Edo North art expo: Boost to youth empowerment
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)
Edo State Commissioner for Education Mr. Gideon Obhakhan has described the recently concluded Edo North Art Expo 2016 as a timely boost to the war against the increasing rate of youth restiveness and unemployment in the country. He said the expo would not only reawaken art consciousness and creativity of the youths, but would also reveal its essentialities in contemporary society.
“Let me reassure all of us that Edo State Ministry of Education is in support of psychomotor domain of learning that embraces manipulation of skills which give birth to arts and crafts. The ministry recognises the role of art and craft to nation-building to the extent that two of its departments are now assigned to handle arts related matters,” he said.
The commissioner, who was represented by the Chief Inspector of Education, Etsako West Local Council, spoke at the maiden edition of Edo North Art Expo, which held on July 12 and 13 at the main auditorium, Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi. The theme of the expo was Reawakening the art consciousness of Edo North. It featured no fewer than 40 exhibiting artists, and performances were organised by Merit Interior Gallery in collaboration with School of Art and Industrial Design, Auchi Polytechnic. Curator of the expo was Dr. Helen Uhunmwagho, while Otunba Usman Charlton Magaji, the Samari of Auchi Kingdom, was the chairman of the event.
Obhakhan reassured that Edo State is irrevocably committed to ensuring quality and all- round education for her citizenry. This drive, he said, has informed government’s commitment to the massive renovation of schools across the state in order to make learning environment conducive for pupils and students. According to him, this has, no doubt, raised the tone the public schools and boosted the morals of the teachers.
“Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME), which are now the fulcrum of any emerging economy, mainly involve artistic works. Therefore, if the high rate of unemployment of our youths must be dealt with, artistic skills must be acquired and encouraged alongside the conventional cognitive domain development of the individuals. Our youths must recognise that self-sustaining disciplines like the arts and crafts are long lasting, compared to the popular white or blue collar jobs that are no longer there,” he noted.
In his paper, Engaging cultural production as social activism: multidimensional approaches to regional advocacies in an art world, Prof Frank Ugiomoh of University of Port Harcourt stated that in many cultures of the world, art is appreciated in such a way that its activities evolve into global annual events or two-yearly and three-yearly events.
Ugiomoh cited platforms such as Dakar Art Biennale and Life in My City Projects as examples of consistent art events that have succeeded in attracting participants from across the globe.
He noted that regional spaces such as Auchi and the Northern Edo cultural space can overcome their provincial setting through the expo, adding that all it requires is a commitment and a funding plan. According to him, the gains remain inestimable and it is important to buy into a project like the Edo North Art Expo, which aims to re-awaken the region’s art consciousness.
“This annual project may not be able to build this consciousness in the desired way where supporting events are not organised through the year. To this end, I encourage diverse activities centred on art that would engrain and build community consciousness regarding the subject and its cultural value. This is where a multidimensional approach comes to play in the set agenda for this vision.
“The Northern Edo region is endowed with regards to the practice and appreciation of the arts right from time. The initiative set forth by the current programme is well seated in the cultural history of the region. The siting of the Polytechnic in Auchi thus is a boost to this agenda. However, a variety of activities aimed at sustaining and building the consciousness of the people is required to sustain the initiative,” Ugiomoh said.
He observed that in Nigeria, there is no gainsaying the reality that Lagos has a domineering hold on cultural production and allied activities. But that the status of cultural production of Lagos makes other epicenters of culture in Nigeria inactive. “However, they indeed are inactive when the inventory of activities in Lagos are placed side by side other cities in Nigeria,” he said.
Proprietor, Merit Interior Gallery, Mr. Chris Ogiebo recalled the challenges he went through to seek sponsor of the expo, describing it as monumental.
He pledged that the expo will hopefully be an annual event that will bring artists, connoisseurs, art lovers and collectors to discuss and share ideas. “We intend to use this event to cause a revolution. Not a blood flowing revolution, but a mind-renewing revolution that will open Edo North to the creative world. This is timely, especially now that the Federal Government is diversifying our economy. If the cultural element across the country is properly harnessed the revenue will surpass that of oil,” he said.
Dean, School of Art and Industrial Design, Auchi Polytechnic, Mr. Oladapo Afolayan said Edo North is not new to art and craft world as it parades an array of famous art and artists both modern and post-modern cultures. He stated that in contemporary Nigeria, Edo North have records of the first generation artists such as Mama Ugiomoh (traditional textiles) and Ms. Clara Ugbodaga-Ngu (painting), General Bolivia and Waziri Oshioma and a host of high-life musicians.
“Auchi Art School is ever in the good news of contemporary art scene. We also parade so numerous artists, who are creating waves and are cynosure of Nigerian art. We could hardly count five contemporary Nigerian artists in any area of art specialisation without Auchi alumnus mentioned,” he added.