By Olufunke Adepuji
Forty years after his demise, plans have been concluded to celebrate the artist Akinola Lasekan posthumously with a symposium and a four-day exhibition holding at the Terra Kulture in Victoria Island, Lagos. According to a statement signed by the art collector, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon on behalf of the Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF), the symposium holds on November 15 by 10:30 am while the exhibition runs from November 15 to 18.
The theme of both events is “Akinola Lasekan: His life and contributions to the development of contemporary Nigerian art”. The symposium will be chaired by Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, who thereafter will declare open the four-day art exhibition.
Another statement signed by Dr (Mrs.) Olusola Dublin-Green for the family, the family has called on all practising Nigerian artists, art collectors and other stakeholders to rally round the family to celebrate one of their own at the planned symposium and art exhibition.
Lasekan (1916 -1972) is widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers and masters of Nigerian modern art, following in the footsteps of Aina Onabolu but of the same league with esteemed Nigerian artists such as Ugorji, Okaybulu, Ben Enwonwu, Erhabor Emokpae and others of that genre.
He was an innately talented artist, who started his professional art practice as a textile designer before veering into book illustrations for publishing companies such as CMS Bookshop and Thomas Nelson Ltd. When he made a success from these, he established an art studio and became an art teacher in 1941.
While doing all these, he studied commercial art through correspondence studies with the Hammersmith school of Art in London. In 1962, he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts London in the UK. In his bid to pass on knowledge to upcoming generations of Nigerians, he taught art in the later years of his life at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
He established a legacy as a nationalist with his sharp political cartoons, which appeared daily in the defunct West African Pilot as the clamour for national independence increased, and in his realistic paintings on different themes from allegorical paintings on pro-nationalism to landscape drawings.
Among his popular works to be exhibited from the family collection are oil on canvas paintings like “The Last Political Mission of Herbert Macaulay”, “The Story of Dr, Nnamdi Azikiwe”, a pictorial and historical composition, “ The Return of Ajaka of Owo” painted in poster colour on paper, and “Atilogwu Dancers”. Other works to be exhibited are three out of his early oil on canvas paintings in the collection of Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) titled “Masquerade at the square”, “Cocoa Cropping”, and “Village Market and Motor Park”.
Given his public spiritedness, several of his artworks were donated to the Nigerian National Gallery of Arts, which were exhibited during the second world black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977. Other artworks also exist in museums across the world and in some private and public art collections, in and outside Nigeria.