Osahenye raises the bar with TRASH-ING
In no distant future, Kainebi Osahenye’s art works will become part of the cannons for appraising Nigerian artists’ transformation from regular paintings to digital credible forms of conceptual art and global acceptance. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME previews his TRASH-ING, a solo art exhibition opening on September 12, at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos.
For every exhibition, it is one step ahead of many. His bright colourful figurative and giant size canvasses are some of the characteristics of his ever evolving approach to art. And for many of his outings (Crosses of Life, The cross took me for a walk and Erasures), he focused on issues inherent in cruciform, (crosses) and crossroads, which are commentaries on salvation and survival in a country of plenty.
With the current exhibition, TRASH-ING, Osahenye has left no one in doubt of his direction- credible forms of contextual art- at a period most of his colleagues are not hungry for global validation.
Over the past few years, Osahenye, has gradually raised the bar of contemporary art from the regular bright and bold colourful paintings to installation works that interrogate the system using local contents, especially discarded found items. As a deliberate approach, he offers few large size paintings to pass his strong messages.
Expectedly, the artist will be showing only seven installation works, which the host gallery, Bisi Silva’s CCA, Lagos is noted for since it opened to public in December 2007. All the seven works are large scale installations made from empty plastic water bottles, flattened paint tubes, patches of papers and empty soft drink cans to create different pieces.
Osahenye uses Casualty, a collection of empty soft drink cans laced together to form a contain-like objects that overflow from the ceiling downward to the floor. This reminds viewers of the many calamities of war, famine, pollution and pains people go through in life. Below these cans is a heap of other cans spreading on floor. In between the stringed cans are flags of some countries regarded as hotspots where genocide and mass killings of people are everyday occurrence. Beyond war, Casualty is a strong commentary on environmental protection and global warming issues. For aesthetics, the multiple colours that arose from the burning effect will be better appreciated in a well-lit gallery space, which of course, CCA, Lagos can boast of.
But in Reservoir, Osahenye simply reveals the poor state of Nigeria’s infrastructures, especially pipe borne water, which is almost non- available in most cities and rural communities. He strings together cuts of empty water bottles and stocks them on top of one another into eight-foot cubes measuring about 8ft 4ins high. The lower bottles carry bright colours while the top are without colours, indicating the state of reservoirs including the nation’s foreign reserves.
Another striking work that every painter will give a second look is Crossing, a collection of 34 panels of empty flattened paint tubes nailed to the board. The panels because of its rectangular shape reveal the boundary and border issues addressed in the artist’s past shows while at the same time capturing the cruciform. Significantly, Crossing is a reminder to other artists that what they consider as wastes are items of beauty and capable of provoking thoughts that will shape people’s views. According to Prof. Sylvester Ogbechie, Osahenye’s works deal with humanity’s struggle against subjection and project the artist into definable contexts of conflict.
"The more resolutely anti-commercialism an art work is, the more easily it is integrated into a discourse of art in which its commercialist stance becomes precisely the selling point of the artwork, thus making it more marketable, at least for the cadre of globe-trotting artists represented at the major international biennales and contemporary art fairs," Ogbechie said, adding that the artist’s work is as sophisticated as any piece in any biennale in recent time. Other installations for showing include Crowd and Black out.
The Delta state born fine artist, who runs a private studio in Auchi, said the installation works would be exhibited without prices, but are for sale. He explained that his desire to experiment and know influenced his current direction. "I have always wanted to challenge myself and see how much I can do. Sometime, I ask myself what am I looking for? Now, I have started thinking of a single installation work that will stun viewers. In fact, I am just looking for new ways to express myself…Even if many artists are comfortable, some will still not do crazy works like these. What matters is exposure, not the pressure to provide bread on the table. Right now, I find it difficult to mix oil in a regular palette. I still paint but I am exploring many media while the traditional medium will gradually take the back seat," Osahenye said. TRASH-ING will run till October 10 at CCA, Lagos.
Religious crisis no threat to NAFEST
By Ozolua Uhakheme
The Niger State government has allayed fears of insecurity at the forth-coming National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) despite recent upheavals in the northern part of the country. The state assured that the aftermath of the Boko Haram religious crisis would not hinder the smooth hosting of the festival as adequate provision for security of lives and property has been made; especially that since 1976, Niger State has not experienced any chaos or melee of any kind, which is a good sign that it will not occur now.
Enugu State hosted the festival last year at the Presidential Hotel, Enugu. In a bid to host a hitch-free NAFEST in October, Niger State has commenced strategic planning in collaboration with all stakeholders in the art and culture sector. Tomorrow, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, it will host a dinner/fund raising and logo unveiling ceremony. The event is expected to bring together key players in the culture and tourism industry, both locally and internationally.
The Director General the National Council for Arts and Culture, Mr. Maigwi Maidugu has scored the hosting state above 85 per cent in terms of preparation. The D G affirmed the readiness of Niger State to host the annual festival, saying he is very satisfied about its preparation. Already, a befitting secretariat for the festival has been commissioned. It is a modern building located in the centre of Minna, the state capital. The secretariat has full Internet access with other communication devices to allow maximisation and dissemination of information regarding NAFEST 2009. It is equipped with modern information technology gadgets, computers, laptops, etc. In addition to this, support from private individuals in the form of branded cars has been provided to augment transportation and create awareness for the event. The secretariat was opened on August 6, this year, while the preparation of events venues, the renovation of state road network, the renovation of tourist centre and the awareness campaign are on-going. Interestingly, prior to the convening of the 32
nd meeting of the executives of culture in Nigeria, Maidugu said the meeting of the executives was sequel to the decision reached by the council to consolidate arrangements that would ensure a hitch-free event. He said with this year’s theme: Culture and the Challenges of Our Time: Cultural Industries and Wealth Creation, NAFEST 2009 is redesigned to reawaken our consciousness on the need to look inwards with a view to harness and develop our cultural industries; toward addressing the nation’s present predicament of unemployment, crime and youth restiveness. He said major events for the festival would include moonlight games, exhibitions on Nigerian dress culture, indigenous music and dance, indigenous circus, traditional wrestling, colloquium, book fair, crafts market, food fair, ayo game, film show etc.
According to Governor Babangida Aliyu, the state is ensuring proper accessibility, improving the road network in the state capital as well as those in neighbouring towns and roads leading to tourists’ attractions in the state. Some of the roads are undergoing renovation while others that are under construction are expected to be completed so as to enhance free movement of vehicles and human traffic. He assured that the 10-day event would bring together the various ethnic groups that make up the federation. Being one of the most promising sectors of the economy in Niger State and Nigeria, the state’s Tourism and Culture Commissioner, Umar Mohammed Nasko has stressed the unifying role the event would play in promoting the cultural potentials and assets of the state and Nigeria. He added that a cultural event like NAFEST is an integral part of tourism which draws people from within and outside the country. It equally brings about peaceful co-existence irrespective of the heterogeneous social and religious nature of the country.
Security is equally another aspect of preparation being carried out as the event date draws closer. With the recent upheavals in the north, the state has assured that this would in no way hinder the smooth and safe running of the event as provision for security of lives and property has been beefed up. He also added that since 1976, Niger State has not experienced any chaos or melee of any kind which is a good sign as it will not occur now.
Apart from the NAFEST events, Niger State is also prepared to give first time visitors and tourists an additional value for their visit. The state has various tourist sites like the Gurara waterfalls, Kainji National Park, Ladi Kwali Potters, Zuma Rock, Bida Brass works among others.
Indian hospital saved my child
By Ozolua Uhakheme
After undergoing successful surgery to correct congenital heart defect (VSD Mono) in an Indian children hospital, Baby Emmanuel Akinde is back on his feet and full of life. He was flown to India where he had an eight-hour surgery over hole in the heart and lungs defects. Before he went for the operation at Lotus Hospital, Hadrabad, India on May 8, 2009, Baby Emmanuel was almost becoming a source of pain and burden to the parents whose income and savings were expended on series of medical treatments in many hospitals in Akure, Osogbo and Ibadan, South West Nigeria.
Today, four months after the operation, Baby Emmanuel has not only become a bundle of joy to the parents but a shining testimony of the grace of God and support from well meaning Nigerians who assisted in raising about two million naira for the operation in India. Since his return 30 days after the operation, the child has recovered fast and exhibiting the characters of a normal healthy child.
This was made possible following a report on March 11 in LIFE Magazine of The Nation newspaper calling on well meaning Nigerians and corporate bodies to help save the life of the little child. A Skye Bank account opened in the name of the child was used to raise fund from public spirited Nigerians to undertake the operation in India.
Emmanuel’s mother, Mrs. Mary Akinde’s heart is now full of joy as she happily watches him jumping up and running all over her. In fact, she is short of words to show appreciation to all Nigerians who came to her assistance, especially her Catholic Church members in Ondo town as well as management and staff of Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo. According to her, the Governor Segun Mimiko-led administration in Ondo State also provided some financial assistance after returning from the operation.
Recalling the trauma they went through as parents, Mrs. Akinde said but for the timely intervention of her Catholic Church members in Ondo and other well- meaning Nigerians who responded quickly to The Nation’s article in March, Baby Emmanuel’s life would have been in critical danger if not lost.
"My husband and I exhausted all our earnings and savings on saving Emmanuel. But the situation of his health did not improve. So, we had to explore foreign expertise. After establishing a link with the Indian hospital, they responded to the child’s medical history we sent to them. The hospital said if we cannot bring the child in the next two weeks, we should forget the treatment because the child, according to their findings based on what we sent, has been surviving on only 20 per cent of his strength and that the remaining 80 per cent has been lost to the illness. When it was becoming difficult to raise the two million naira total cost of the trip, the hospital advised we should raise about N950,000 being cost of operation and the flight ticket money in order to save the child’s life. That exactly we did before I left for India on May 8 and stayed for 30 days," she stated amidst broad smiles that eluded her during the trying period.
"The report of the first medical examination carried out on Baby Emmanuel shocked me. The doctor in charge, Dr. Darga who has had 46 years of medical practice said my child’s lung is defective too and that I might come back to India next year to correct it. But by the grace of God, the surgeon closed the hole in the heart as well as the defective lung during the operation, which he confessed he has never done as a surgeon in all his years of practice."
To Mrs. Akinde, a clerk at the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, it was disheartening that it took an Indian hospital to diagnose his child’s defective lung, after series of medical tests in Nigeria could not discover it. She observed that her Indian experience revealed the poor state of basic health care in the country, especially that for children under five; wondering if the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals could be attained by Nigeria.
"There is no room to compare the health delivery system of India with that of Nigeria. In India, they don’t take any health matter for granted. At the Lotus hospital, which is primarily for children, every child at the operation theatre is provided with eight life-saving devices for some days after operation. I pray one day, our children hospital wards will have at least one of such units if not the eight for a child in Nigeria," she said of the wide disparity between Nigeria and India in health care system.
Art expo Nigeria 2009: Repositioning the economies of nations
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Tourism, Culture and National Orientation Minister Senator Bello Jibrin Gada has described the International Art Expo as a major respite which is capable, if properly harnessed, of repositioning the economies of African nations from stagnation to growth.
The minister noted that with oil as a political and economic tool in the hands of great nations and with constant upward and downward swing of the oil price pendulum, it is necessary for African nations to look back at the reality of their cultural backbone (visual art) as a panacea for economic and social revival.
Senator Gada, in the foreword to this year’s international art expo, which opened last Saturday at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos urged stakeholders in the visual art sector to work harder in ‘unraveling the diverse techniques, styles and methods of generating funds through art, especially to meet the yearnings of the annual budgets of African countries, Nigeria in particular’.
The International Art Expo Nigeria, now in its second edition, is a collaboration between the National Gallery of Art and the Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN). Thirty seven art galleries are participating in the event that will run till August 30. Among art collectors and connoisseurs that attended the opening are the Secretary to Lagos State Government (SSG) Adenrele Ogunsanya; former Minister of National Planning, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi; Mr. Sam Olagbaju, and Mr. Seinde Odimayo,
The Director-General of National Gallery of Art, Joe Musa, assured that the International Art Expo Nigeria, which received continental endorsement on its first outing, cannot go down, but up. He said the event has opened a new road map for visual art in Nigeria and Africa, thus creating a platform for over 1000 Nigerian artists to showcase and market their art. "With 34 private art galleries from different parts of the country brought together to exhibit creative works of some professional Nigerian artists, Art expo 2008 became one of the largest ever art business in Nigeria in recent times. It has become an international event for art galleries not only in Africa but beyond the African continent for professional artists to showcase their works," he added. Musa recalled that all through the ages, African artists have borne the challenge of cultural preservation, inspired the imaginations of their society and driven the dream of cultural trepidation to the boundary of civilization.
President of AGAN, Chief Frank Okonta, who commended the support of NGA, urged corporate bodies to assist in the promotion and growth of visual art. He cited the promise by the telecommunication giant, MTN to sponsor the expo for the next 10 years as encouraging. He disclosed that by next year more artists from African countries would be part of the event, but regretted that many Nigerian photographers are yet to tap into the opportunities provided by the expo.
"We cannot hold any artist or photographer by the throat to show interest in the event. I am happy Tam Fiofori, a seasoned photographer, is participating in the show," he said.
Commenting on the curating aspect of the expo, the Society of Nigerian Artists president, Uwa Usen, observed that the display of the works and the low level of noise in terms of colours are of great improvement. He admitted that despite the seeming hindrance, the organisers kept the dream alive saying it would have been worse if the expo did not hold this year. "If the show did not hold, artists would have been disappointed and it would have taken years to restore the confidence. For the future editions, we should hold a post-mortem to appraise the event".
Benin Republic artist Midahuen Yves, who took a stand at the expo expressed satisfaction to be part of it all; saying: "As an artist, you must move around to see what is going on in Africa. I am impressed with the event and for an international show like this, I am happy to be here. I have been to Dak’art biennale, but I am convinced it would grow faster than Dak’art. Next year, I must be here."
Midahuen, the proprietor of Midy-Art is featuring 26 works which include three other Beninoise artists’ works at the on-going expo. They are Gratien Anagossi (Grek), Fahoyo and Gigot.
With the successful hosting of two editions of the expo, AGAN should improve its marketing strategies in order to attract major sponsors that will provide adequate funds for the sustenance of the project.
When local design is winning ace
By Ozolua Uhakheme
The rate of unemployment and lack of self-employment among artists in the country evidence their lack of creative skills and low patronage of the arts. The training curricula for artists, particularlytertiary institutions, are yet to deal sufficiently with entrepreneurial skills and art business skills. These make the dream of many artists wishing to set up on their own unrealisable. These were part of factors militating against high patronage of Nigerian art, according to the former head, department of fine and applied art, Delta State University, Abraka, Dr. Grace Ojie.
Speaking at a recent art festival, Life In My City 2009, organised by Rocana Nigeria Limited in collaboration with Alliance Francaise, in Enugu, she identified the difficulty in acquiring space for production and exhibition of art as another obstacle to real appreciation and patronage of art. She explained that lack of adequate facilities and materials for production of art works, which affects quality and durability of art works, could also account for low level of appreciation of art works. This, she said, is a consequence of low level of educational training of the larger populace of the Nigerian society.
Dr. Ojie observed that many Nigerians do not seem to know the value of acquiring and keeping art works, which could be used as collateral, even for obtaining bank loans to meet up with various economic demands.
In a paper, Utilising Indigenous designs to Impure art pratronage in Nigeria;presented at the conference, she noted that the poverty level of majority of Nigerians lowers the capacity to purchase art work; and that individuals have several other pressing demands like payment of their children’s school fees, feeding of their families and rent payments to contend with. According to her, the negative influence of allied products in terms of utility and aesthetics on the patronage of art products - mostly products of ceramics, textiles and sculpture - is one setback because there are several alternatives to these products made from rubber, wood, glass and metal.
"The inadequate and epileptic electricity supply in Nigeria disturbs the quick and neat finishing of some art products, leading to increase in the cost of production. Take the case of ceramic production which requires the use of an electric kiln which should produce the best of result at the end of the production exercise. The ceramic artist is forced to rely on alternative source of firing, which may not give the best result and may increase the cost of production.
“Poor means of disseminating information on art exhibition (past and future) due to poor knowledge of application of latest e-media and inability to acquire computers also make it impossible for the curators, gallery owners, art collectors and the general public who serve as the clients of the artists to be aware of what is going on," she said.
Dr. Ojie, who also identified inadequate documentation of materials and methods of production on the part of artists for comprehension and ease of understanding by clients, observed that opportunities for masters to expose younger artists to materials and methods are often not created. The poverty level of some artists, she added, sometimes, forces them to use alternative materials which might not create room for durability of products or get the best of expression from the artists.
Continuing, she said: "Expensive nature of art materials sometimes lead to increase in the cost of production and eventually forces the artists to sell at expensive rate. Some artists have also been accused of over-pricing of their art works which sometimes affect patronage. Lack of trust on the part of both the artists and their clients-collectors and gallery owners also inhibits patronage as most business transactions are called off even before they materialise.
"Copy right laws concerning the purchase or acquisition of art works are not clearly defined or practiced in Nigeria. This, therefore, does not give the artists the impetus to go into large scale transactions for fear that they may be denied the financial rewards for their effort on the long run."
On the gains of creative use of indigenous designs, Dr. Ojie assured that it could improve patronage tremendously because of the reduced basis for comparing art products with foreign ones. She noted that both the foreign and indigenous products would therefore be distinct from each other and appreciated individually.
She also said that this could contribute to a long term gain of improving the economy and creating a cultural identity for Nigeria as tourists are more likely to increase the interest on these works and buy more copies which they also send abroad. "Creative use of indigenous designs improves perceptual abilities of artist(s) for better artistic visuals to be created because they are usually forced to take a closer look at the designs or symbols that they might wish to use. Creative use of indigenous designs can improve organization of concepts or themes for the purpose of creating better art works or art works that will be appreciated," she stressed.
But for the artists to make significant difference in raising their socio-economic life, she recommended that governments at the three levels should encourage greater art creativity through provision of soft loans to fresh tertiary institution graduates so as to help them establish their own studios and galleries.
Ensuring strict regulation of importation of allied products into the country and improving the art curricula right from the primary and secondary schools to include active and actual creative exercises as well as including entrepreneurial skill or art business training in the art curricula at the tertiary level, she said, would go a long way in redressing the situation.