Marathon: Eyeing a world recordMarathon, a giant painting measuring 2.4m x120m on canvas (mixed media of oil, acrylic, glue and sand dust) spreads across the length of the main studio. Former Ondo State Commisssioner for Culture and Tourism Chief Tola Wewe is at the verge of creating a world record. He has painted over 100 metres of the 120 metres canvas earmarked for the project. He spoke with Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.
Last month, a controversial Indian American painter, Mr. Gurmej Singh in Kalamazoo, Michigan, US set a Guinness World Record for creating The Transcendental, the “world’s longest painting by an individual,” an entry that coincidentally-was disqualified from a local art competition. The painting measured 11,302 ft. 2.11 in. (3,445 metres) and took Singh 38 days to create.”
Former Ondo State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Chief Tola Wewe is close to creating a new world record in creating one of the longest paintings. By last week, he had completed over 100 metres of his 120 metres Marathon he dedicated to humanity. At his Ondo residence, Wewe has deconstructed a section of his home to facilitate his work on the Marathon. In the last two years, work on Marathon has been consistent and progressive. But, don’t count the number of tubes, cans and brushes that have been consumed to do this artwork. Also, forget about the monetary implication of executing the painting project.
In the beginning
“Ten years ago, I was at Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital for a group art exhibition organised by the Total Petroleum. Prof. EL Anatsui was one of the exhibiting artists. He called me and said I was capable of doing a giant painting on canvas. Since then, I have been thinking about the project. But, five years ago, when I was appointed Ondo State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, I decided to start it. Also, at that time, I had little time for serious painting of individual works. I therefore ordered for a canvas measuring 120m and I have been working on it at will. I never shared the though with most of my artist friends because I never wanted to be distracted or discouraged. Also, I did not discuss it with the press until now.
After hitting the 100metres mark
After hitting 100meters mark, which is a world record on its own, I decided to expose it to some of my friends. I wanted to do it for humanity and for art lovers. I am happy doing it. The idea was to present my experiences, a kind of visual diary, talking about corruption, kidnapping, celebration etc in Nigeria. Again, the themes are not planned for, and the section I am working on now is about the celebration of my mother’s return from kidnappers.
Cost of the project
I have not bothered myself about the cost of producing the painting. I don’t want to cost how many tubes or cans of oil I have used because the result is my utmost interest. The effort is worth it because I have to give account of my existence. All that is there are messages I must deliver to the art world. I do wake up by 1am or 2am to paint and later crashed on my bed. Each time I am done with a section, I carry out the measurement. I have not opened the entire canvas at full length, but I measure each section after completion. I can’t place a value on it now. The collectors will do that when I am ready to sell it. The painting is my life and my footprint, which is a testimonial for my existence. I keep having an inner push gearing me up to continue the work.
Duration of the painting
Actively, it took me six years. I have been consistent in the last 2 years when I was done with the government. The painting of Marathon forced me to create an extension in my house to allow for more space and concentration. The work is mainly for humanity, no sponsors for its production but might consider that when I am going to exhibit it. Apart from Mrs Nike Okundaye and Prof. Moyo Okedeji I have not told any of my artist friends, I did not want anybody to discourage me.
As at today I have done over 100 metre long marathon I don’t know if I am going to stop at 120m. I may go further if I am instructed by my superior forces. If I die after this work, I am fulfilled. My works are in most of the world’s galleries but I needed to do something that has not been done. I will publish a book on the art work and Prof. Okedeji is handling that aspect.
Showcasing Marathon for art lovers
The artwork must be viewed by the public. I intend displaying it in my farm in Ondo town, before I will show it around the world. But, I must show it here in Nigeria before taking it outside. I will do a print of sections of the painting for the majority to collect. In fact each of the work will be in form of installation. I have been selling my paintings to buy materials to do this work. I survive and live well on arts. I am also a farmer, I breed dogs, have over 20 fish ponds. When I am bored, I go to farm.
Leaving Lagos for Ondo
I left Lagos because I can’t get the same concentration and space I have here in Ondo town. My friends will distract my creative flow. This environment is good for me. I love to be with nature and the local people. I visit and attend cultural events at real shrines and I experienced the real culture. I am more at home with traditional people. It will interest you that I have two chieftaincy titles: I am the Obagbemigun of Ido-Ani and the Bobagunwa of Odo-Owo. If I reincarnate, I will always want to be an artist.
The kidnap of my aged mother is the only dark moment in my life. It was a nightmare. I did not sleep for 100 days. I was smoking and drinking gin (Ogogoro). I had nasty experience from the security officials because they keep promising. In fact, my appointment as a commissioner in Ondo State exposed me to kidnappers who were demanding 150 million ransoms. In one of the telephone calls, they asked me if I claimed I don’t have money, how I got my jeep. I then told them to take my jeep and free my mother.
Creative industry and the economy
The most thriving sector of the nation’s economy is the creative industry, especially visual arts. Nigeria should invest in its areas of strength, which are arts and sports. Unfortunately, Nigeria keeps investing in wrong areas like sciences.”