciate what you are doing and you can see that in the way they readily appreciate your work and yearn to be linked.’

Continuing, Babawale stated that: “If the West can refine our musical instrument and sell back to u, why can’t we instead refine it and sell it back to and earn the dollars from them. We used to have a lot with which we used to teach and educate the people of the land, but now sadly we do not have those things any more as they are lacking. The drums are a part of these heritages. The aura and myths surrounding the kings of old had a lot do with the drummers who those kings surrounded themselves with as they drummed for him where to go, what to do and so on. That was when the significance of the drums was better appreciated,” Babawale said.

After kick-starting 2012 with the exciting February and March editions of the Abuja Writers Forum (AWF) Guest Writer Session with Uche Ezechukwu, Steve Okeocha, Theresa Ameh and K K Iloduba, the much acclaimed monthly event now in its fourth year brings more literary thrills with the Lagos-based award-winning journalist, gender activist and poetess, Betty Abah this Saturday, April 28.

The event will also feature interludes with the University of Uyo-trained painter Millicent Osumuo, the singer-cum-saxaphonist Lorriane Panam, and the budding short story writer Lami Yakubu.

Author of two poetry collections –Sound of Broken Chains and Go Tell Our King – Betty Abah began writing even before she became a teenager. It is no surprise that writing has become very much a part of her life, including six active years of journalism.

Sound of Broken Chains is a collection of devotional poems with the writer drawing attention to the fact that whatever chains tie us down as individuals, families and at national level, if we are determined, we can break the chains and be liberated. In her own words, “It may not necessarily be spiritual chains; it can be social or psychological chains.”

The poems in her latest work, Go Tell Our King draw from her involvement with the media, women’s rights, political advocacy and her indigenous Idoma locale.

Abah who hails from the Idoma speaking part of Benue State, obtained a degree in English and Literary Studies from the University of Calabar in 1999. Her passion for writing budded early in life for while in school, she wrote for various campus publications and served as literary editor of Quill, the departmental magazine, was deputy editor of Malabor Watch, a publication of the Student Union Government university and served as pioneer chairperson of the university branch of the National Association of Campus Women Journalists (NACWOJ).

During the compulsory National Youth Service (NYSC), she served as press club coordinator and production editor of the maiden edition of the Regalite magazine of Regal College, Sagamu, Ogun State, part of whose activities earned me the NYSC’s “State Honours Award’.

Abah worked as a journalist for Nigerian publications including the influential TELL and Newswatch Magazines, and was a recipient of numerous professional fellowships including the Nigeria Media Merit Award, the Diamond Award for Media Excellence, the American Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship (AFPF) and the Knight Public Health Journalism Fellowships.

The AFPF saw her reporting at the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado for five months in 2006 and undergoing several journalism trainings in the USA and Canada. In the course of the fellowship, Abah received two other fellowships-the John Knight Health Reporting Fellowship (which saw her undergoing training on health reporting at the Centre for Dis-eases Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., and the Kaiser Family Foundation Fellowship, which entailed health training at the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation (CBC), Toronto and reporting the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.

In July 2010, Abah was among young tobacco control activists selected from across the world for the Global Tobacco Leadership Training at the Johns Hop-kins University in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. After she got the fellowship, Abah focused on health journalism.

Her writing and development activities have won her several awards including Poet of the Year (1995) by her department at the university, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) State Honour’s Award (Ogun State) 2001, Travel/Tourism Re-porter of the Year Award by the Nigeria Media Merit Awards (NMMA) 2003 and UNICEF-sponsored “Child Friendly Journalist” by the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), 2008, among others.

From Saturday, April 28 and through to May 3, contemporary multi-media artist, Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce is expected to thrill art collectors, enthusiasts and others alike as she presents a collection of 50 unique works compiled over a period of five years representing her development over the period.

Featuring a handful of masks made from recycled newsprint, the exhibition will also show the artist’s experimental prints and plates for the first time, together with a few works produced in oil on canvas which all make the 50 artworks on showcase.

“I have long been intrigued by the ancient masks of Africa and I thought to myself that the artists who created these masks wanted to create objects of worship which would invoke fear and wonder. The world has been impacted greatly by these works and I wondered to myself, why not create an art work that would invoke the same emotions. And so began my journey.

“At first, I used clay and made some terracotta figures, some of which I exhibited in my last solo exhibition in 2008, but the faces I produced at the time were too life-like and so I kept experimenting with new material until I stumbled across by accident the materials I presently use, which are a combination of re-cycled newsprint, resin, PVA glue, wood – in short, any found objects,” said Ezenwa Maja-Pearce.

On her choice to go green in line with the re-cycling revolution, Ezenwa Maja-Pearce the decision is informed by the fact that art should reflect the society and not just be art for art’s sake.

“The world has been going green (or trying to go green) for some years now and everyone is looking for ways to re-cycle material. Art itself, being life-affirming by its very nature, should reflect the contemporary imperative in terms of this most pressing of issues while at the same time attempting to create a thing of beauty,” she said.

Presented in traditional styles of sculpting using geometric forms, the idea behind the works, according to Ezenwa Maja-Pearce, is to ‘produce art works which would invoke the same fear and wonder evoked by the ancient African masks.’

“In doing so, I also began reflecting on the society of that now vanished time, on how sincerity was a virtue so conspicuously lacking in ours. I hope to use these works to speak to our contemporary society: that the time has come to embrace the noble virtues our ancestors lived and died by; where corrupt money was abhorred for fear of the consequences inherent in the very word ‘corruption’, which is death, and not merely of the flesh,” she stressed.

On her use of mirrors, Ezenwa Maja-Pearce provided reasons of the symbolism of the mirror thus portraying the object as an imagery of the significance on the mirror as a reflective object.

“I agree with what has often been said, that if you want to change the world you must first of all change yourself. A mirror only reflects what you put before it. For all of us who desire a better society, we must first of all begin by looking inwards and work hard at creating the kind of society we want to put before the mirror,” she posited.

While hugely expressing gratitude to the classic artists, Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya and Mrs Nike Okundaye, owner of the gallery, Ezenwa Maja-Pearce expects to draw the likes top collectors like Omooba Yemisi Shyllon to her solo exhibition.

“I must acknowledge the tremendous help I have received from Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya and the staff of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, particularly my participation at the annual Harmattan Workshop in Agbara-Otor in Delta State. The master printmaker has been more than generous in sharing with me his vast knowledge of various techniques, which I have incorporated – successfully, I hope – in these works.

“I would also like to say a word about the proprietor of the venue of my exhibition. Mrs Nike Okundaye has done a great service to the country’s artistic community in conceiving and realizing this wonderful home for all of us. I don’t mean only in the sense of individual artists holding exhibitions but, more importantly, by giving permanent space to such a stunning display of talent for the entire world to see. I can personally testify that she has been militant in her support of the female artist,” she stressed.

Born in 1968, the Delta State-born Ezenwa Maja-Pearce who holds Bachelor of Arts (ED) from the then Bendel State University (now Delta State), began her group exhibitions in March 1991 during the NYSC Art Exhibition at the Federal Secretariat Ilorin, where she served, with the solo exhibitions starting off in 1993.

In March 1992, an Exhibition of Prints & Paintings with Williboard Haas at the German Cultural Centre, Lagos, sponsors by the Goethe Institute, Lagos, followed, while in May of the same year  “The Dawn”: An Exhibition of Art works  at the Le Meridien Eko Hotel, Lagos, sponsored by the Tropical Arts & Crafts & Unifred

International Nigeria Limited held.

Also in August 1992, two group exhibitions; “Silver Lining” at the L ‘Hotel Eko Meridien Lagos, and the “(10) Ten Years of Sheraton Hotels in Africa” at the Sheraton Hotel Abuja took place.

In November 1993,  an exhibition of Recent Paintings of Ezenwa: Solo Exhibition, IBB Golf Club, Abuja; May 1994; Exhibition of Paintings at the Texaco Overseas Unlimited Lagos; July 1994; Exhibition of Paintings by Ezenwa Patricia Glattee at the Avondale Complex, 36 Marine Road, Apapa, Lagos.

September 1995; Nigerian Contemporary Art Exhibition at the Nigerian Copyright Commission and World Intellectual Property Organization (An arm of United Nations), Geneva, Switzerland; April 1996; Nigeria Contemporary Art at the Texaco Overseas Nig. Company Unlimited, Lagos.

These exhibitions are in addition to over 40 other group exhibitions with the most recent being the August 2010 participation at the 3rd Lagos International Art Expo at the National Museum Lagos; the October 2010 Nigeria at 50 National Art Exhibitions Abuja; the December 28, 2010, 10th Edition of Pastel Exhibition at the Mydrim Gallery Ikoyi Lagos; the February 13, 2011Harmattan Workshop (BOF), Agbarah-Otor Delta State; the

March24, 2011Colour Masters Workshop, by the Full works foundation at the Federal Polytechnic Auchi, Edo State; May 3-10, 2011 Entrepreneurial Workshop For Artist, Omooba Oluwayemisi Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) at the University of Lagos, Akoka.

With permanent displays at the Rockview Hotel Abuja, Abuja Centre for Arts & Culture, The National Gallery of Art, Lagos, Nigeria Copyright Commission, Lagos, Trinity Mortgage Finance, Surulere, Lagos, the Nkem Productions, Lekki, Lagos, Life Strokes Gallery, Quintessence, Falomo, Ikoyi Lagos, the Signature Art Gallery,

Nimbus Art Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, Pendulum Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos, Ovuomaroro Gallery, Mushin, Lagos,

Art Galleries Association of Nigeria, Secretariat Lagos, Yemaja Gallery, the Nike Art Centre, Lekki, as well as other private collections.

Ezenwa Maja-Pearce’s solo exhibitions the May 1996 “Faces” Solo Exhibition of Paintings, the April 1997 “Memories”: Solo Exhibition at the Rockview Hotel, Abuja; the December 2001 “The Maiden Dance”: Solo Exhibition at the Galleria Romania, Ikoyi, Lagos; the January 25, 2003       “Lost Innocence”: Solo Exhibition of Acrylic Paintings at the Quintessence Art Gallery, Falomo, Lagos; the December 6-13, 2003  “Moonlight Rhapsody”: Solo Exhibition of Acrylic and Mixed Media Paintings, at the French Cultural Centre, Abuja.

Others are: April 2004 “Reflections”: Solo Exhibition of Acrylic and Mixed Media Paintings at the French Cultural Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos; November 2008 Unblocked; Solo Exhibition at the Harmattan Workshop Gallery, Lagos; November 2008 and April 2009; Art Auction (Modern & Contemporary) at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos; May 2009, the Caterina de Medici International Painting Awards Competition at the Museum Firenze de Comera, in Florence, Italy.

And lastly, the August 19 to 31 Paintergraph solo exhibition at the King’s Theatre, Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

The ankara debate

Posted: April 20, 2012 in arts/culture

They are as conspicuous in the society as the continent itself is on the map of continents; they have become the face of the fashion and style of Africa. Anthropologie has used them to cover ottomans and to upholster chairs.

On its re-emergence and re-invention, of sorts, at the turn of the century, they have become the latest toys and favourite fabric of choice in latest designs by top, contemporary international designers as well as the garment of choice by the fashionable celebrities all over the world.

Stoutly and bravely out-muscling its local competitions like the equally regionally popular fabric of guinea, the Yoruba adire, the Tiv’s mule and ange, tie and dye, kampala, the ankara has stood the test of time not just on the strength of its mass appeal, affordability, variety and ease of maintenance, but also largely due to its versatility.

However, it seems that grassroots popularity has beclouded its origins even before the very eyes of the people who traditionally adorn and patronize it as much as to carve out a home for it in their wardrobes with pride, thus further raising surprise and even objections whenever the issue of the fabric’s true history comes up in public focus.

While the fabric may have existed for generations among us here to establish its own acquired roots, the problem remains that this false sense of origins is fast established as real among the patrons and local dealers alike on the West African sub-region, Nigeria inclusive.

This is just as some debate appears to have thumped that stack of belief as to the true origins of the fabric that has even been re-christened and nationalised as the ankara, abada, or simply by the name of its overseas producers. Moreso, considering that the word itself ‘ankara’ may not even be African, let alone Nigerian.

Many have expressed the concern that the misconception regarding the origins of the fabric particularly among the local semi literate dealers in the fabric was not helped much by the proliferation of the textile mills that sprung up in the country between the 80’s and late 2000’s  which mass produced the prints almost to perfection compared to the imported brands.

This misconception therefore becomes more ironic particularly in the case of Nigeria where as nearly 90 per cent of these factories owned by Indians or Chinese or Lebanese nationals have gone under since the 2000’s and in the rest of West Africa by as much as 80 per cent, and yet the mistaken identity for the ankara remains.

Many have also posited that if there existed local factories for the mass production of the regionally popular but still largely imported local guinea, the mule, ange, adire and many others, perhaps the tag of African fabric on any one of them would not be so misplaced after all.

However, while the rest of the world thinks and assumes that these fabrics are African in origin, and to very large extent even convincing other Africans that the fabrics are theirs, the reality remains that the notion is false.

We tend to think of the Ankara as ‘African’ because they are widely worn mostly in West Africa, when in actual fact other than the consumption and the huge market; nothing else is African about the fabric as far as its origins are concerned.

Researchers also believe that when Africans in collusion with the rest of the unenlightened world refer to these fabric as “African,” they are rather missing a much larger story; this type of fabric is traditionally designed and manufactured by Europeans in European factories for export to West Africa, and the designs are derived from patterns that European designers adapted from traditional Indonesian batik.

When Indonesian batiks were reinterpreted by European manufacturers for a new market in West Africa in the late 19th century, the prints, as you might expect, went through some changes. According to anthropologist Nina Sylvanus, Africans preferred a more colourful palette.

Also batik patterns, like the one in this slide, were often floral; West African wax prints incorporate more geometric designs. These days West African wax prints have evolved beyond the abstract; patterns often depict important current events, like world cup games or presidential victories.

They’ve got palettes so bright and clashing that they threaten to sear the eye and patterns so loud they make Hawaiian prints look demure, yet they are slowly becoming as commonplace as plaid. The media (both fashion and mainstream) tend to refer to them as “African prints” (when not referring to them more vaguely, and cringe-inducingly, as “tribal”). But the term African print should give us pause, Africa, after all, is a pretty big place. So when we talk about these African prints, what are we really talking about?

The patterns found on Dutch wax prints. Dutch wax is a kind of resin-printed fabric that has long been manufactured in the Netherlands for a West African market. But to call these fabrics either Dutch or West African is to ignore a far more complicated set of origins.

Yinka Shonibare, the well-known Nigerian artist whose work often features these prints, has made a career out of exploring the history of the designs. “The fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think,” Shonibare has said. “They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own.”

The story begins in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), where locals have long used the technique of wax-resist dying, basically applying wax to a cloth, and then dying over that wax to create a pattern, to make batik. These elaborately patterned handmade textiles bear some similarities to the prints we’ve been noticing on the runways: bold, repeating, intricate motifs set against backgrounds of varying hues. So what accounts for the overlap? One prevailing theory is this: In the mid-19th century, the Dutch enlisted a bunch of West African men, both slaves and mercenaries, to beef up their army in Indonesia. While there, these men took a liking to the local handicrafts and brought batik back to their home countries. And voila: A taste emerged in West Africa for these Indonesian designs.

In the meantime, Europeans were hard at work figuring out how to manufacture their own versions of batik, with the intention of flooding the market in Indonesia with cheaper, machine-made versions of the cloths (the handmade versions were labour-intensive and expensive). Finally, at the end of the 19th century, a Belgian printer developed a method for applying resin to both sides of a cotton cloth, and the machine-made wax-print fabric was born.

However, there was a problem: The machine-made version of these cloths developed a crackling effect, a series of small lines, dots, and imperfections where the resin cracked and dye seeped through, that did not appeal to Indonesian batik purists.

In need of a market for the new textiles, the Dutch turned to West Africa. As it turned out, West Africans were actually partial to these imperfections: They appreciated the fact that no two bolts of cloth were identical. The West African fondness for this effect was so pronounced that Dutch wax manufacturers still programme those imperfections into the printing process today, long after the actual mechanical limitation has been resolved.

As Europeans began to sell this cloth, in West Africa, largely to women, both rich and poor, who regarded it as a marker of status, West African tastes shaped the evolving designs. The local women traders who distributed the fabrics favoured brighter palettes, tighter patterns, and geometric shapes. New patterns were designed to reflect significant events and local proverbs.

Though European manufacturers identified the fabrics by number, West African traders often named them, and those names became widely known. One famous pattern that shows a bird cage with an open door and a little bird escaping from it is called “You fly, I fly.” It is generally worn by newlywed women, as a bit of a threat to their husbands. “The minute they are named, they are also used to communicate,” says Jessica Helbach, a Dutch curator whose design studio worked extensively with Vlisco, one of the main Dutch wax manufacturers, to launch an exhibit now up at the Museum of Modern Art in Arnhem about the company’s history.

Helbach says that naming the fabrics, and using them to express certain ideas, is a way for West Africans to claim the foreign-made cloth as their own. And so the machine-made Indonesian-inspired patterned fabrics became indelibly associated with Africa, and with a particular notion of African tribalness, of which Western fashion cannot get enough.

However, what’s interesting about these fabrics, says Nina Sylvanus, an anthropologist who has made a career of studying the function of wax cloth in West Africa, is not how “African” or traditional they are, but that they are regarded by wearers in places like Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Ghana as international and cosmopolitan.

When Western designers call collections that use wax prints “tribal,” Sylvanus says, “it harks back to a sort of evolutionist, colonial perspective which attempts to freeze Africa as a place where ‘tradition’ is still happening.” But West Africans who buy bolts of the fabric, generally to be tailored into dresses and suits, are fully aware of the fabric’s complicated origins; they often pay a premium for European-made cloth, even though West African-made and, increasingly, Chinese-made iterations are available for considerably cheaper.

And despite those origins, Sylvanus notes, wax prints have become an integral part of West African life: Having the latest designs, and wearing carefully chosen, meaningful patterns, communicates social status. Wax prints are also used as courting gifts, they’re usually included in a woman’s dowry, and they are even essential garb at funerals.

At Vlisco, one of the last European producers of this cloth, the fashion world’s rising interest in their product has not gone unnoticed. The company does collaborate with fashion designers, but it also moves swiftly when a designer lifts one of its patterns without permission.

This happens a lot: “When people think things come out of Africa,” Helbach remarked, “they don’t worry about copyright.” For example: When Japanese designer Junya Watanabe printed silk garments for his 2009 runway show with Vlisco designs, Helbach says the Dutch company quietly ordered him to stop; they ended up settling with the designer out of court. But Vlisco hasn’t held Watanabe’s infractions against him; the company even brags about the Watanabe collaboration in press releases. Watanabe, when asked for comment, did not confirm or deny, but said: “all was settled amicably.”

But who can really claim a copyright to a design that is itself the product of so much cultural appropriation and re-appropriation? In attempting to call these designs their own, Vlisco highlights its own fraught history. Not only were the original industrially produced Dutch wax prints copies of Indonesian designs, they also were influenced by Indian-inspired British designs. Vlisco’s website proclaims that it has been making wax fabrics for West Africans since 1846. The irony, says Sylvanus, is that in 1846, Vlisco wasn’t making wax fabrics for the African market; they were designing them for Indonesians. Nor were they the first to hone the wax-printing technique: It wasn’t until the early 1920s that Vlisco became expert wax printers, when it obtained the rollers of another Dutch manufacturer who had mastered the process.

The biggest threat to Vlisco’s hold on the market today comes not from high-fashion designers, but from Chinese copycats, who since the ’90s have been using digital photographs to produce cheap copies of European designs to sell in West Africa.

West Africans often consider the Chinese imitation wax cloth down-market and inferior to the European standard; the Chinese cloth, crucially, is frequently printed only on one side. But for those who have been priced out of the Vlisco market, the Chinese offer a welcome alternative.

In response to the prevalence of these Chinese imitations, Vlisco recently changed its marketing plan. Its new strategy is to brand itself as a fashion house, releasing 20 to 30 designs every few months. The logic of this strategy, in part, is that the Chinese imitations usually take about two to three months to come to market, so Vlisco can stay ahead of them with fresh patterns. Vlisco has also launched a line of wax-fabric-covered accessories. Sylvanus suspects that West African consumers will eventually embrace these (relatively) new Chinese wax cloths in some form. Already there are Chinese designers who have been collaborating on designs with local women in Togo, replicating, in fact, the same process that helped companies like Vlisco come up with such popular patterns.

Which means the Dutch company that peddles Indonesian-inspired designs to West Africa may be edged out by the Chinese, and in search of a new market. But if Vlisco’s branding efforts succeed, if the world begins to perceive these designs as belonging to a major European manufacturer and not an African cottage industry, will the fashion world remain interested in this hybrid fabric? That’s Vlisco’s catch-22.

 

Additional report courtesy: Julia Felsenthal

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.

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.

A new deadline has been announced by the judging panel of the Literary Star Search. Entries for the competition will now end on May 31 instead of the original April 30 as previously stipulated.

A statement from the contest’s spokesman, Mr. Seun Jegede said the shift was prompted by floods of requests by student writers in Nigerian university campuses who gave the long closure of the schools due to the now-ended academic staff strikes.

“Following several requests from writers, especially student writers in university campuses who wish to also enter stories for the contest, specially requested for time extension. Their request is as a result of the long strike in university campuses that stretched from late last year to early this year, which was followed shortly by the one the labour union called to protest fuel deregulation. Most classes opened barely a week or two before examinations were called, which left little time for them to embark on another rigorous venture like the contest for Literary Star Search grand prize.

According to Jegede, the organizers has moved deadline by one month in response to the requests and also in order to carry every writer along.

“Creative Alliance has, therefore, thought it proper to extend the deadline by one month in apparent response to these requests so as not to leave behind an important group of writers – university students”.

Jegede further stressed that since the contest is founded on a reputation of catering for the interests of grassroots writers, the least it could do was to also take student writers along and accommodate them. He stated that the contest organisers were desirous of making a remarkable first impression with the prize because of the definitive statement they want to make amongst writers in the country and were thus willing to be amenable to all shades of views, opinions and suggestions that would advance the interests of writers and make the contest an enduring one.

Jegede therefore urged those yet to enter the competition to take advantage of the shift in deadline by a month to send in their entries via http://www.creativeallianceng.com or http://www.literarystarsearch.blogspot.com.

Director General of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Professor Tunde Babawale has been named the 2012 recipient of the Distinguished Public Service Award at the Africa Annual Conference, which held at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas, the United States.

The Distinguished Public Service Award is an award instituted for scholars with considerable managerial and administrative skills whose decisions have impacted on the way we all do our work.

Born in Osun State, Nigeria on October 1, 1961, Professor Babawale attended Inisa Grammar School until 1977, when his education brought him to the University of Ife, Ile-Ife where he  bagged a Bachelor of Arts (Education) in History in 1981. Continuing at the University of Ife, he gained an MA in International Relations with concentration in International Relations and Political Economy.

Professor Babawale began his professional career as a teacher at a government secondary school in Adamawa State. He continued his work at the Anglican Secondary Commercial Grammar School in Iyekere afterwards. In 1985, Adeyemi College Campus of Obafemi Awolowo University employed Babawale as an Assistant Lecturer. In 1988, he was promoted by the same institution to Lecturer Grade Eleven.

By 1991, he was promoted to Lecturer Grade One. Two years later, the sting of promotions continued with his elevation to the position of Senior Lecturer. In October 2002, Babawale was appointed as a Professor of Political Science. During this time, he spent over two decades lecturing for the University of Lagos’ Department of Political Science where he taught over seventeen undergraduate and post-graduate courses. In addition to his tasks as a professor, Babawale undertook responsibilities for supervising a number of MS and MPA theses as well.

As impressive as Professor Babawale’s scholarly record is, his record in public service and administration is equally, if not more, impressive. He has performed in the following capacities;  course advisor; Examination and Time-Table Officer; member of the University of Lagos Loans, Bursaries, and Scholarship Committee; member of the Forum Committee of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lagos; member of the University of Lagos Senate; member of the Conference Centre University of Lagos Management Board; Secretary of the Faculty of Social Sciences Publications Committee; member of the Hall of Residence Management Committee; member of the University of Lagos Think-Tank on Student Affairs.

Other positions include; member of the University of Lagos Task Force on Health and Environment; member of the University Panel of Enquiry; Secretary of the Academic Staff Union of Universities for Lagos; Chairman of the Examination Results Verification Committee; Managing Editor of the UNILAG Journal of Politics; member of the University’s Strategic Plan Implementation Committee; member of numerous committees in the Department of Political Science at the University of Lagos; Chairman of the Ford Foundation Grant Committee; Chairman of the Intellectual Nodal Contact Committee; member appointed by the Executive Governor of Ondo State to the Administrative Visitation Panel to Adekunle Ajasin University; and finally, member appointed by the President of the Nigerian Armed Forces  to the position of Director and CEO of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization.

Prof Babawale has also found time to be a part of the Nigerian Political Science Association, the Historical Society of Nigeria, and the Third World Forum. Furthermore, he has published several books, including Nigeria in the Crises of Governance and Development (Political Economy, Governance and Globalization) Vol. I. and Nigeria in the Crises of Governance and Development (Education, Labour and Economy) Vol. 2, and has authored numerous chapters as well as journal articles.

Moreover, Professor Babawale has frequently presented papers at international conferences such as his recent lectures at the National Defense College Abuja and the IDEP Workshop in Dakar, Senegal. He has attended other conferences such as the international conference on Multiculturalism and the Prospects for Africa and African Diaspora Development in Brazil and the International Conference on Global African Spirituality, Social Capital, and Self-Reliance in Africa in Benin.

Babawale has also given numerous public lectures, both in, and outside of, Nigeria. To add to his list of accomplishments, he has coordinated the following conferences and seminars, to name but a few; the international workshops on Harmonization and Standardization of Nigerian and Related Languages; Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Ijo, held in Abuja, Nigeria, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and Johannesburg, South Africa; the international conference on Teaching and Propagating African History and Culture to the Diaspora and Teaching Diaspora History and Culture to Africa, held at the Corporative University, Brasilia, Brazil; the national workshop on Cultural Rejuvenation for National Integration and Sustainable Development in Lagos, Nigeria; the International Methodology Workshop on “African Rock Art and Pan-African Renaissance,” in Niamey, Niger Republic; and the international conference on “Advancing and Integrating Research and Studies In The Interest of Africa and The African Diaspora” held at the University of West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad, and Tobago.

Currently, Professor Babawale is a part of the Third World Forum’s research on Nigeria and West African religion in contemporary globalizing processes. He also works on research on the rise of ethnic militias, de-legitimization of the state, and the threat to Nigerian nationhood. Finally, Professor Babawale works as a part of the World Council of Churches researching Africa’s position in the functions of globalization.