Sunday, October 10, 2010

Minster, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed & Prof. Babawale on tour of the exhibition at Internatioanl Conf. Centre, Abuja Sept 23, 2010


As many African nations commemorate their independence anniversaries across the continent, African scholars as well as the Diasporas gathered on the city of Abuja singing one song: time for second wave of Pan-Africanism that will lead to political and economic self-reliance, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports.

African scholars on the continent and in Diaspora have renewed calls for rekindling the spirit of Pan Africanism that brought political self-reliance to the continent in the 50s. Leading the pack of discussants at an international conference organised by the Centre of Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), in collaboration with Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG) in Abuja, was Ghanaian scholar and author Prof. Kwesi Kwaa Prah, who gave the keynote address on Global Africans, Pan-Africanism, Decolonization and Integration of Africa: Past, Present and Future.
Scholars and experts at the conference held in commemoration of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary rose from a four-day deliberation resolving that the place and role of Africa in the 21st century are inextricably linked to its culture. They however observed that Pan-Africanism has not been re-defined to recognize the ecological realities of the 21st century in order to advance the cause of global Africans in a globalizing age. But, in a ten-paragraph communiqué, the conference resolved that the peer-review mechanism of the African Union (AU) should be repositioned and strengthened to serve as a platform for the transformation of the African states through the active participation of the people as prelude to total integration of the continent and global Africa. It also stated that Pan-Africanism should look inwards in her search and fight for equality, justice, human dignity and integrity in order to confront racial differentiation, exploitation, domination, dependence and gross inequality.
It stressed that curriculum development at all levels of education in Africa be made functional, culturally relevant and purposefully designed to emphasise Pan Africanist vision/ideals. “There is the need for definitive Afrocentric language policy for Africans states because sustainable development can be achieved through indigenous languages… That to effectively grapple with the multi-farious problems facing Africa, NEPAD should be redefined, strengthened ad made independent. And that relevant agencies of government be re-awakened and re-positioned for the onerous task of preserving, conserving and documenting of Africa’s historical sits, monuments, and other rich intangible cultural heritage. These, no doubt, will boost tourism and facilitate integration of global Africa,” the statement added.
It also said that there should be the creation of a ministry of regional integration and cooperation by all member states of the AU, and such ministry should be adequately funded and run by credible experts. The communiqué, which urged African government and people to begin to use Pan Africanism as a functional instrument or mechanism to fight western ideas that Africa is the backyard of global development, stressed that African indigenous should be taught and spoken at home as way of decolonizing the mind and promoting values and norms embedded in the indigenous languages.
Earlier at the conference, Nigeria’s Tourism, Culture and National Orientation Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed said African continent is capable of overcoming its present socio-political problems using the Pan-African ideology, which is capable of reducing poverty, re-engineering social development and various mindless wars and conflicts that continue to plague the continent. He said if employed objectively, it would provide Africans the avenues for peace-building which could promote democratic governance and respect for human rights. He added that Pan Africanism could also aid the continent’s quest at fostering integration and seeking beneficial partnership with the industrialised world.
Mohammed, who lamented that Africa’s share of the world market and the values of its exports are comparable to an average European country and the budget of an average African country is equivalent to the budget of an average European city, stressed that Africa bears half of the burden of world’s misery. “Life expectancy is rapidly declining while infant mortality is on the increase. At the political level, we are developing and improving on culture of violence. The continent is a hot bed of frightening inter-state confrontations, civil wars and genocide. In our country, the culture of accountability and peaceful conflict resolution is gradually paving way for recklessness, impunity and violence. These are not the dreams and desires of our founding leaders. The situation therefore demands that we retrace our steps by revisiting the ideology that drives the struggle for independence,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of PANAFSTRAG, General Ishola Williams, (rtd) urged the participants to use the platform to design a plan of action for youths, women and elders in the launch of the second wave of Pan-Africanism in line with 21st century needs of Africans. To achieve this, he said Africans must drop their personal and organisational egos and forge one united front. He however regretted that the second wave of Pan-Africanism ought to have started in the 1950s for political independence, building economic self-reliance founded on African history, culture and language. He observed that it was not to be because Pan-Africanists and Pan-African organisations were each doing their own thing rather than coming together under the Pan- Africanism umbrella.
CBAAC director-general, Prof. Tunde Babawale observed that Pan Africanism has moved beyond the spirit that led to its emergence noting that it should be made to bear on contemporary issues of development and human advancement on the continent. He said that government should promulgate laws that would accentuate all of the aspects of Nigerian culture like music, fine art, fashion design among others.
“We must take pride in what belongs to us. Once we do that, we have enough to define our identity and to define our humanity as well as sell to outsiders to promote tourism within our different countries.
On the economic benefits of Pan Africanism and if it can be sold at this time and age, Babawale said: “Yes, it can be sold. In the world now everything is about all disciplines working together, to embrace politics, social and economic. So, in discussing Pan Africanism and making it relevant, it must go beyond the political. It was true the late Kwame Nkrumah said seek ye first the political kingdom, and all others would be added onto it. But we have since realized now that you have to seek the economic kingdom because the political kingdom that we sought and we forgot the economic kingdom. Both of them have to go hand in hand.
“We must use the theory of Pan Africanism to develop the Pan African consciousness of the people and make them develop pride in who they are, and accept the way they were crated. If as a human being you feel you are not as handsome or beautiful as you should be, you remain perpetually distressed for life because you cant change your being.”
The four-day conference, which featured some African scholars on the continent and the Diaspora, among others examined how African leaders can launch the second wave of Pan Africanism that would lead to political and economic self-reliance.
The colloquium that attracted over 63 papers from scholars in Africa and the Diasporas was not all about speech making as a photo exhibition on living and dead Pan Africanists as well as some landmark heritage sites in the continent was mounted at the entrance of the executive hall of the conference centre. The exhibits included vintage photographs of the late Jamaican activist, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Walter Carrington, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Wole Soyinka, Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, Barrack Obama, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya, Mariam Makeba, Martin Luther King and Chinua Achebe. Also complementing this were exhibits put on display by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

Fresh lift for artists, art journalists

As part of educational programmes of the international art expo Nigeria, series of lectures and workshop were organised during the duration of the expo in Lagos. Some select art writers were at a workshop to shore up the quality of reporting. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME who participated in the events at the National Museum, Lagos, reports.

There was no better way to round off this year’s international art expo Nigeria organised by National Gallery of Art in collaboration with Art Galleries Association of Nigeria, than the presentation of two key papers last Saturday in Lagos on the rights of visual artists and rule of law as well as artist-gallery partnership. Art Barn, (Richmond Ogolo’s booth at the expo hall), venue of the lecture, could not take all the participants who later stretched to Nkem Gallery’s booth opposite Art Barn.
Curator of the expo and acting director of Research and Education, National Gallery of Art, Mr. Simon Ikpakronyi set the tone for the lecture with a brief review of the expo giving detail facts and figures on the total exhibits on display, the medium of expression, the content of the brochure in terms of images among others.
The Southwest regional coordinator of Department for International Development (DFID), of the British High Commission, Mr. Shina Fagbenro-Byron, a lawyer and musician, spoke on Plagiarism: The legal position, while founder of ArtBakery, Douala, Cameroon, Mr. Goddy Leye talked on Artist-Gallery partnership.
Expectedly, both papers touched on very significant aspects of every artist practice ranging from copyright to plagiarism, inspiration versus imitation, consequences of abuse and remedies. Also highlighted at the lecture were factors like, market, value shifts in art market, production spheres, the middle men and consumer that influence artist-gallery relationship. Given the size of participants and the attendant issues raised at the lecture/closing ceremony, this year’s expo made a significant improvement in the area of education and awareness of promotion of art.
Earlier on Tuesday, the international art expo opened a fresh window for an effective media appreciation and coverage of visual arts sector with a workshop on art journalists at the National Museum, Onikan Lagos penultimate Tuesday. The workshop featured Dr. Kunle Filani, Kryzd Ikwuemesi, Prof. Tonie Okpe and Simon Ikpakronyi as guest speakers.
The workshop was held to afford art journalists in visual art the opportunity of updating their knowledge on the various basic terms and vocabularies of the genre with which to improve their skill of art reporting and critiquing. Beyond providing participants, especially art writers with fresh registers in lifting arts reporting, the guest speakers highlighted diverse issues ranging from destructive or negative approach to critiquing, artists’ attitude to criticism, steps and factors in art critique, style and technique. However, there was confusion in the application and interpretation of criticism to mean critique during the presentations.
Ikpakronyi who spoke on Art Criticism And People’s Opinion, described art criticism as a medium for analyzing, discussing, interpreting and elucidating on art work noting that it is also a vehicle for increasing access to art, presenting art works to people who otherwise might not see it. “It is a way of bridging the gap between artists and the people. The role of art criticism therefore, is to create a supportive environment for art in the society. Art criticism is a presentation of supposedly informed opinion about what is right or wrong about an artistic effort, but this must be done objectively, as much as humanly possible. And as earlier stated, criticism f art work is popularly done after visits to exhibitions and artists’ studios,” he said.
He noted that art criticism is a controversial enterprise from which disputes sometimes arise about the purpose and nature of the judgment made by the art critic, and the nature and propriety of what it is that art critics had discussed.
Ikwuemesi who spoke on Beyond Monologue: personal notes on the critique and Hermeneutics of art, suggested that for adequate interpretation of art, the hermeneutics approach should be adopted by art journalists, saying it ‘would seek an understanding of the obvious and hidden meanings in art through a constructive deconstruction of its tonal, formal, or conceptual architecture.’ He explained that the critique of art requires four steps, namely; description, analysis, interpretation and judgment.
On the Nigerian reality, Ikwuemesi observed that the business of art criticism in the country is yet to match the practical activities in the art sector, noting that the antidote could be found in greater interaction between artists and critics. He also added that Nigerian art institutions do not offer art criticism or critical theory as a core area of study, saying art historians often arrogate to themselves the critical ability. “But the truth is also that artists in these part of the clime do not like criticism and some critics prefer to be sky dwellers occasionally touching down to trumpet the praise of some over-celebrated artists, rather than discovering and making new talents…But we must concede that the contribution of journalists to the art debate in Nigeria has come a long way and ought to represent more than a meal ticket so that it can become meaningful to the practitioners, artists and researchers,” Ikwuemesi said.
Prof. Tonie Okpe’s slide presentation on Installation and performance art: A single platform co-existence agenda was an interrogation of the two art forms as a possible and healthy agenda for contemporary art practice in the country. He stressed that art/theatre debates are much less compelling now, as art practice and criticism have moved beyond traditional definitions and boundaries of experience and research. He added that performance itself has become central to an understanding of contemporary culture beyond its aesthetic connotations.
He showed several installations and performance art by some artists including UK based Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare’s recent and old works as images to explain the relationship between the two forms of art and their possible co-existence. However, some artists expressed reservation on nude images in Okpe’s presentation while stressing that ‘Nigerian artists should not be stampeded into creating such weird works of installation.’ Former chairman, Society of Nigerian Artists, Lagos chapter, Mr. Olu Ajayi who said he would refuse to be confused by the kind works of the west, urged Nigerian artists to believe in their choice of media and do what please them and not the west. He however wondered why expo, like most exhibitions, does not enjoy the presence of serious issue based paintings that dwell on everyday happenings in the society.
If the lecture series were very rewarding to the artists and art critics, most of the 635 exhibits on display at the expo might not have turned the heads of many enthusiasts and collectors. Though there were quite a number of mixed media works, but the content of the dominant medium, painting, still reflects the old and regular theme and content. Apart from a few like Emmanuel Inua’s mixed media on president Goodluck Jonathan and political landscape, and Askihia Rodney’s giant size mat made of chips from abandoned Dunlop slippers displayed by TribesArt Gallery, the collection tells same story.
Again, of the 635 pieces of works exhibited, photography accounted for six at a period the medium is being given priority among plastic art forms. It also shows the level of appreciation of that medium, especially among gallery owners.
This year’s brochure is an improvement of past editions especially the French translation. The translation is a wise decision if the dream to market the event to other countries will be realised especially across to French speaking West African countries. But the size of the brochure is fast becoming a burden of a sort to users and as such it should be trimmed to a user friendly size. Unfortunately, the organizers of the expo never tapped into this volume (246 pages) to attract advertisers.
The changing of the expo to read international is unnecessary except there is an agenda yet behind that. The mission statement of the expo, the scope of the event, its market strategies, size of participants (to include non-Nigerian artists), and packaging are what will shape the expo to be international. After all, other similar arts fests (Documenta, Dakar biennale, Venice biennale, Art Expo New York) across the globe do not carry the tag of international to be attractive to the world. Already, if Benin and Togo artists participated in the expo, how else does an event go international?
Despite all the numerous short-comings at the expo, the organisers offered an ideal ambience by providing air-conditioned expo hall unlike past editions when heat was a constant threat to viewers’ long stay in the hall.


By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)

But for the thunderous ovation that kept interrupting his speech at intervals, the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka took effective control of his audience at the capacity filled hall. In his usual characteristics, Soyinka literarily dissected the relationship between politics and art using current and distant happenings in the society to explain the correlations between several factors that shape the actions and inactions of political leaders in modern day Nigerian state.
Worried by the increasing state of insecurity in the nation’s politics, the laureate wondered if the late D.O Fagunwa’s protagonists in his book, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole, (Forest of a thousand demons), would not find themselves more at home in today’s Nigeria than in the forest of animal violence. He said considering the goings on today, there are correlations in Fagunwa’s work, which further prompted the question of which is the jungle and which is the human habitation?
Soyinka spoke on Culture and the challenges of development in Nigeria as guest speaker at the international conference on culture, organised by Ondo State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, last Thursday at Akure, the state capital.
“The question one is compel to ask from time to time is whether or not Fagunwa’s protagonists such as Akaraogun and Olowoaiye would not find themselves more at home in today’s supposedly developed and modernised Nigerian cities than in the forest of animal violence and embodiment of various forms of evils with which Fagunwa sought to reveal to his readers.
Yet, he is still a modicum of morality, decency, rationale dealing, selfishness and even a sense of fruitful progression. In other words, looking at society today, one sees such correlations with Fagunwa’s fantasy world, and one is moved sometimes to ask: Which is the jungle? And which is the human habitation?
He said as one who roams the forest, cocooned therapeutically in the tranquility and order of nature, its intrinsic laws and logic of development, he was also moved to ask: Which one signifies civilisation and the state of barbaric of the most dispiriting setting? He stressed that certainly, in the forest, any resemblance of a blackout is a mere manifestation of the diurnal order of phenomenon; predictable because night follows day, and on a guaranteed duration. He noted that it is neither a sudden failure of solar power that lets the yams rot in the ground or withers the vegetable and fruits nor a sudden surge of same energy that incinerates anthills, computer and fridge in the home.
On art and morality in the culture of politics, he observed that politics itself has a culture that could be nurtured. Acknowledging the timing of the conference, which coincided with the flagging off of general electioneering, Soyinka said the conference dragged in its wake the perennial question of will there be a cultured election or an uncooked one? And that ‘how much maim will be let loose?’ He noted that something cultured and humanistic appears to be lost along the way, and that a new anti-culture of jungle politics is fast becoming the national norm, where unspeakable bestialities are committed for desperate aspiration or self consolidation. The nation, he said, is being brain-washed into an understanding of politics as an uncultured event as the survival of the richest and triumph of the beastly.
“It was as if Fagunwa has been eavesdropping 50 years into the future on several conversations I have over heard during the past decade. And this has contributed to the general sense of be wilderment and depression,” the speaker said.
On how fiction sometime rises to fact and how act sometime overtakes reality, especially as an insightful exploration of the psyche and conduct of humanity, he cited Fagunwa’s most popular work, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igborumole, which he translated nearly 50 years ago as Forest of Thousand Demons. He said he resolved to translate all of Fagunwa’s novels in order to make them accessible to non-Yoruba readers, but that Fagunwa is not an easy writer to translate, which was why it has taken him nearly 50 years to translate another of Fagunwa’s works.
He said: “After the rigorous experience of struggling through Ogboju Ode, I realized that I better attend to my own writing at least for some time before attempting to tackle another product from master of Yoruba language. And of course, I read nearly all of Fagunwa’s books as a young man. I find myself in good company when I still see find Ogboju Ode, the truest expression of Fagunwa’s creative originality and inspiration. Some of his other works are far too preachy overloaded with morals. Fagunwa was a product of a remarkable phase in African socio-cultural transformation.”
The advantage that art and culture have over life, he said, is that in addition to being expository, they are prescriptive and offer models of alternatives. “It offers itself as a metaphor. Art, in the broad sense including the act of performance, which is closest to politics, as politics is an act of performance especially when pursued in a socialized or human experience not as a do-or-die affair,” he added.
Governor Segun Mimiko noted that Nigeria would only have good governance when there is mass participation, transparency and accountability, stressing that ‘we must create our own Nigeria in Ondo State as development would not come as holistic nation. We must recreate hard work as part of our culture, which we are doing in Ondo State.’ Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Tola Wewe said it is the hope of the state that the conference would produce a policy document on culture and tourism development in the state, provide proactive strategies for greater involvement of women and youth in cultural activities, underscore the distinctions between culture and religion among others.
The conference that featured over 20 papers resolved that cultured politics and democratic ethos are achievable through mass participation, transparency and accountability. The ten-paragraph communiqué said
*that electorate must be prepared to defend their votes as this is a sure way to curb election rigging;
*that the Ondo State philosophical mantra of Ise lgun ise, must be reinforced by government, mass media as part of the people’s culture in order to dislodge the ‘get-rich-quick’ syndrome;
*that the state should reduce its activities on religion and place more premiums on cultural rejuvenation;
*that schools curricular at various levels should be reviewed and developed to include functional cultural education as a tool for national development among other resolutions. The two-day event was rounded off with a musical performance by Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 Band on Friday night at Adegbemile hall, Akure.


No fewer than 20 Nigerian and Ghanaian music giants will be on parade at the Golden Tunes Concert at the Lagos City Hall, Lagos on October 16 to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary and revive highlife music. Assistant Editor (Arts) Ozolua Uhakheme reports.

Fifty years ago, veteran musician and highlife maestro, Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya, was among top artistes who performed at the Independence Day banquet at Race Course, Lagos. He was specially chosen by the then prime minister, the late Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to be part of that memorable event. On October 16, 2010, he will be re-enacting that sterling performance he put up 50 years ago at the ultra modern Lagos City Hall, Lagos, which is few meters away from venue of 1960 banquet.
This time Olaiya will not be performing along with the 1960 All-Star Band, a coalition of bands, but with other established veterans like Orlando Julius, S.F Olowokere, Dele Ojo, Ebenezer Obey, Alaba Pedro, Fatai Rolling Dollar and two Ghanaians, C.K Mann and Stan Plange. And the setting is the golden tunes concert organised by the Evergreen Music Company as part of the Festival 50: Musical memories of yesteryears activities to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary. The event is being sponsored by MTN Nigeria Communication, Lagos State government, Ondo State government and Total Health Trust.
Chairman of Evergreen Music Company, Mr. Femi Esho said the festival is being organised to rejuvenate the nation’s music culture, recognise and appreciate music maestros, both living and the dead as well as to establish an Evergreen Music Foundation to champion the advocacy for preserving works of artistes. He disclosed that the festival would involve symposium, exhibition, concert/award night and foundation launch. The symposium, which has as theme, Walking the tunes through the year, will hold on September 29 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos and will feature practitioners in the industry like teachers of African arts and culture as well as young aspiring musicians. Also, the exhibition will feature works of the vintage artistes alongside their paraphernalia and relics that will be collected from the archives of the maestros being honoured.
For the concert, Esho said: “What we are trying to do is re-enact the memories of the event of 1960. During the golden tunes concert, living legends like Victor Olaiya will be onstage along with other revered veterans like SF Olowokere, Orlando Julius, Dele Ojo, Tunde Osofisan, Alaba Pedro, David Bull, Idowu Animashaun among others who are yet to confirm their availability…In the course of the concert, not less than 30 veterans will receive life time achievement awards n various categories like founding father awards, golden voice of independence award, most outstanding instrumentalists award.” Esho added that the Evergreen Music Foundation would be launched during the event.
On why celebrating at 50, he explained: “A 50 year-old man in Nigeria that witnessed the Agekoya crises in the ld Western Region, the Civil war, the Ali must go of the 70s, the Maitasini uprising in the North, the SAP riots of the late 80s and the June 12 crises of 1993 and is alive hale and hearty today will agree that there is indeed a cause for celebration.” Justifying the rationale for the choice of highlife music as a genre, he said over 80 highlife maestros are known to have performed across the country but that today, less than 20 of them are alive and only 10 are known to actively play music.
“In terms of reign of the genre of music, you can hardly find more than three recreation spots where the vintage music is still enjoyed by patrons of musical bands. We feel that the situation portends a great danger for our indigenous contribution to the world of music, something that has the potential of being a major income earner for the country if properly harnessed,” the chairman added.


Images of a nation at 50

As part of the on-going celebration of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) opened Nigeria @ 50 photography exhibition at the NICO Luxury Hotel, Abuja to tell the story of the nation since colonial times till now. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME was at the opening.

The exhibits were simply a rare compendium of ‘who is who’ in Nigeria’s socio-economic and political landscapes since colonial times. From vintage photographs of founding fathers like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello, to other first Republic politicians and military leaders, renowned nationalists, activists, educationists, traditional rulers and landmark events and moments in the nation’s life, the collection captures in black and white, the 50 years of Nigeria’s march to nationhood.
Among guests that attended the opening of the photo exhibition were the Former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, Alhaji Bala Abubakar who represented the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, Ambassador of Spain to Nigeria, US Charge D’Affair to Nigeria and Nike Okundaye of Nike Gallery.
General Gowon who was the chairman of the occasion said the challenge before the nation today is that of renewal of hope and a vision of bright future. He therefore charged the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that all eligible voters are registered and able to vote, noting that the commission should that votes are counted and count. He said the people must be patriotic and take ownership of their votes and ensure a free and fair election. “Let us not put our nation in harm’s way by our actions. The love of our country must always be paramount in our mind,” he added.
He advised politicians to jettison all and any divisive tendencies, any negative utterances and religious bigotry in the nation’s politics and elections. He said: “It is my fervent hope and prayer that those responsible for conducting the elections in 2011, will endeavour to live and act above board. Our expectation is that the electoral umpire (INEC) must ensure that all eligible voters are registered and are able to vote.”
He described the photography exhibition as opportunity to assess the nation’s progress and development, which should also teach Nigerians to work harder, achieve more and count their blessings. Reflecting on the journey to nationhood, he said: “We underwent a bitter civil war but a war of national unity that saw brothers fighting brothers, that at the end, brothers reconciled and embracing one another to build a new nation under God, free, democratic and undivided.”
Culture Minister, Mohammed pledged not only to increase the tempo of exhibitions but also to integrate them into the overall cultural diplomacy of the country by working in co-operation with ministries of external affairs and education. He hoped that the exhibitions would tell the story of the nation for the benefit of friends outside the country.
Acting Director-General of National Gallery of Art, Mr. Abdulahi Muku acknowledged the continued support and encouragement of the ministry, which he said, have made the gallery to stand tall in the ministry.
The exhibition, tagged: The march of history: Evolution of the Nigerian nation, trials and triumphs, was more than a repository of pictorial records of Nigeria’s journey to nationhood highlighting the known, the unknown, the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the nation’s life since colonial days. The ambience of the conference hall of the hotel provided a much conducive setting for the exhibits to be appreciated by the elites as well as visitors to the hotel. Given the scope covered by the exhibition there are adequate windows for viewers to reflect on the trials and triumphs of a nation at 50.
Though not exhaustive, but there were handful of omissions like in the sports arena, the Nigerian 1996 Atlanta Olympic soccer gold medalist team was not reflected. Also in the first category, Prof. Grace Alele-Williams was not on the list of Nigerians who are first in their respective fields. Other mistakes are in the captions of the exhibits; (Nana of Itshekiri, Oba Ovenramwen) as well as wrong identification of personalities like Mrs. Sheila Solarin who is identified as the late Austrian born Susan Wenger of Osun-Osogbo fame.
But the exhibition brochure, a 224-page publication edited by the duo of the former director-general of NGA, Dr. Paul Chike Dike and Simon Ikpakronyi, is an informative compendium that will serve the needs of students, critics, historians and researchers on Nigeria and its evolution. It contains 15 parts covering images of the nation’s geography, people, nationalism and democratic struggles, the political players of the different republics, military rule, interim administration, legislature, judiciary, human rights struggles, peace keeping efforts as well as women and children in development.
However, the two-page report on Interim government (Pages 128 and 129) did not do justice to the brief, yet historic administration headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. The first page is simply a rehash of General Ibrahim Babangida’s actions and inactions that culminated into the annulment of June 12 election before he ‘stepped aside’. Only two paragraphs tell how interim government came to be, and why General Sani Abacha forced Shonekan out of Aso Rock. The second page like the first, simply chronicles Shonekan’s profile, whereas other key players in the administration like ministers were not mentioned nor reflected in the photographs. Yet, a full page is dedicated to Shonekan’s photograph alone when over 20 ministers could not find space. Am sure Shonekan alone did not run the administration.
Again, why run separate bio-data of the then Northern Region governor, Sir Kashim Ibrahim on pages 64 and 65 when such information form part of the report on him, after all, none of his colleagues is so celebrated in the brochure.
However, there is a fundamental error on the introduction page of the brochure where the author, Abdulahi Muku is described as director-general of NGA instead of acting director-general. Or has the ministry confirmed Muku as substantive DG?
It seems the entire project was executed under pressure from lack of time and perhaps inadequate funding. Notwithstanding, the exhibition is arguably one landmark outing by NGA curators that will for long remain a benchmark for exhibition hosting.


Nigeria at 50: Feast fever at FCT
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)

One week before Independence Day, October 1, the artists’ community in the city of Abuja never had it so bountiful. After the Centre for Black and African Art and Civilisation (CBAAC), in collaboration with Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANASTRAG) held its four-day international conference at the Abuja International Conference Centre, it has been one cultural event or another at major events venues across the federal capital territory.
Other subsequent events included Sponsors Forum organised by Abuja Carnival for the organised private sector at the African Hall, International Conference Centre, Abuja on September 23, a solo photo exhibition, 1979 : A peep into history and culture by Tam Fiofori, at Thought Pyramid Gallery, Abuja on the same day, Naija @50 festival tagged Celebrating Nigeria’s uniqueness at 50 at the International Conference Centre, on Friday September 24, an art exhibition/award night organised by the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) at the National Centre for Women Development, Abuja, on September 27, Songs of Gold, an art exhibition organised by the Abuja Chapter of SNA at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja on September 28 and a photo exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, at NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja on the same day. The following day, Chevron held its fourth National Art Competition and exhibition/awards at the NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja.
Penultimate Saturday, the big drums were rolled out at the Eagles Square, Abuja as the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation hosted the Durbar and masqueraders performances featuring contingents from Borno and Bida Emirates. About seven floats decorated with green and white colour ribbons conveying some dancers and drummers, set the tone for the colourful parade, which was part of activities heralding the nation’s 50th independence anniversary celebration.
In attendance were the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abba Kyari Umar Garbai and the Etsu Nupe Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, the director-general of Nigeria @50, Dr. K.B Kalgama, director of culture, Mr. George Ufot and some chief executives of parastatals in the ministry among others.
Borno Emirate contingent was the larger and more colourful in their turnout. They featured horse-riders both young and old, warriors, trumpeters, dancers and hunters who showcased some of their unique cultural heritage with elegance and royalty. The high point of every outing of the contingents is the special performance at the front of the two traditional rulers (Shehu of Borno and Etsu Nupe), which involved horse-riders’ demonstration and gun shots salute. Minster of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed said at he Durbar that culture ministry has decided to use the nation’s creative abilities to further ‘build the bridges of understanding, harmony and peace that would strengthen and bind us as one strong and indivisible nation. It is evident that much of our past efforts are yielding good results to improve our infrastructures and fast track our plans to contribute through tourism and culture to improve the economy".