Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gabriel Okara, Molue bus

‘My life and River Nun’ At 93, he walks around unaided. His sight and senses are still very sharp. In a conversation and booking signing session in Port Harcourt, River State, Pa Gabriel Okara recalled his life as poet and writer, and what motivated him to write The Call of River Nun, The Voice among others, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME. FOR over 90 minutes, two literary giants, Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka and Prof J.P Clark sat side by side listening attentively to a friend and author of The Call of River Nun, Pa Gabriel Okara. Shortly before the conversation, the two writers were consumed in deep discussion and smiling intermittently. Also in the audience were renowned historian and Prof Emeritus, Prof A J Alagoa and Prof Chidi Maduka of University of Port Harcourt among others. Minutes later, guests were asked to rise and welcome the celebrant, Pa Gabriel Okara, who clocked 93 years on that day. The gathering, Meet The Author (which also featured conversation/ book signing and cake cutting),was held penultimate Thursday at the Royal Banquet Hall of Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, River State capital. It was held to honour Okara on his birthday and as part of activities marking Port Harcourt as United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organsation (UNESCO) World Book Capital 2014. But for the eulogies from Prof Maduka, Okara’s 93rd birthday would have gone without a word from older generation of writers. The duo of Soyinka and Clark declined to talk when requested by the compere, Anote Ajeluonuo of The Guardian for a comment on Okara. With nostalgia, the Ijaw-born poet spoke on his growing up, his works and why he wrote The Voice, a book that promotes the Ijaw cultural heritage among others. Specifically, organisers of the Port Harcourt Book Capital celebration dedicated the evening to celebrating the life and works of the Ijaw-born poet who was found to be exceptionally active with sound memories at 93. Telling his childhood story almost in poetic manner, he said: “I grew up with the water, fishes and trees. I attended Government College, Umuahia where I was introduced to literature. We were compelled to read one book per week and to make presentations to teachers afterward. From there, I developed the passion for writing. I was in the Gambia for sometimes. I also did printing press in Lagos. I was in the civil war and also had opportunities to go for all manners of training within and across the world. I won many awards in the civil service including that of Rivers State and national honour of OON from the Federal Government. I am happy to take part in the celebration of my 93rd year on the planet earth. I am grateful to God for good health and for strength even to climb up the high step of this podium. I appreciateall my friends.” Like how much did he make from his first published work? Okara said: “One thing I will like to make clear is that it may appear strange to non-creative writers. I wasn’t taking money when I started writing. I created passion for writing , especially with the conflict in the society. There was a time that the British Council invited me for a poetry programme. I was so happy when it was broadcast. Later, I was asked to sign for the money for the service. I was shocked and I asked, ‘which money?’ I was happy for the joy of being heard. It was 10 pounds then. That was a big money then. All I wanted was a forum to express my feeling. I was driven by the muses. That was writing then. I was also happy with the Commonwealth Prize when it came at last. I was paid N500,000 as a joint winner. The joy was in the acceptance of what is written by the generation of loving people of Nigeria.” What then was the concept behind the writing of this sage? “The concept of my writing is feeling, sensitiveness to situation, peculiar thought which others may not have. To me, what keeps me in writing is the desire to express the scene around me. I am driven not by fame or money but by share desire and pleasure for writing. Sometimes I write on what makes me angry as well especially in my poetry.” He also used the forum to explain what motivated him to write his popular poetry collection, The Call of River Nun. “I was in Enugu when I wrote the book. The concept of the poem came to me when I climbed to the top of the hill and watched the insects, the soldier ants, in group, carrying their loads. I began to wonder on such a territory and such preservative manouvres these insects were demonstrating. Also, I thought about my childhood; how different was the atmosphere in the Creek compared with my new abode at Enugu? I began to think about my life journey in the River Nun. I remembered my early childhood. The Call of River Nun may be described as a poem of remembrances, desire tolive freely without any fear, without any enemy. I remembered all that happened in the decade that you might have achieved,” he said. Though he started his career in writing as a playwright but he later dropped the idea. Why did he quit? He said: “I cannot remember any more. It proved to me that I was on the wrong path of my creative writing. I discovered that poetry was my calling. I also wrote short story.” Some young writers in the audience wanted to know under what influence he writes. He said: “Comedians are the most serious people. They make you laugh but are serious and collected. They invent situation to make you laugh. Poets are not made to write when they are drunk especially in Ogogoro. Some writers may be inspired by taking alcoholic drinks but not all. Some are drunken and brave in battle field. Some may be inclined to drinking, others don’t, so it is in creative writing. They make people, sometimes, to weep and sorrowful. They express this through their writing. Some sing and some play music.” At the early stage of his writing what occupied his mind before he wrote? “What a writer does depends on what happens in the society. Politics and reactions generally, especially the impact such action or change has on him. I keep on saying that a writer or a poet can’t just stop writing. He writes because he wants to express his feelings. Those who are familiar with classical music use that to entertain too. But most importantly, it is the expression of feelings.” He moved around the venue without the use of a walking stick; climbed the podium unaided and responded fast to all questions. Okara disclosed the secret behind his super soundness. “Every drug has expiry date. Some foods also have. Can you accept that you have expiry date? One is kept alive through his activities and strength. He begins to wear away at certain stage. That depends on the state of his mind to start with. What is in the mind affects your age. Many of us have read about creation in the Bible. God made man in his image and likeness. It is spiritual. Does God ever die? Does he ever grow sick? Therefore, you will not grow sick or die. What we experience at death is what we believe. What is in the mind affects our life. That is the secret if it is a secret at all. What you think you are will determine what you will ever be. There is no short cut. You work hard.” On the need to protect indigenous language and African culture, Okara said: “In what language do you read? Is it the language of your colonisers? Language grows with the culture of the people. You are known and identified by the culture of which you are nurtured and in which you grew up. So, in Nigeria, we have several languages. The common language is English. If you want your writing to be read and appreciated outside your enclave, you have to write in English language. While doing that, you have to give some sacrifices to your culture too. In Ijaw, when you say somebody is afraid, you say the person has no chest because we believe it is the chest that gives courage to struggle for livelihood. If someone has no chest, it means he is a dead person or can someone live anatomically without a chest? This symbolises the kind of life people live in riverine area. You have to fight and struggle. Bravery, strength is embedded in ones heart. Without bravery, you cannot live in those days. I have to write the way I did to maintain certain elements of Ijaw culture in the story. The language that is not used vanishes. If you don’t reflect in the language of your expression, some elements of your culture will soon disappear as we find in this country. Those who speak English are mechanised people. In villages, those who live with old ideas can easily be influenced by those who speak foreign languages like English. If we don’t revive and keep alive that aspect of our culture, we will lose our identities and we will join those people who have lost their culture. I hope we will be civilised as I do myself,” he said. He was later treated to a rousing birthday song and warm embrace by his friends. Prof Maduka used the occasion to present a book on the symposia that were held years ago in honour of the celebrator, saying he was the first writer to be honoured with the honorary Doctorate degree of Letter by University of Port Harcourt. The evening was rounded off with a birthday cake. Present at the cake cutting were Soyinka, Clark, Mrs Koko Kalango, Molara Wood, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan and members of his family. On Friday, it was the turn of another renowned Ijaw-born writer, Prof J.P Clark. Like his kinsman, Okara, he took the seat at the Meet The Author forum, during whiuch he shared his experiences as a writer. He said he does not beleive ‘we are a wasted generation.’ The ineraction was preceded by a poetry performsnce by some budding writers coordinated by A.J Dagatola. He asked: “How can we say we are wasted, if we produce the literature we are celebrating today?” But, he observed that there is a dysfunctionality now, which Prof. Wole Soyinka described as a waste. On whether poetry can serve as tool for a social change, he said:”Poetry doesn’t change a politician. Today, politics is for contesting elections even four years ahead. Every child knows our problems. Politicians spend their time and energies on winning elections. You can write all the poems, it will not change them”. Clark recalled that during his school days, Nigeria heavily subsidized those who went to school. But, that “we were trained to be in civil service and not in politics”. According to him, Nigeria had no oil then, but proceeds from oil palm were well spent. Nigeria has money, but not well managed. And it is in the hands of the wrong hands… If I had joined the military, I would have been dead now. What is going for the west is that politicians there went to school, and are able to manage the military”. Colonial government did not hand over Nigeria to those who wanted independence, noting that Nigerians who also fought for independence have been forgotten by Nigerians and “they were in Lagos and Calabar”. “Only a hollow crown was given to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. If political power was handed over to the varsity graduates of the University College, Ibadan and others, we would have been greater. Unfortunately, they were drafted unto civil service. It is the political class that got the power in the darkeners. Those in public service were distinguished Nigerians”. He urged young writers and poets to do their apprenticeship and know the language well. Clark also described poetry as the highest point of any language (both written and spoken), however, expressed worries about the qualities of content. “What worries me about poetry today is that I don’t think many practitioners take the academics seriously; be it Queens English or Warri pigin. Don’t forget the syllabus… the poet is a poet; he delivers his works for the public to enjoy…There are new voices around, and am not disillusioned by all poets of today. Not everybody that says he is a poet is a poet. I am for a thousand flowers blooming but, let them be well fed from the soil”. On his strong passion for writing, even at so, Clark said; “Sometimes I write a dozen versions of poems a day before I am happy. I am not an entertainer”. Molue: From scrap to vehicle of knowledge The Goethe Institut in Lagos hosted Emeka Udemba’s Witness, an exhibition of Molue, as an interactive way of taking art to the people while interrogating critical issues in the society. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. IMAGINE the popular Lagos yellow passengers bus Molue, parked at a busy bus stop on a Lagos road during peak period of traffic on Monday morning. An army of anxious commuters rushed to the bus struggling to gain entrance into it. Workers, market women and students were all part of the mad rush. “Hey stop. This is not a passenger bus, please all of you get down,” a voice from one of the few seats at the back end of the bus shouted. Surprised and shocked, the frustrated commuters wore long faces as they looked out for the real Molue. However, they did not leave until they discovered that the refurbished and attractive bus was a Molue Mobile Museum of Contemporary Nigerian Art with a vehicle registration number LND 100 XF. Inside the bus is a medium-size flat screen television screening a documentary on the operation of Molue on Lagos roads, food and drug hawkers, newspaper vendors and shouts from the unfriendly conductor form the staccato of noise from the documentary. There were also four paintings of faceless figures (two on each side) of the spacious bus. Also arranged on a platform at the back end of the bus are copies of journals, books, brochures and hand bills on art. It is a mini-library of sort, which is serviced by 10 comfortable covered seats Apart from the footage, the narration of the documentary is a historical journey of when Molue bus came to be, its challenges, characteristics and mode of operation among others. Welcome to Molue Mobile Museum of Contemporary Nigerian Art, which hosted its inaugural exhibition titled Witness by Germany-based Nigerian artist, Emeka Udemba at the City Hall premises, Catholic Mission Street, Lagos. It was organised by Goethe Institut, Lagos and supported by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Lagos, Mercedes Benz, British Council and Ayenibiyi Limited. The mobile exhibition which will run till July 26 will move round some major streets and neighbourhoods in Lagos. Present at the opening included Muson Centre’s Artistic Director, Thomas Kanitz, Chinwe Uwatse, Ndidi Dike, and representatives of British Council, Lagos. To the organisers of the exhibition, the refurbished Molue, which costs about N2 million is a rare symbol of public transportation system in Lagos after the scrapped Bolekaja, a wooden commuter Bedford truck. Witness according to director, Goethe Institut, Lagos Marc- Andrea Schmachtel, is not only a way of addressing the public through art but also to take the art to the people. He observed that the medium became necessary in Nigerian fine art scene, though novel in this part of the world as a way to promote art. “Fine art scene is greatly influenced by physical gallery space. But, there are other forms of presenting art, this is one. Molue is iconic in Lagos transport system. But it is going out of use soon hence we are interested in transforming the popular bus to other uses. The Molue don’t need to be demolished and scrapped as it can be used for different purposes such as mobile museum or library,” he said. There are many aspects to the Witness project. Through it a serious missing link-a befitting art gallery- in a mega city like Lagos is being brought to the fore. And the medium being used to draw attention is an iconic object such as Molue. According to Emeka Udemba, one of the major challenges facing contemporary art, especially in Africa today is the issue of the context, representation, presentation and documentation as well as the question of how to map the evolution of contemporary art in Africa. He raised the following posers: “How can we engage or appropriate a critical form in the way we show and interact with contemporary art to suit our local environment and in so doing make culture more accessible to the public? “To what extent is a museum of contemporary art capable of interrogating real issues that affect us? How do we engage the public in a more participatory and collaborative way as part of the creative process? How can we generate more interdisciplinary exhibitions that are focused and in multiple spaces,” Udemba wondered. But importantly, the primary concept behind Witness is hinged on reinventing space while simultaneously preserving an icon of the Lagos city urban transportation heritage- the Molue. It is the hope of Udemba that this iconic means of moving from point A to B, (which is being phased out by government), can serve as exploratory exhibition spaces, host exhibitions, educational programmes, screenings, performances, discussion sessions,music and workshops. “The goal is to shift from the static to the flexible, harnessing the opportunities of social mobility within the urban space,” he noted, adding that art is not complete without the participation of the viewers. On the characters of the operators of the buses, Udemba said: “The questionable technical condition of most of these Molue buses and the recklessness of the drivers is a constant threat to other road users. When Molues breakdown, as they often do, the drivers and their conductors often abscond leaving the passengers to their own devices. “Like bullies on the road, Molue drivers epitomise the broad culture of impunity in the larger Nigerian society. They are always impatient, they frequently flout traffic rules, and they stop to pick up or drop off passengers outside designated bus stops. This often exacerbates the perennial traffic jam and traffic chaos in the city.” However, the Molue bus, to some extent, captures the spirit of optimism, resilience, and adaptation to the daily challenges of survival of the ordinary Nigerian citizen.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ewa Asa

Ewa Asa: Preserving Yoruba language In the last 25 years, the Chief Executive Officer African Mind Foundation, Rose Odika has maintained a consistent presence in stage theatre. Since the Ibadan-based actress debuted with Ododo-Eye, directed by Prince Wemimo Paul, her contributions have traversed different aspects of cultural life-acting, fashion designing, singing, skin care therapy and cultural activism. She spoke on her pet-project Ewa Asa, initiated to promote Yoruba language among students in Ibadan, Oyo State, why she has never acted in English movie and what she lost to acting, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME, reports. Her passion for stage theatre and love for Nigerian heritage kept her hands full of ideas. The Delta State-born thespian who spent most parts of her life in Ibadan, Oyo State, believes her art knows no ethnic divide or race. Little wonder she founded African Mind Foundation solely for the preservation and promotion of Nigerian languages such as Yoruba and Ibo, which are facing extinction. Worried by the increasing security crises in the country, Odika is offering her current movie (still under production) titled Salujo- a movie that interrogates why go to war when we can dialogue- as a panacea to restoring peace in the land. This, she said, is part of her dream and fulfillment as an actress- to make people happy and put smiles on their faces. She recalled that the Ewa Asa project (beauty of culture) was inspired by her desire to preserve Yoruba language, which many indigenes of the state can’t speak fluently because of love for English among the elite. “I have been in Ibadan since 1978 though born in Lagos. I discovered that many youths in the West are losing Yoruba language in preference for English. I said to myself, I hardly speak Ibo Language, where then is my strength? So I said let me celebrate where I have been all my life,” she said, adding that when the project has been successful in the West, it will move to Delta State. She said the essence of the project blends with her career as an actress, describing the response to the maiden edition of Ewa Asa as wonderful. “To my surprise, people embraced the project as students kept coming for the entry forms for the competition. So far the only challenge is funding, which is lean. The event, which featured competition in ability to speak Yoruba language fluently and Oriki as well as awards to distinguished Nigerians such as veteran poet and actor, Alagba Adebayo Faleti was held at K S Motel, Ibadan last October. For this year, she said forms for competition, which is open to students between ages 15 and 30 will be available by August through on-line. But paucity of funds and the seeming lukewarm attitude of government officials to supporting the event are giving the organisers some concerns. “I will continue to push in the direction of the private sectors because government officials have not demonstrated enough interest to back the project. I am therefore making the sourcing of the fund a private sector driven. The project is not about money but to rejuvenate Nigerian rich heritage. However, I am fulfilled running the programme after all I had some sponsors in the corporate world such as Learn Africa (former Longman Publishers,” Odika said with pride. On why most actresses are single mothers, she explained that becoming a single mother is never a deliberate choice for most career women, noting that it is circumstantial because of their career. “Most career women are however paying the prizes in terms of not having the desired married life. It is not easy to be a career woman as well as be a happy mother in a husband’s home. In fact, it is not peculiar to the actress alone as every career woman faces such problem in the world. Notwithstanding, if I come back to this world, I will be an actress again and again,” she boasted nodding her head in affirmation. Odika recalled that but for her poor results in JAMB examination she would have studied law because she loves mediation a lot. She said at the moment, taking roles in movies has been slowed down because she is into production such that she can have time for the home front. Her dream “I want to be the best I can and as someone who passed through life as a mentor who is recognized as credible, morally upright intellectual. I want to be acknowledged as a point of reference in life-one who made it without much capital and get result. In fact, I want to be remembered that I can do it. Note that I was not born with silver spoon. Marketers and cheap roles Many marketers in the movie industry dictate to producers and actors on the scope and content of most movies. In fact, they determine close to 80 percent of what goes into a movie. All is to sell and make money not minding professionalism. Unfortunately, most young girls are embracing such cheap roles in order to get popularity. For me, before I take up any role in a movie, I will go through and decide, no matter the price I will turn down role. I have my credibility to protect. I will not stop low for money. I am a single parent but come from a humble background. And I still operate at that level. I don’t believe in gold and exotic cars, and I don’t owe anybody because of gold or car. Some of my movie include Iya Niyami, Alaporotu, Onfoloke, Aminu Madajo, Toriogun, Omo mi, Gbosewo, Prize of being a movie star My role has helped me a lot in relating with fans. I love eating rice (elewe) but because of my career I cannot do that in public. Also, to drink water from sachet (pure water) is a problem because you don’t know who is watching you. Again, I hardly see my daughter regularly because going to locations take me out of the home. However, you must win some and lose some. My role models are Iya Awero and Iya Rainbow. My first movie appearance fetched me twenty thousand naira in 1993. That was in Ododo Eye.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Muson centre, Immigration boss, Samodun festival

Muson Centre: Braving the odds In the last two decades, the serene ambience of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Centre at Onikan in the heart of Lagos has remained unpolluted. The centre is a unique brand in top-flight events hosting and a model in sustaining standard and quality in service delivery in the private sector. Its General Manager, Mr. Gboyega Banjo, reflects on dwindling support from corporate bodies and the increasing challenge of funding the centre’s flagship programmes, among other issues. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. When it started 31 years ago, the founding fathers of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) were resolute on their vision-taking the best classical, folk and popular music from Nigeria to the rest of the world. Also, they were committed to the performance of serious music with emphasis on classical ones. Driven by these desires, the society established the Muson Centre that literarily became one of the leading event venues in Lagos. Twenty years on, the vision to sustain excellence has not changed. But, what has changed is the quantum of funds at the disposal of the centre to run its flagship arts events. The establishment and running of Muson choir, Muson Music School and Muson Symphony Orchestra and the annual Muson Festival are among the centre’s landmark objectives. At inception, some corporate bodies such as Shell, Agip and Mobil committed huge resources into the construction of its facilities, especially the recital halls that earn the society regular income. Till date, it thrives on hosting top flight events. Like an oasis, the architectural elegance and serene ambience of Muson Centre stand out among other event venues on the island. The tall, luxuriant royal palm trees that provide shade at the car parks and walkways, and the refreshing cool breeze from the love garden fountain are soothing balm to every guest at the centre. However, there seems to be a downward slide in the centre’s earnings from corporate bodies’ supports. Little wonder, it is getting increasingly expensive to fund the annual Muson Festival. “The festival was designed to broaden the music for Nigerians to include jazz, drama and literary competition. We have performances by Nigerians and African musicians. We are largely fulfilled by our objective, but it is getting increasingly expensive to fund the festival. Though shorter, we still succeed in touching wider audience,” Banjo said. He said corporate supports these days are limited to sponsorship of concert and the annual festival, adding that the stream of income for staff emoluments and maintenance come from internally generated revenue. “Muson is a membership society with wide range of categories, and there is an inflow of income from that,” he said. What percentage of the centre’s budget is derived from hall charges and membership subscriptions? How has the centre managed the cost implication of its maintenance culture in the last 20 years? According to Banjo, Muson Centre at the beginning got massive donations for the construction of the recital halls, but that since then, ‘donations have been for concert and funding of emolument for Artistic Director of the centre. However, it is getting increasingly difficult to get funding.’ He said the founding fathers knew that much money would not be realised from gate takings for arts events, which was why they approached the corporate bodies for supports. “We have a strong link with the corporate Nigeria. But in running a regular event, we let out the halls to raise such income. All these are used to fund the concerts,” he said. He said no efforts have been spared to sustain the maintenance culture at Muson but that it requires discipline of staff. “At the outset, cleaning of the facilities was contracted to cleaners, who work 24 hours every day. It costs money and yet we don’t cut corners. Adequate budgetary allocation is provided for maintenance of space, generator, clearing of the lawns and cooling system. It requires putting aside a substantial amount of money to do that. I don’t think I can give out the figure,” he added. Muson is an example of an institution that thrives on collective efforts of private individuals; a society that encourages classical music and training of youths without a dime from the government. Its music school has moved from a basic class in music to a two-year diploma course accredited by the Ministry of Education in 2005. This has deepened Muson’s involvement in music education in the country. Telecommunications giant, MTN, is a major partner that picks the bills- tuition, allowances and books for the students. What separates Muson Music School form the regular music departments in the universities and polytechnics? According to Banjo, training at the Muson Music School with an enrolment of 60 students is unique because its performance based. “We are extremely proud of our students and it has proven that Nigerian youths are talented,” he said. Banjo however noted that there is need to expand the school’s space to accommodate the students adequately. He disclosed that the centre is supposed to have a major concert hall. “We are looking at the possibility of having a larger hall and a multi-purpose building in future. But the school’s expansion will look beyond the walls of the centre,” he said. Like the Music School, the Muson Symphony Orchestra is the second dream, which is an offshoot of the Muson choir. Banjo, who returned to Muson Centre after serving as General Manager between 2001 and 2006, said his satisfaction at Muson is that the standard is still being kept. “Again, the management members are young and that gives me satisfaction too as they will sustain the dream,” he said. On the seeming challenges from other emerging events centres in Lagos, Banjo described it as a healthy development adding that ‘when City Mall located opposite the Muson Centre was coming up many thought it would drive us out of business.’ “But today, Muson Centre, located on 1, 666 hectares of land in a quiet leisure and cultural zone of Lagos, ‘has remained an icon with loyal clients. In fact, the Muson brand is uniquely different,” he said. Immigration boss backs domestic tourism By Ozolua Uhakheme “I am happy that you have discovered what is necessary and needed to unlock the hidden potentialities of this sector. You will discover that most countries reaping bountifully from tourism today, first of all, looked inward, took tourism inventory in their countries, drove the consciousness in their own people, developed the sites, enhanced them and invited foreigners to see. “This is exactly what Nigeria needs to do and it gladdens my heart that you are not only talking it but doing everything practically possible to bring it to be. This is good.” This remark was made by the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigration Services, Mr David Parradang, when the Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo, visited him in Abuja. The Immigration boss assured NTDC of his support, especially in evolving a sustainable vision to kick-start the blossoming of the tourism sector in Nigeria. Parradang said he was particularly happy that Mrs Mbanefo has been living up to expectation and spreading the gospel of domestic tourism in Nigeria, which he described ‘as the magic and a potent instrument capable of jump-starting and kindling the zeal of tourism consciousness in the nation’. He noted that statistic within the agency revealed that foreigners love to visit Nigeria tourism sites but informed that some of them are skeptical about the status and facilities available in these sites adding ‘these are the areas which your organisation needs to work on.’ The CGI used the opportunity to highlight what the agency has put in place to further the cause of tourism and tourists saying that ‘the focal points of his administration, which is hinged on capacity building, robust border patrol, deployment of appropriate technology for monitoring and statistical analysis of foreigners and tourists in Nigeria.’ Mr. Parradang disclosed that “the Federal Government has made Nigerian visa procurement easy and smooth. “The Operation getting visa at point of entry has kicked off. There are facilities on ground now, where you can renew your visa in a day and there is no room for delay in obtaining Nigeria visa any longer.” He reiterated the desire of the agency not only to partner with NTDC, but to collaborate in any way that could add value to the domestic tourism vision of Mrs. Mbanefo. “Whatever the case is and may be, just be assured that the Nigeria Immigration Service is not only in alliance with your vision of promoting domestic tourism but ready to support and collaborate with your corporation for the lifting of Nigeria’s tourism status among the comity of tourism states.” Mrs. Mbanefo commended the immigration boss for having a good grasp of the tourism sector saying, ‘I am impressed by your brilliant overview and suggestion about the tourism sector, which revealed the fact that you are not only a thoroughbred immigration boss but one with informed global perspective of tourism trends. ‘This is a good sign for us at NTDC. NIS is a very important stakeholder to NTDC and it will be unwise if I did not pay respect to you and seek collaboration and advice. As partner in progress, we want a strong partnership with Nigeria Immigration Service, in the area of easy Visa regime for the entire tourists that will attract foreign investors. She disclosed that ‘we are here to strengthen and lubricate the chord of relationship and collaboration, which should be between the Immigration Service and NTDC, the two Siamese twins of the travel and tourism sector.’ Mrs Mbanefo said no tourism agency can make any meaningful impact without a strategic partnership with the immigration service. “Our paying you this visit is to tell and show you our respect and appreciation of your import and essence to the tourism sector and the domestic tourism vision. We are happy that we met a man who is well grounded in what we are about to sell to him. This has made my work smooth,” she said. She disclosed that no serious tourism driver of a nation would undermine the position and essence of Immigration service because “statistical data and effective border control is essential to the growth of tourism and protection of the nation’s security and integrity” Mrs. Mbanefo commended the Immigration boss for his sense of duty and the warm reception accorded her delegation. “We commend you for your warm reception, enlightenment and assurance of collaboration and support, we are leaving here re-energised, re-invigorated and with the assurance of having a productive partner in Nigeria Immigration Service,” she said. With Samodun Festival, Oyo raises bar for regional integration No fewer than eight states’ delegates converged on Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, for the second Samodun Festival last weekend, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME . This year’s valentine day celebration took a different dimension in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital at the weekend. Instead of flaunting the usual red and white colourful dresses, balloons and gift items in commemoration of lovers’ day (February 14), delegates from seven other states in Southwest including Kwara and Kogi States, converged on Ibadan to feast on the rich cultural heritage of the people. It was the celebration of this year’s Samodun Festival, which has as theme, Asa Parapo. For two days at three venues (Lekan Salami Stadium, Civic Centre and Oyo State Cultural Centre) Yoruba language, music, art, dress, food among other intangible heritage took centre stage. Apart from security operatives, who wore uniforms, almost everybody at the festival venues wore traditional dresses such as Buba and Sokoto, Sanyan Dansiki and Buba and Iro with good head tie or hairstyles such as Suku and Kojusoko for the women. Participants were drawn from Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun Lagos, Kwara and Kogi States to celebrate the second Samodun Festival initiated by Oyo State Governor, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi as a tool for regional integration. The festival, which featured cultural parade, oleku night and food fair was attended by Nollywood artistes such as Jide Kosoko, Dele Odule, Muyiwa Ademola, Saheed Balogun and Ronke Ojo (Oshodi Oke) among others. Traditional rulers from Ibadan, Oyo, Oke-ogun and Ibarapa areas of the state were present at the opening ceremony with the trio of Alaafin, Olubadan and Soun of Ogbomoso who pledging their continuous supports for Senator Ajimobi’s desire to promote Yoruba culture and change the face of Oyo State. Senator Isiaka said he was happy for the success of the festival, saying that through it he has scored another point in promoting the culture and tradition of Yoruba land while taking another fruitful step towards enhancing the regional integration agenda. He said: “The concept of Omoluabi’, which has been the major guiding principle of Yoruba people, is being restored through promotion of cultural festival and enlightenment programmes such as this, adding that, ‘everything about Yoruba is unique. Our dressing, food, traditions and everything about us is fantastic and that is why people from other parts of the world are coming to learn it, because they consider it useful and crucial to living a good life.” Governor Ajimobi, who lamented the retrogressive method of teaching Yoruba language and culture in schools, said the state government is taking serious steps in making people interested in learning the language. “We are worried about it and part of what we intend to do apart from encouraging the teachers, is to organise cultural competition where cultural events will be held and prizes given to those who excel. This, will no doubt, go a long way in making people to be interested in learning and developing positive attitude towards the culture and tradition. The parents, guardians and custodians of culture and tradition of Yoruba land not to relent in their efforts, but encourage people to develop interest in the culture and tradition. “Our culture is a free gift from God, it is a wonderful gift, which naturally must be flowing in us, but things have changed due to globalisation and infiltration of the western idea but we must not allow it to die,” he said. Oyo State Cultural Troupe demonstrated their pacessetting role when they entertained the audience with a drama sketch on the king and olori. The presentation reinforced the tales about the elegance and majestic life kings enjoyed in the ancient days. The mountainous installation displayed by the Ekiti troupe was another interesting part of the event. All through the opening ceremony, sweet melodious tunes from evergreen and contemporary Yoruba music rented the air. From the traditional dundun, sekere, bata and other drums were freely used to spice the melody. On hand to add colour was an American artist, Kelvin Berry aka Kayode Oyinbo, who tried his hand on Bata and Omele drums, which he did to the admiration of the audience. Kayode, who spoke passable Yoruba language said he has been an advocate of promotion of Yoruba culture and tradition, and has been in Nigeria for a while. “I love this tribe, their culture is the best in the world, the dress, food, tradition and everything about the tribe I love and I will want Yoruba people not to allow the culture to die by organising events like this. Today, I have learnt a new thing. I am happy to be here,” he said. A Japanese researcher, Dr. Satoru Muranaka of Tropical Agriculture Research Front (TARF) who was at the food fair said he loves iyan and efo or egusi, amala and gbegiri and ekuru, moin moin and akara. “I have been in Nigeria for ten years and what I enjoy most is Yoruba food. We are carrying out a research on yam and cowpea on how to preserve them,” he said. Oyo State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Princess Adetutu Akhigbe Adeyemi who spoke in Yoruba, said Samodun Festival is a unique event that is organised to celebrate the goodness of God in the life of people of Oyo state and designed in a way that it encompasses events that will enhance the promotion of Yoruba culture and tradition. According to her, “as a pacesetter, we are determined to champion the cause of taking Yoruba culture and tradition to a higher level. It is obvious that we are losing the legacies of our forefathers through the overbearing influence of Western culture on our land. But we can no longer continue to fold our arms to watch it die, we are ready, more than before, to ensure that the dying culture is rejuvenated and promoted beyond the shores of our land.” She explained that the event was held to showcase the beauty of ‘our, music, dress, hairdo and everything associated with our tribe and which form the basis of our strength and unity, and we hope by the end of this festival the cultural integration agenda will be on another level.’ The Governor’s wife, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, who was the special guest at the food fair, said women should encourage their wards in preparing local delicacies, noting that ‘our delicacies and culture are far better than others. But we can only demonstrate it if we reflect it in our day to day activities. This kind of belief reinforces the confidence in the fact that Yoruba culture will not fade, and we are organising this food to showcase to the world that we are truly omoluabis with rich culture.’ She urged everyone to ‘encourage our culture, growth of language, our dressing and activities should reflect our tradition. If we lose it, it may be difficult to retrieve. But, I am sure it won’t.’ Oyo State emerged winner of the cultural parade, while Kwara and Ekiti took the second and third positions respectively. But the Oleku night held at the Civic Centre featured performances by acts such as Rashidi Ayinde aka Fuji Merenge, Musiliu Ishola and Tilaman. The performance by Tilaman at the Oleku night was not too homely. At a point, he invited the Oyo Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Princess Adeyemi, to the stage only to sing ‘vulgar and obscene’ songs. The same for the youths drama sketch, which was a far departure from the spirit of the festival. Organisers should ensure presentations at subsequent editions of the festival do not only celebrate the cultural values but also key into the omoluabi principle of the Yoruba people.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ooni showers blessings on Mbanefo

Ooni showers blessings on Mbanefo •NTDC signs MoU with Nigeria-Turkey Chamber of Commerce Call it reverence or respect for tradition and culture. You are right. This year’s Oodua Festival held at Ile-Ife in Osun State, provided ample opportunities for many to celebrate the rich Yoruba heritage. One of such Nigerians is the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo, who explored the festival to promote domestic tourism, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME. For two days, the Ife Palace Square, Ile- Ife, Osun State was a beehive of cultural activities featuring dancing, singing and drumming among others. In attendance were traditional rulers such as the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olususe 11, representative of Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo, Otunba Gani Adams, culture enthusiasts, delegates from different Yoruba socio-cultural groups and tourism operators. The gathering was the celebration of this year’s Oodua Festival organised by Otunba Gani Adams. But of all the guests at the festival, one person stood out; the Director-General of NTDC, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, who the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuade Olubuse 11, showered rain of blessing on exhibiting diligence at work and showcasing passion at her duty post. Mrs Mbanefo, who was the special guest at Oodua Festival 2014 organised by Otunba Gani Adams, earned the special recognition and blessing from the Ooni of Ife. The Ooni said Mrs Mbanefo has demonstrated a unique quality and robust sense of responsibility since she assumed office. This according to Ooni, has distinguished her as a public officer that has a vision for the national mission. The royal father pointed out that he had kept an eye on the activities and acts of the Director –General since her appointment and she has performed creditably well by living up to her promises and building her vision for the nation. The Ooni said that he has particularly impressed by the determination of Mrs. Mbanefo to mobilise and kick-start tourism revolution in Nigeria via domestic tourism initiatives. “I have monitored her talking about domestic tourism and I have also read about her visit to tourism sites all over Nigeria, raising the consciousness of Nigerians to these wonderful gifts of God. And her presence here today, participating in Oodua Festival is a living testimony of her seriousness of purpose, diligence at work and commitment to national duty and vision,” he said. The Ooni prayed fervently for Mrs. Mbanefo, supplicating to God Almighty to grant her wisdom, equipped her with strength , good health and grant her success in NTDC while predicting that she has greater role to play by her in the affairs of the nation. “God Almighty will increase your wisdom, grant you good health, bless you, expand your coast, widen your thinking horizon not only to enable you mak a success at this post but ensure you perform better than your predecessors and see you through to a greater responsibility in this country,” Ooni prayed. The Ooni, who commended Mrs. Mbanefo for being the first Director –General charged with promotion of tourism to identify with Oodua Festival, assured her of the support of the ancestors of Yoruba land and invoked the spirit of Oduduwa, who she came to honour, to assist her in all her ways . He urged Mrs Mbanefo to hold on to God for strength, guidance and direction. “In all, of these, I enjoin you to trust in God, hold on to him. Always pray and put God first. Pray to God first thing in the morning, place before him all your activities and return thanks to him in the evening. With you doing this, the sky will be your stepping board,” he said. The Ooni, who declared Mrs. Mbanefo a Yoruba revealed that her father , Chief George Uwechue , SAN, the Owelle of Ogwashiku , has lived in Yoruba land for 42 years. He called on all Yoruba at home and in Diaspora to support Mbanefo’s vision at ensuring the blossoming of domestic tourism in Nigeria He lauded President Goodluck Jonathan for appointing someone who has the right attitude and posture for the job, adding that Mrs. Mbanefo’s deeds, actions and vision since her assumption of duty at NTDC have vividly testified to the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan never made a mistake by appointing her to paddle the canoe of tourism sector to a prosperous bay. Mrs. Mbanefo who demonstrated her rich knowledge of the Yoruba culture, the Ife tradition, her domestic tourism vision and strides since she assumed office by visiting some pristine tourism sites in Kaduna, Abuja, Cross River, Bayelsa, Lagos, Ondo, Akwa Ibom and Port – Harcourt for authentication, assessment and development. She expressed her gratitude to the Ooni for “the fatherly blessing and divine prayers offer her. Meanwhile, the management of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), under the leadership of Mrs Sally Mbanefo has been described as a purposeful team destined to lead Nigerian tourism sector aright. The Executive Chairman, Nigeria–Turkey Chambers of Commerce and industry, Dr Eze Eche Hyacinth made the observation when he led a delegation of his association on a business visit to the Headquarters of NTDC, in Area 1, Abuja. Dr Hyacinth commended Mbanefo for “carving out the domestic vision, which does not only tallies with the expectation of the people but squarely fits into one of the goals l of his association which prompted the visit and the proposal for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on the vision with NTDC.” He revealed that the Nigeria – Turkey Chambers of Commerce and Industry “has set upon itself the task of promoting domestic tourism and trading activities between the two countries for mutual benefits. Hence the need for a synergy of purpose between the association and NTDC” Mrs Mbanefo commended the chambers for keying into the domestic tourism vision of the corporation, which she said would not only promote the appreciation of tourism sites in Nigeria but call the attention of governments for their development . She said the MOU would not only encourage bi-lateral cultural and tourism relationship between the two countries but pave the way for economic and social integration. Mrs Mbanefo said : “Our mission at NTDC is to showcase promote, showcase and facilitate development of our tourism assets. We are glad to find in you a willing, worthy and ready partner in the lovable efforts at selling Nigerian tourism potentialities to the world.” A home where ‘time is well spent’ Looking for a home away from home? You need to visit Adna Hotel Limited, a destination point with personalised service, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME. To every first timer, House 28 is like every other residence on Ladipo Bateye Street, Ikeja GRA, Lagos. But, that impression changes immediately such guest enters the compound. Reason? It houses a boutique hotel where a homely but cosy ambience ushers in guest with personlaised service that ensures that his time is well spent. Welcome to Adna Hotel Limited, a medium-size boutique hotel located in the heart of serene area of Ikeja, where style meets hospitality. Two years on, the new hotel management has been able to keep its head above water by creating a unique brand of boutique hotel where services are personalised. Recalling the experiences in the last two years of operation, Chairman, Adna Hotel Limited, Mr. Ehi Braimah said the hotel is constantly building a brand that thrives on personalised services, friendly, cosy ambience for customers, e-marketing and a team of dedicated staff. He said running the hotel has been a great experience though it’s a new line of business, which is different from the media. “We are building a business that promotes standard, personal service and our slogan is ‘time well spent’, right from the time you open the gate to the hotel. Every touch should be a great experience for guest to come back. And when you have repeat customer, you are in business,” he said. Braimah, who identified unsteady power supply as his biggest challenge, said Adna Hotel has taken on the challenge by acquiring high capacity generators that provide 24-hour power supply. Also on its stable is steady internet network service backed by modern hi-tech mast. He noted that notwithstanding such challenges, the hotel does not compromise maintenance standard, adding that every December the hotel undertakes the face-lifting of all its facilities. “This December, it was the swimming pool that got renovated. It will be another facility tomorrow. And every December, the hotel buildings are repainted to keep it clean and customer-friendly,” he said. On the choice of Ikeja GRA as location, Braimah said it was a deliberate marketing strategy because ‘we wanted to create a premium boutique hotel that is very close to the airport. You know that Lagos is noted for its traffic challenge, and travelers and tourists will prefer a decent hotel very close to the airport.’ Despite the seeming ‘glut’ in hospitality business as a result of security challenges, the management of Adna Hotel Limited is working hard to turn the hotel into a brand. The chairman said he would be fulfilled when he takes the hotel to Lekki, Lagos and Benin in Edo State as he is not in competition with the bigger hotels. However, at Adna Hotel Limited, corporate bodies are its main target audience. But, most of its individual customers have become ‘ambassadors and advocates’ who promote the good image of the hotel to the world. One of such clients is Professor of English and African Studies, Southern Illinois University, United States, Prof. Robert Fox. He lodged at the hotel in July 2012 when he was guest lecturer at Prof Wole Soyinka’s 78th birthday ceremony. He presented a paper titled: From Tigritude to Transcendence: The conscience and conscientiousness of Wole Soyinka. “You are making the point with Adna Hotel that things can really work in Nigeria,” Prof Fox told Braimah before returning to US.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Centenary bouquet for Nigeria On January 1, 1914, the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated, giving birth to modern Nigeria. January 1, this year, marked 100 years of that union. On Monday, Femi Coker, an artist,presented the nation with a unique gift as his contribution towards the centenary anniversary, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. Kemi Coker Creative Director, Femi Art Ware House , is a “weird” artist. His paintings and sculptures are often out of the box. Between 2011 and last month, he produced three firsts in the creative industry: largest African textile collage measuring 40ft by 25ft in 20011, world tallest drum (renaissance drum) measuring 11ft by 6ft unveiled during the Black History Month in February last year and world largest straw mat measuring 45ft by 30ft unveiled at the third Badagry International Art Fair in December. Last Monday, he made another history with the unveiling of his newest artwork, world’s ‘largest’ textile map, measuring 35ft by 32ft in the form of Nigerian map. It was held in partnership with De Roots Renaissance at the Badagry Heritage Museum, Badagry, Lagos State. The textile collage, which took him five months to produce, is made from textile materials used mainly by 50 ethnic groups across the country. It is a commemorative piece for Nigeria’s centenary anniversary. The project is his contribution to the 20-month long celebration that has featured special carnivals, art expos, literary festivals, launch of theme song and beauty pageant. Last December, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, 23-year-old Queen Ubah (Imo State) emerged Nigeria’s Centenary queen. Ubah with her dazzling beauty, poise, gait and excellent display of brilliance and knowledge of Nigeria beat others from the 35 states and the Diaspora to wear the coveted crown. She was crowned as the winner and queen that will reign for the next 100 years by a former beauty queen and Creative Director, AOE Events, Chief Adenike Oshinowo. Thematically, Coker’s collage shows that Nigeria is a beautiful mosaic with a national identity defined by its history and culture. In line with the centenary celebration, it draws out the nation’s soul for the world to see and creates a new understanding of history, strengthened by its art, culture and shared history. According to Coker, the historical evolution of many communities is woven in the fabric of its existence. He said through textiles, history is documented, hope is expressed, encouragements are given, sympathy is shown, faith is shared, courage and heroism are patterned. “In their motifs, memories of the past are detailed and expectations of the future are projected. The pains, joy, challenges, encounters, frustrations, grief and fellowship of the members of the community are worn on their clothes as artistic expression of their mood and experiences,” he noted. All the fabrics used, which include tie and die, lace, aso oke, ankra among others capture the patterns, motifs and colours unique to the different ethnic groups. He creates harmony and peace out of the competing colours, which depict unity and integration of the different ethnic groups. Coker said he restricted himself to 50 ethnic groups in the country because the popular fabrics used by these groups influence what others use. “Among the Yoruba in Southwest, there are proverbs and idioms expressed to drive home the importance and relevance of the place of textile in African culture. Such proverbs include Emi omo ti iya fi oja aran pon, Kiji pa ki n se a wo, Aso lo n bo asiri ara, Aso nla ko ni eniyan nla. Eniyan La so mi (people are the fabric or garment we wear) that is, no man is an island as we all need people around us. In Yoruba society, the colours of the fabrics are very symbolic in expressing goodwill and affection during ceremony or passing a message. “For instance, purple is a very significant colour as it represents royalty. It is also the custodian of African history and heritage. While white is universally acclaimed to symbolise peace and worship, indigo is about love and affection. Amongst the adherents or worshippers of Sango, the deified god of thunder in Yoruba cosmogony, red is the colour of worship, because it is believed to be a very potent colour,” Coker said. He identified three forms of textile among the Yoruba, adding that wine colour, hand-woven textile is the ultimate of all. They include Alaari (wine colour) hand-woven textile, Sanyan (cream colour) hand-woven textile and Ettu (indigo blue) hand-spun. These textiles he said, are choices of many during ceremonies such as child birth, wedding, burial rite, marriages chieftaincy title and coronation, which evolved into Aso-ebi among the Yoruba. He observed that today, Aso-Ebi is a strong show of affection and solidarity for the celebrants. Coker finds this trend as promotional for the textile industry. But, he feels there is need to properly document and preserve the nation’s textile heritage. “In my quest to promote Nigeria’s rich textile heritage, I initiated the world’s ‘largest’ textile map, measuring 35ft by 32 ft. It is in the form of the Nigerian map. The textiles used for the map were sourced from many of the ethnic groups. It is certainly the single most important tribute to Nigerian textile, which also symbolises the beauty in the diversity of the peoples of Nigeria,” he said. On the relevance of the anniversary to Badagry, he said: “The celebration of the anniversary of the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates will be incomplete without mentioning of where the British Flag (Union Jack) was first hoisted in Nigeria. In 1843, the British flag was hoisted on Nigerian soil at the Ahovikoh Quarter in Badagry, (the spot is still there). “It was the same year that the seat of British cannon was donated to King Wawu of Badagry for the abolition of slave trade in 1843 (the cannons are still there). On March 18, 1852, Her Majesty the Queen of England, signed a treaty for the abolition of slave trade in Badagry, through James Newburgh Strange Esquire, Commander of Her Majesty’s ship Archer with Badagry chiefs.” Badagry given its rich historical antecedent and the role it was constrained to play in the period of the trans-Atlantic shipment of Africans to Europe and the Americas, continues to be a dragnet to the Diaspora, tracing their roots back to her. Recall that it accounted for three out of 10 slaves taken from West Africa. ‘Art is a wonderful profession’ Posted by: OZOLUA UHAKHEME in Life (Midweek Magazine) 10 days ago At 71, Mr Ayoola Akinribola, an Italy-trained retired art teacher is unpretentious about his love for the arts. He still exhibits great hunger for drawing and painting for his local collectors in Ondo town, even at the expense of any money spinning ventures. Akinribola, who also trained at the then Nigerian College of Arts and Science, Zaria (now Ahmadu Bello University) between 1968 and 1973, lives and talks art. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME, who was at his old art studio in Ondo, reports. From a distance, nothing tells a visitor to the one-room studio what goes on there. No sign-post or banner on the busy Enuowa Street, Ondo that indicates the nature of products or services offered. But, a peep into the medium-size room reveals a busy art studio filled with different works of art and materials all competing for attention and space. Welcome to the 32-year-old studio of Septuagenarian artist, Mr. Ayoola Akinribola. Yet, his name is a household one in Ondo town. His name may not ring a bell in art exhibition circuits in Lagos, it is synonymous with fine art in Ondo State. A newly designed banner announcing the name of the Association of Fine Artists hangs on the studio wall contrasting the age of many paintings in the studio. It welcomes every guest to the studio that houses very old landscape and realism paintings. Despite space constraints, every item, be it a work bench, stool, brush, knife, oil cans or tubes, canvas, board and easel is in its right place. As the president of Association of Fine Artists in Ondo town, his studio is the meeting point for the artists. He disclosed that he volunteered to lead the assocaition out of leadership crisis. It is facing at the moment. He literarily produces art and crafts for most people in Ondo town ranging from sign writing to banner production, portraitures and outdoor sculptures. His clienteles were built over decades which dated back to his Ondo High School years as art teacher and as coordinator of the creative arts aspect of the Better Life for Rural Women programme initiated by the late Marian Babangida in the 90s. He was commissioned to handle some public works while coordinating the artistic aspects of the programme in the old Ondo State, which comprisedthe present Ekiti State. The former art teacher at Ondo High School, Ondo lives art to the fullest not minding the relative returns his patrons pay for his services. To him, his joy is fullest when within the art environment, which he said, cannot be quantified. “Apart from a few times when I had to do other businesses, there is nothing fulfilling as being an artist and in the business of art. Art is a wonderful profession. That is why whenever I am with an artist or group of artists, I am always happy,” he said. Akinribola, who got scholarship to study art at the Academia Belle Arti Milano, Italia wanted to study art at the University of California. “I had the intention of returning to Italy, but I was involved in a lot of activities that kept me back. I was given some commission works by Bode George’s administration in Ondo State. I also handled signboards, banners, sculptures and other related jobs. I did the Unknown Soldier near the palace. I was very comfortable then because my hands were full. There has never been a time in my life that I have not being maintaining a studio. Even when I was a teacher, I had my studio. I will be 72 years on October 30 this year. I have been maintaining my studio elsewhere in the town but I have spent about 32 years at this studio,” he recalled. On his experiences with student artists on industrial training at his studio, he said: “What I observed from students on industrial attachments from Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo is that the level of their thinking is very low. When Tola Wewe and others were there as teachers, they were able to change the atmosphere of art. But today, it appears the art teachers are mainly concerned with teaching the theory of art leaving the practical side of it. However, there are some exceptional students among them.” Akinribola sees his art education at the Academy in Milan as the greatest asset of his life as an artist. “I left for Italy because that has been my ambition. The training I had in Milan affected me positively. It was so much! Even going from one art gallery to the other enriched my knowledge of fine art. Every street in Milan is proud of many art galleries where they exhibit art works ranging from sculptures to carvings, paintings of realism, abstract and pointillism. I learnt from them a lot. And my apartment was very close to my school which, is one of the oldest art schools in the world. When I was at the Academy, the president of London Institute of Fine Art, visited to our school,” he said. He recalled that he took special interest in fine art from his primary school days. According to him, when one Mr. Akinkanju left All Saint Primary School Ondo as art teacher, he later became the art teacher in that school. “My friends and classmates knew that I will end up as an artist in future. They weren’t surprised when they started seeing me producing some art works. I was able to encourage some people too to go into art. “When I was teaching at Ondo High School, I was able to encourage students to study art. It was like magic to many people then whenever they saw the children working on some paintings or drawings.. Akinribola though seems to master most media but his favourite is oil painting with special interest in landscape and illustration. To him, art is a fulfilling profession ‘because I prayed for it when I was trying to improve myself by taking examinations, going to school and practicing as an artist. At that time I was young and I knew I have not attained the height I wanted. But today, I think I have to thank God that I have attained what I wanted and my children are looking after me. If the history of Ondo town is written today, I will not be left out of it.’ Notwithstanding his passion and love for art in Ondo, he warned that any artist that is too ambitious cannot survive in Ondo. Reason: Such ambition will die immediately. Time for Nigeria’s Harmattan in London Nigeria’s centenary celebration kicks off next month. But, inadequate cash may hinder the showcasing of hundreds of modern Nigerian art in an exhibition organised by the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London at Brunei Gallery in London in April, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME. After 16 years of consistent art experimentation, the annual Harmattan workshop initiated by master artist and print maker Prof Bruce Onobrakpeya is the toast of global art market operators. Till date, the Harmattan workshop like Mbari Mbayo art workshop, which started in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, in the 1960s, has been of benefit to students, single mothers, teenagers, school dropouts, among others. Artworks by hundreds of participants are being packaged for the international art exhibition in London. But, the huge cost of freighting and insuring the works of art may hinder the success of the London show. Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF), organisers of the workshop, described lack of funds as a major challenge threatening the international exhibition. Apart from teaching skills and exposure to relevant artistic issues through lectures, the workshop, helps develop the artistic personalities of the participants through art shows, exhibitions and biennale. Speaking at an interactive session with the art writers in Lagos at the weekend, Prof. Onobrakpeya said the foundation is very happy for the invitation to London, adding that the exhibition is one of the ways to add strength and meaning to the Harmattan workshop. He stressed that it is also a veritable platform to grow the Nigerian art and artists. “We started very small. But today, we are expanding in size and concept. In a particular year, we sent artists to Dakar biennale to experience what goes on at such forum. This literarily became a testing ground for our Brunei show. “We must develop the art because it replenishes itself unlike other sectors that will vanish over time. However, we need fund to carry out this project, especially shipment and insurance of the artworks from Lagos to London,” he noted. On the journey so far and the positive impact the workshop has had on the people, he said: “My two brothers who never attended art school have become master stone carvers. In the first Harmattan workshop, we admitted a talented participant who has been a dropout from the Ibru College, Agbarha-Otor. Seeing him interacting with artists in drawing and painting classes, his status in the society later changed, not only did he get a wife to marry, he got commissions to decorate buildings. Also, a large number of the women and girls who work in the jewelry and craft sections take their babies along with them to the workshop. The Harmattan workshop is not only gender sensitive but also has a baby friendly environment,” Prof. Onobrakpeya said. According to one of the exhibition jurors, Prof John Agberia, no fewer than 240 artworks, which range from paintings to sculptures, pottery/ceramics, stone carvings, printmaking, beadworks, photography and leather works, among other media, are being juried for the international art exhibition titled: Dream, Fantasy and Reality: Agbarha-Otor Workshop 1998-2014. The exhibition, which will hold at Brunei Gallery, London between April 10 and June 21, is being organised by BOF in collaboration with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. The famous SOAS listed Harmattan workshop as its second major international art exhibition for this year at the Brunei Gallery in Central London. The exhibition will hold after Recalling the future: post revolutionary Iranian art. Prof. Agberia said the exhibition would feature only quality art works that truly represent Harmattan workshop, adding that issue of gender came up at the close of the three-stage screening, which became a factor for consideration. He said the exhibition is supported by the Prince Yemisi Shyllon Professorial Chair in Fine Art and Design, University of Port Harcourt adding that its brochure will include statements, critical essays, and papers from Brunei Gallery Manager, Chairman BOF and other scholars on the curatorial responses on the exhibition title. According to Prof Onobrakpeya, this year’s workshop is designed to complement the centenary anniversary of Nigeria which will witness different art and culture presentations across the country. He noted that the workshop, which will feature 15 departments in two sessions, will focus on examining the use of art materials in different media. The 16th Hartmattan workshop will run from February 16 to 28, and March 2 to 14, at the Niger Delta Cultural Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. Some of the facilitators include Nike Okundaye, Tola Wewe, Alex Nwokolo, Abraham Uyovbisere, Edosa Oguigo, Peju Alatise, Ademola Williams, Bunmi Afolayan, Ato Arinze, Philip Nzekwe and Victoria Udondian. Others are Olusegun Adejumo, Obiora Anidi, Fidelis Odogwu, Raquib Bashorun, James Iroha, Nse Abasi Inyang, Peju Layiwola, Olu Amoda, Deola Balogun, Kunle Adeyemi and Nelson Edewor. The screening jurists are Prof. John Agberia, Uwa Usen, Mike Omoighe, and Sam Ovraiti. Onobrakpeya however lamented paucity of funds to execute the workshop, which he said, has been a fresh window of opportunities for trained and non-trained artists in the West Africa sub-region. He stressed that the first and greatest challenge facing the workshop is funding though it receives financial help from some individuals, and corporate bodies. “The Harmattan workshop is classified as charity under which the parent body Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, was registered. The workshop does not enjoy the status of formal education set ups and so it has no support from the government which also has not ratified the cultural policy that could provide subventions to enable such entities function properly,” he said. ‘Art is dear to my heart’ The Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corportation (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo, is a lawyer, banker and self-taught artist. She speaks on her passion for art and why she will retire to art in this interview with Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME A large-sized photograph of the Virgin Mary with other Roman Catholic insignia stands at the door post. The collections reveal only a part of the host, a devout Roman Catholic. But, her other parts, unknown to many, are tucked behind her door. As the door opens, the guest is faced with the big picture: collection of colourful paintings hanging on the walls of the living room and study/studio, thus creating a picturesque many guests can’t ignore. Apart from paintings and drawings, some reference books on art grace her shelves. They include the biographies of Michelangelo, Klimt (Life and Work), Fabian Perez, Jack Vettriano, Frederick Hart, Rene Magritte, Auguste Rodin (Master Sculptor), The Work, The Man, The Big Picture-paintings in Paris, and four of her father’s (Chief Raph Uwechue) publications: Africa’s Who Is Who, Africa Today, Makers of Modern Africa, and Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War (Facing the future). All these books are inspirational to her. Welcome to the Ikoyi, Lagos residence of the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Mrs Sally Mbanefo. It is like a mini art gallery of sorts. Confronted with such collections, not many guests will walk into the flat untouched by the themes of the paintings and drawings adorning the walls. In fact, the paintings are arranged in series and sections. From realism to abstract, surreal, portraiture and expressionism they offer a rich bouquet of expressions that dwells on nature, mask, nudity and horses among others. In one of the paintings on nudity, she explained that nudity reflects the true state of man, while mask tell of man’s pretence and deceit. Mrs Mbanefo, a former banker and top staffer of Lafarge Cement Wapco Nigeria Plc, is a lawyer, but with a passion for art. Despite studying Law, she never allowed her talent in art to suffer. At an early age, she discovered her talent in art and followed it up but she did not attend any art school to learn the basics of painting and drawing. The self-taught artist said she studied Law not because she was not interested in Fine Art but because that (Law) was her choice. Her first painting on environment was done 31 years ago. “Art comes to me naturally because I always love to be alone, and that allows me to focus on art. In fact, I prefer to detach myself when I am annoyed as it helps me to express myself. My first painting was done in 1982 and I had my first group exhibition during a talent hunt competition organised by IMB Plc in 1990. Interestingly, I won the most talented staff from the competition,” she recalled. She noted that if she had not studied Law, Fine Art would have been the next option, saying she would still go to art school to study sculpture, especially raisonne. Her preferred choice medium is acrylic as against the popular oil. “These days, I am very busy so acrylic will meet my desire in terms of time. Sometime, I am so desperate to paint but time constraint will not permit me. Since I got the new job at NTDC, I have not painted. So, acrylic is ideal as it dries faster than oil,” she said noting that it also allows her to manipulate figures and forms easily. Interestingly, she is at her best while on sick bed. Apart from nature and environment, one common trace in her paintings is the presentation of human anatomy. “I love human body, form and outlines. And I have produced hundreds of paintings all in my private collections except those I gave out as gifts. I don’t paint for commercial interest. Art is my soul and my heart,” she added. When asked of her favourite Nigerian master artist, she named the founder of Niger Delta Cultural Centre, Agbarha-Otor and initiator of Harmattan Workshop, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya, saying his works and techniques are very intense. “He tells story of our past in his works as he makes the viewers to think deep. Other artists I cherish their works are Tola Wewe, Joe Musa and Rom Isichie,” she added. On tourism promotion in line with her three-fold strategic imperative for moving the sector forward, she identified the Osun, Ekiti and Ondo tourism corridors as her top priority states in the Southwest. She said that following the authentication of sites across some states in the past six months, the Southwest has a wide range of sites that would interest tourists. These, she said, included medical tourism in Ondo State’s Mother and Child Hospital, Ekiti State’s rolling hills, Ikogosi warm spring and waterfalls, and Osun State’s Osun Osogbo Festival among others. She said that next year, NTDC would play a prominent role in the Osun Osogbo Festival, especially on how best to repackage the festival and give it international exposure. “Tourism is beyond festivals and carnivals as the core thing is how to make the sites appealing and attractive to both domestic tourists and foreigners. And the posturing and packaging must be done excellently. There are thousands of strategies, what differentiate each one is the culture of implementation: sharing common goal or vision”. Deputy governor praises NTDC chief BY OZOLUA UHAKHEME Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, has described the Director-General (DG) Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo as a light in the dark corridors of the nation’s tourism sector. The deputy governor spoke in Akure when the DG was guest of the state at the last Mare Festival in Idanre. He stated that considering the three-pronged strategic imperatives embarked upon by the corporation in the last six months; the DG has commenced the transformation of the sector in earnest. “You are a light planted by the President Dr Goodluck Jonathan to light up the dark corridor of the tourism sector and you have commenced this vision in earnest. Your coming to Ondo state at this point in time is a sign of good things to come to the tourism sector in the state and in Nigeria. We welcome you with all our hearts and we assure you of a splendid time with us,” he said. Mrs. Mbanefo toured some tourism sites, such as the Medical Tourism Village in Laje, Ondo (that houses the Trauma Centre), the Gani Fawehinmi Diagnostic Centre and the Mother and Child Hospital to authenticate the state of tourism sites in the state. Impressed by what she saw of the sites, she pledged to support and facilitate cultural festivals and programmes organised by Ondo State that emphasise unity, stability and peaceful co–existence of Nigerians to grow domestic tourism. She said such partnership is part of her initiatives at rebuilding and growing the nation’s tourism value chain, especially domestic tourism. The NTDC boss described Idanre Hill as a uniquely blessed city of rocks, saying: “When I went to Abeokuta, I thought it was the best of a city on a hill until I entered Idanre. This is the real city, which should be called Abeokuta.” She also toured the Dome Village, which is the biggest Conference Tourism Event Centre in Nigeria being built by the Ondo state government. She commended Governor Segun Mimiko for ‘preparing Ondo state as a preferred tourism city in Nigeria.’ She also commended the late Deji Falae for his efforts at promoting tourism and culture in the state, and identified Mare Festival as one of the vibrant pillars of domestic tourism. Her commitment and dedication to grow the tourism sector was further reaffirmed by one of the guest speakers at the opening ceremony of Mare Festival when she described her as ‘an extremely beautiful and intelligent lady who has a firm grip and understanding of the tourist industry. We are happy you are here and you dancing with the local and proving to all that you are a real African woman, willing and serving the nation with all your breath and beauty.’ Mrs Mbanefo, who was thrilled by the cultural wealth in Ondo State as demonstrated by the exciting cultural performances of the state troupe could not hold back her feelings as she joined the group in dancing. She described Idanre Hill as an exciting arrangement of rocks, which dwarf those in Switzerland. Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade led the state delegation that included Ondo State Commissioner for Housing Dr. A Omoloja and Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Akinroye Modupe to receive Mrs. Mbanefo. Akinmade commended Mrs. Mbanefo for honouring the state’s invitation to be special guest at the Mare Festival hosted in the honour of the former Ondo State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, the late Deji Falae. “The government and the people of Ondo State are happy to welcome you to the state where the sun shines for all. We are grateful for honouring our invitation to Mare Festival. We are also happy because you are the first director-general of NTDC not only to visit the state but deemed it fit to honour our invitation to Mare. We assure you of an evergreen memory of your visit to Ondo State,” he said. NTDC boss has since assumption of office over six months ago, commenced the phased overhauling of the tourism sector with a three-pronged strategy that includes rebuilding the NTDC, growing the tourism value chain and re-inventing Nigeria’s tourism industry. ‘Religion must not drive culture aground’ The Second Ekiti State Festival of Culture and Arts Expo tagged Arts, Culture and Tourism: Tools for social transformation held last week was more than a celebration of culture. Jimoh Aliu’s Imole De, a drama performance says it all, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME. After a brief scintillating drama sketch by the visiting Oyo State Cultural Troupe on the open lawn of Ikogosi Warm Spring and Resort, it was time for an evening of poetry performances and reading. Venue was the Conference Hall of the resort. US-based Nigerian scholar and poet Prof Niyi Osundare and Erelu Olufunke Fayemi were guest readers at this year’s Ekiti State Festival of Culture and Arts Expo. Akeem Lasisi of Punch Newspaper presented special poems for the evening last Thursday. Dressed in a white top on a black pair of trousers, Prof Osundare, who kicked off the evening walked up to the podium, holding a bottle of water on one hand and copies of his books on the other. He was full of smiles. His mission was to share his literary experiences with his kinsmen for the second time in his state. He returned to the country a day earlier for the festival. “This is Ikogosi water,” he said in a low tone after a sip from the bottle of Gossy water packaged from Ikogosi warm spring. In a homage to the state, he said the rocky landscape of Ekiti is well-endowed and has produced the mindscape from which emerged lots of brilliant and successful Nigerians. “There is no miracle in Ekiti, it is forthrightness and hard work. These are the memories that made me strong and which I want to share with you this night,” he said amid performances. He read and performed some of his poems ,such as Invocation of the word, The rocks rose to meet me, Ewi Adamo, A song for Olosunta and Tender Moment, a parting love song he rendered both in English and Yoruba language. His love for nature and his rocky hometown of Ikere-Ekiti was overwhelmingly demonstrated in his presentations. He recalled with nostalgic feelings how he grew up in the conundrum of myths, tales and fables about the Olosunta rock in Ikerre. Little wander he dedicated A song for Olosunta to the historic rock. Also, he did not deny the audience his mother’s favourite song, Aremo So Loye, which he rendered effortlessly in Ekiti dialect. However, he lamented the continued decline in the tempo and size of the Olosunta Festival, saying, Olosunta crowd would continue to fade out like every other thing. “Unfortunately, we don’t appreciate our heritage. Christianity and Islam should not drive culture aground. Our culture is very important. There is so much culture and wisdom in Olosunta Festival.” Osundare, who was attending a cultural event for the first time in Ekiti State, stressed that science does not stand in the way of culture and vice versa. According to him, Ifa has given mankind everything including physics, biology and medicine. “Unfortunately, for a long time, we have been looking into the sky for what is in our pockets,” he said, noting that poems can be written in Ekiti dialect. Beyond his performances and readings, Osundare commented on the on-going transformation programmes of Governor Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State, the need to promote Yoruba culture, especially the Olosunta Festival among others. He said a lot is happening in Ekiti State, and that is how change begins. He said he sees promise, which must be held with both hands for growth in the state. “Allowing the women not to rot away in men’s kitchens and parlours is another way of empowering the women folks,” he noted. Wife of Governor Fayemi who did three brief readings from her book, Speaking for myself and speaking above a whisper recalled those political periods after the re-run gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State. She read, particularly, from the chapter that dwells on the many experiences and encounters she had with political opponents, the police, INEC officials and thugs. In fact, her readings were like replays of episodes from a political drama. Her parting poem, The day the devil came to drink water, was the high point of the reading as the audience went wild in laughter after she translated the meaning of the poem in Yoruba to mean Ojo buruku esu gbo mimu. According to her, the title of the poem was derived from response from a witness at the election tribunal sitting on the election case at Ilorin. The festival, which ran from December 9 to 13 also featured arts expo, colloquim, women extravaganza, film show, traditional cuisine, traditional games, story telling and command performance of Jimoh Aliu’s Imole De. The drama featured artistes such as Peter Fatimilola, Folasade Aliu, and Toyin Olanrewaju. The colloquim lead paper titled: Public/private parternship as a viable option for the promotion and branding of festivals and heritage sites in Ekiti, was presented by the Director-Genmeral of Centre for Black Arts and African Civilisation (CBAAC), Prof. Tunde Babwale at the Fountain Hotel,Ado Ekiti. At Mare, Falae lives on It was meant to be a low key festival in honour of the late Deji Falae. But, with a keenly contested mountain climbing competition and musical performances, this year’s Mare Festival reaffirms its prime place in the tourism calendar of the state last weekend, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME Despite the scorching sun, thousands of people, especially children and women, stood for hours to witness the opening ceremony of this year’s MARE Festival in Idanre, Ondo State. Every available space in between the rocks that litter the premises of Methodist School, Idanre, venue of the opening ceremony was occupied by the people. From the football field to the school fence and top of the rocks served as sitting platforms for the teeming crowd to catch a glimpse of the ceremony. Present at the opening ceremony were the Deputy Governor Alhaji Ali Olanusi, Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Mrs Sally Mbanefo, Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr Kayode Akinmade, Permanent Secretary in the Culture Ministry, Mrs Modupe Akenroye and other government functionaries. If Friday’s turnout of people at the opening is an indication that the festival is truly people-centred, the attendance at Saturday night musical concert at Olofin Grammar School, Idanre is an affirmation that the festival is not only close to the people’s heart, but it is their festival. It took the constant appeal from Information Commissioner, Kayode Akinmade, his team and the security officials to restrain the crowd from overrunning the fenced section of the field where Governor Mimiko, his wife and other special guests were seated. The all night musical show featured special performances by some Nollywood stars such as Bimbo Oshin, Ronke Ojo (Oshodi Oke), Funso Adeolu, Toyosi Adekola, (aka Omo Alagbo) and Jibola Dabo. The group, which rendered a special dirge for the late Deji Falae dedicated the awards they got from Lagos state to Governor Olusegun Mimiko in appreciation of his contributions to culture and tourism. The main acts at the concert were the fuji maestro, Abass Obesere and 9Nice who thrilled the crowd to exciting musical performances. Other musicians who performed include Danny Young, Lord Ajasa, Christ Ambassadors and Taye Turaya. Governor Olusegun Mimiko said this year’s Mare Festival would be at a very modest level as it is dedicated to honour the immediate past Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, the late Deji Falae, who has worked assiduously and contributed to record huge success in previous editions. He noted that the state’s prayer is that the late Falae’s efforts would not be in vain and that the tempo he left behind would be sustained and ultimately surpassed. According to the governor, this year’s edition is unique in the sense that for the first time in the history of the festival, community participation to the fullest is encouraged. The various quarters within Idanre community would showcase their rich cultural heritage. Theme of this year’s festival is Endless possibilities, which was chosen to expose the people of Idanre and its environs and by extension, the entire citizens of Ondo State to the fact that tourism has occupied a very large scale in the world economy. Mimiko said tourism is now a veritable sector that may boost the internally generated revenue of governments and strengthen the per capital income of individual players in the sector. He added that it can also project the friendly and hospitable culture of the people. While reiterating his administration’s commitment to development of culture and tourism in the state, he challenged the teeming unemployed youths to explore the various job opportunities that abound in the culture and tourism industry to the fullest. Mimiko recalled that the state has re-engineered the culture and tourism sector by the re-invigoration of the state Cultural Troupe through the recruitment of 42 fire-brand artistes, participation in international cultural troupe competition, upgrading and promotion of notable traditional festivals to carnival status, establishment of a cultural village to expose youths to acquire skills in film making, arts among others. He stressed that the state is also ensuring a robust and fruitful collaboration with Federal culture and tourism parastatals which ahs culminated in the on-going processing of the Oke Idanre enlistment in the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), among others. The festival featured marathon, race, mountain climbing, raffle draw and a musical night with performances from reputable cultural ambassadors and other musical stars. Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation Mrs. Sally Mbanefo who describd the death of Deji Falae as a huge loss to the state and the family, eulogised the former commissioner for his commitment towards the development of culture and tourism in Ondo State. Mbanefo said she is in Mare Festival to honour the late Deji Falae and the people of Ondo State. She urged Nigerians to value what they have as cultural heritage before sharing them with the outside world, adding that after the dancing and singing at the festival, the corporation would discuss how it can collaborate with other relevant agencies in promoting tourism in Ondo state. Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade said that the celebration of Mare festival has redefined the hills of Idanre, which no longer define the unique geography of Idanre people alone. “With the celebration of Mare, we now have a constellation and unification of cultures that make us the proud people of Ondo State. For five years running now, Mare festival has drawn international attention and acclamation. International climbers have thronged Ondo State in search of these wonder hills of Idanre which are compared to none around the world. No surprise then that the tourist potential of Nigeria has received tremendous boost via Mare festival,” he added. Reflecting on the contributions of the late Deji Falae, Akinmade recalled that for two robust years the former Commissioner of Culture and Tourism immersed himself in the Mare project, drove it with all his will and wits and endeared it to the hearts of lovers of tourism. “The vision he held, the passion he shared, and the energy he exerted would be the driving force for the Culture and Tourism industry in Ondo State. For as long as MARE endures, so will the ever sweet memories of Deji Falae linger in the hearts of Ondo people and the annals of tourism and culture in Ondo State in particular and Nigeria at large,” Akinmade said. Michael Clement won the first position in the mountain climbers’ competition, followed by Akinfolure Ayodele and Vincent Nnamdi who came second and third position respectively. Winners of the raffle draw went home with gifts, such as refrigerator and motor cycle, among others. ‘We know the value of what we lost’ BY OZOLUA UHAKHEME The Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Mrs Sally Mbanefo has said the good works of the former Ondo State Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, the late Deji Falae would remain indelible in the sand of time. She therefore urged the parents of the late lawyer to take solace in the joy that their son’s name would never be forgotten by Nigerians, especially the people of Ondo State. She said though his death is a huge loss to the state and the family, but that God who creates also takes. She spoke on Saturday in Oba-Ile, Akure residence of the Falaes while paying condolence visit to the family for their son, Mr. Deji Falae who died in a plane conveying the remains of former Ondo State governor, Dr. Segun Agagu to Akure for burial. Wife of Chief Olu Falae, Racheal Olatubosun, who spoke on behalf of the family, said that their hope is now his children who would console them in future. She stated that the late Deji represented the values they cherished and that they are proud of him. She added that only the family knows the value of what they lost and that for the wife, it is a painful one. “Deji was somebody we were building hope on before he left us. As Christians, we will take it be it good or bad. What gladdens our heart is that he is appreciated as demonstrated during his funeral. We feel that if the world can appreciate him so much, then God will do better. We urge his friends to continue to pray for his nuclear family because we want his children to console us in the future,” she said. ‘We can create a university that is self-sufficient’ The growth of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti founded four years ago, has been described as a ‘miracle plus magic’. Its founder and legal icon, Aare Afe Babalola, spoke on what encouraged him to establish the university. OZOLUA UHAKHEME and KUNLE AKINRINADE report. For about an hour, the Board of Trustees’ (BOT), meeting of the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti was ‘disrupted’ last Saturday. The meeting that was chaired by the legal icon and founder of the university, Aare Afe Babalola was put on hold to receive 26 journalists led by Prof Raph Akinfeleye (chairman, Panel of Assessors) who were on tour of the university as part of events leading to this year’s grand presentation ceremony of Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA) held at Ado-Ekiti. Despite the interruption, Aare Babalola, who described the media as his friend, shared his views on how a university can be run without undue dependence on government grants. He said his experiences at the University of Lagos as pro-chancellor encouraged him a great deal to establish his university that would change the world at Ado Ekiti. He said that as pro-chancellor of UNILAG, he encouraged participatory leadership that is also by example, adding that he donated his allowances to the university while he was there. He noted that today, the University of Lagos is better off in terms of revenue generation unlike other universities. “My experiences as pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos are what encouraged me to establish the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) that would change the world. In fact, from my experiences at UNILAG, we can create a university that is self-sufficient. And that is what I have done here at ABUAD. I brought a lot of my clients to help in the development of UNILAG infrastructure and it helped in boosting the internally generated revenue of the varsity with, which the school was able to pay salaries without waiting for government grants,” he said. He said one of such strategies he adopted at ABUAD was the establishment of the university farm to serve as regular source of food for the students. “In the case of ABUAD, the school farm alone boasts of 85 fish ponds with about 5000 fishes each while my personal farm, which I have since donated to the university, has about 500 fish ponds with 5000 fishes each. We have bakery, we grow and process moringa olifera, a herbal drug, we grow pawpaw, mango, among other crops,” he said. He disclosed that ABUAD, which is designed as a world-changing university, is being acknowledged by world agencies such as United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as one of the prestigious private universities in Africa capable of providing a solid contribution to educational growth. UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General in Abuja, Lalla Aicha Ben Barka in a letter dated November 14, 2013 urged ABUAD to explore collaboration with UNESCO on issues related to education, particularly on flagship programme 2 on Strengthening education systems for sustainable development in Africa: improving equity, quality and relevance. Barka described ABUAD as one of the prestigious private universities in Arica that would provide a solid contribution to education, on these issues in collaboration with UNESCO. “We would also explore the possibility to publicise UNESCO-ABUAD initiatives on our website, portraying the university as one of the shining beacons of excellence in its endeavour to be one of the best universities in Africa and the world,” he said. Aare Babalola however urged media practitioners to give prominence to people who have contributed immensely to humanity and do away with giving prominence to stories about the activities of violent groups. Continuing, he said: “Although, the notice of your visit was rather short, but the media is my friend. There is a story of a British parliamentarian that insulted everyone, including the Queen of England. When he was asked who he feared most, he said the media because published messages travel far beyond where you can get to”. Marathon: Eyeing a world record Marathon, 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. Dark moment 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.” A buja carnival: Setting tone for centenary anniversary Nigeria will mark the 100th anniversary of the Northern and Southern protectorates in January 2014. Last Saturday, the ninth edition of the Abuja International Carnival kicked off at the Eagle Square, setting the tone for the centenary celebrations.Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. If the number of participants is a determinant of its success, this year’s Abuja International Carnival may not have achieved much. But, if content and theme are what matter, then the festival is it. Of the 15 countries that indicated interest in the carnival, only five showed up. Also, 17 of the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were at the opening, thus hitting an all-time lowest turnout since 2005 when the carnival made its debut. The theme of this year’s carnival was A people for a century, a people forever, and it was aimed at creating a platform for the commemoration of Nigeria’s 100 years of existence as a nation. The First Lady, Dame Patience Goodluck, who was to declare the carnival open, and Bayelsa and Benue state governors’ wife who were expected at the event did not show up. Unlike in the past, this year’s Abuja carnival did not evoke fears in many residents and visitors to the FCT. All major roads and streets from Garki Area One to Eagle Square, a major venue of the carnival, were all manned by armed security officials supported by men of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) who controlled human and vehicular traffic. For once in a long time during a national celebration, tourists walked into the square unperturbed by any fear of Boko Haram bombing. Some vehicles drove close to the square to either drop contingents or their costumes for easy reach. The 18-kilometre street carnival that kicked off from Area One at 10 am was not just a long procession of colourful motorised floats and dancers. It was a total celebration of culture on wheels propelled by contemporary music and dance steps. Each contingent was backed by a motorised float and a mobile music box spinning vibes during the trek. The contingents, consisting mainly of youths with lots of energy to trek the long distance while having fun, were a spectacle to behold. The long trek that lasted over six hours terminated at the Eagle Square where guests were thrilled to another round of exciting celebration of the nation’s diverse cultural heritage. In fact, the atmosphere was convivial for the celebration that recorded not too impressive turn-out of both participants and viewers. There was little or no apprehension about seeming threat from the notorious Boko Haram sect that has killed thousands of Nigerians in the northern part of the country. No doubt, this year’s outing is an improvement of last year in the area of costumes design, float concept and content. In totality, the Abuja International Carnival has been able to shed off its traditional elements for contemporary infusions to reflect modern carnival. Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke said national unity and cohesion are winners at the carnival, adding that culture has in the country’s 100 years continued to grow from strength to strength. He identified culture as one of the enduring elements of nation-building and national cohesion, which ‘continue to strengthen intra and inter-communal relations, help to build bridges, forge sustainable partnerships and provide the foundation for our distinct identity as a people with a proud heritage and a future that is laden with hope and confidence.’ He said that the carnival provides a platform for the projection of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage. “It is always a delight to see our people from various States of the federation resplendent in their carnival costumes display Nigeria’s diverse cultural forms in a kaleidoscope of colours. The beauty of these cultural forms is firmly rooted in their diversity which has been the source of our strength as a nation in the past 100 years,” he added. The minister stressed that beyond the celebrations and display of cultural forms, carnivals have become mega businesses around the world describing it as the catalyst and backbone of a multifaceted economy. And in order to grow the carnival, he said that federal government is building partnerships with countries where carnivals have truly become a big enterprise. “The Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation remains committed to the development of the creative sector. We are paying particular attention to this area as we believe that it has a great role to play in the organisation of carnivals and other cultural events. To this end, the new Cultural Policy of Nigeria has designated carnivals as an important cultural and economic activity and has made adequate provision for its enhancement. The Federal Government also partners with States where Carnivals are gaining grounds as an important cultural and economic activity. This is with a view to developing carnivals across the country and turn them into unique brands and enterprise,” he said. His Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, Dr. Lincoln Douglas, whose country is one of the five foreign countries that participated in the carnival disclosed that his country has granted 10 scholarship awards to qualified Nigerians wishing to study carnival art, management of festival, and other related areas at two of Trinidad and Tobago’s universities. Dr. Douglas who said details of the scholarship would be worked out soon added that the University of Trinidad and Tobago and University of West Indies would be the two universities where the scholarship would be offered. He said his country has resolved to offer scholarship in the area of capacity building as ‘our contribution to the commitment of the President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who has also visited Trinidad and Tobago and shown tremendous interest and support. The visiting minister said there has been an increasing interest in the carnival in Nigeria, which he said, has great opportunity too. “Both countries – Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago share the same economy culture, we are oil producing countries, oil and natural gas, petro-chemicals. And we understand that those are finite resources. But our peoples, and the way of life as well as our culture are the infinite resources. As long as our peoples are here, we have something that we can leverage upon. I am excited with what I have seen this evening. And with continued support and participation, the carnival will grow.” Continuing, he said: “In Trinidad and Tobago, we have been doing the carnival for the last 70 years or so, and we have developed an art form, an industry, and science of music, band, theatre, mask … everything working together to create wealth for our people. It has become a big industry providing employment for young people as they get involved in something that is meaningful and valuable. “Through the carnival, we have succeeded in taking our youths off the streets or getting involved in negative things. Abuja Carnival portends great opportunities for Nigeria and we have resolved to offer scholarship in the area of capacity building as our contribution to the commitment of the President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who has also visited Trinidad and Tobago and shown tremendous interest and support. So, we are reciprocating that level of collaboration and participation.” He said he feels more at home in Nigeria than US where he spent over 15 years. Despite the low turnout, some of the participating states had good presentations during the street carnival session and the carnival floats/performances at the opening ceremony. For instance, apart from featuring about the largest contingents at the carnival, Niger State and Akwa-Ibom State were creative in the presentation and interpretation of the festival’s theme. Akwa-Ibom State presentation at the ceremony was a total story of the Nigeria nation reflecting in visual every major political stage the country went through from pre-independence through military era till date. It also showcased the diverse culture of Nigeria as demonstrated by some members of the state’s contingents who wore different traditional dresses known to some ethnic groups in the country. In fact, there was a deliberate effort to send strong messages of peace, cohesion and love for one another by every state contingent at the carnival. Also, the bigger picture of centenary celebration was never lost as Bayelsa State reminded all with an inscription on its float, saying: It’s our centenary, roll out the drums. Other special contingents included representatives of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Eagles Nest (Naija Cultural Heritage Reality Show), United Foods, makers of Indomie, Maltina Airtel among others. The carnival which ended yesterday featured performances by school children within the FCT, durbar, cultural night/traditional cuisine and bush bar/traditional hairdo, masquerades performance, boat regatta, command performance and musical fiesta. The mobile traders and food vendors that brought items to the Eagle Square for sale were alleged to pay about five thousand naira for the space occupied. The allocation of open space and collection of the levies created some drama outside the main square shortly before the kick-off of the opening ceremony. The Abuja carnival was initiated by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2005 as an annual event to hold during the harmattan season in Nigeria. It is to create a platform to present and preserve the rich intangible cultural heritage of Nigeria. Last year, some innovations were introduced into the carnival with the involvement of women and youth organisations, school children, non-governmental organisations, military/para-military and culture/tourism groups. The states that were absent at the opening include Bauchi, Nasarawa, Edo, Imo, Abia, Delta, Enugu, Gombe, Ogun, Zamfara, Lagos, Osun, Borno, Cross River, Kwara, Jigawa, Sokoto and Kebbi