Yinka Olatunbosun

The veteran art scholar and a leading artist from the Zaria Art School tradition, Chief Banjo Fasuyi was the centre of attention all week as the Lagos art community celebrated his 83rd birthday with loads of art-related activities. One of them was an art exhibition, titled Egun Nla which was simultaneously held at TAFAS Gallery in Ikeja, Quintessence Gallery in Ikoyi and Yemoja Gallery, which opened on his birthday, April 19. The exhibits included 20 sculptures made of calabash, plastics and plaster of paris. They are a result of Fasuyi’s experiment which began in 1984 during his solo exhibition at the Institute of International Affairs, Paris with Total Oil as his sponsor.

The exhibition was preceded by drama presentations and service of praise songs at the TAFAS Art Centre, which had been the hub of cultural activities for decades.

TAFAS Art Centre was conceived in 1971 by Fasuyi when he was a Federal Art Adviser to the Nigerian Government. The centre was designed to curate Nigerian art and artists and its gallery section was formally opened in 1978. The gallery suffered a major set-back with the establishment of the National Theatre, Lagos. Artists and collectors seemed to have migrated from the mainland to the island. Asides that, in both pre-colonial and post-colonial Nigeria, the Nigerian elites who were interested in the art were mostly residents in the Ikoyi neighbourhood of Lagos, where colonial masters and their business partners also lived.

Back to TAFAS Gallery, the centre went through a series of transformation. First, it was converted to a cultural education and a pre-varsity education centre. Afterwards, the centre was converted into a resource centre sponsoring art exhibition. At 80, Fasuyi laid to rest those educational programmes and concentrated on full studio practice.

Currently, the gallery holds over 200 works consisting of paintings, sculptures and collected crafts. The centre still has a functional library, a store and an arts shop.

Last year, at his 82nd birthday, Fasuyi honoured seven distinguished Nigerians who have contributed largely to the art community either as an artist, teacher or collector. The awardees were Prince Yemisi Shyllon, Dr. Bruce Onabrakpeya, Mrs Melinda Akinlami, Dr. Kunle Adeyemi, Mr Jerome Elaiho, Nike Okundaiye, Wale Fasuyi and Fred Udoaka.

In the same spirit, more Nigerians will be honoured this year. These include Prof Jerry Buhari, Prof Ola Oloidi, Prof Simon Ipkakronyi, Chief Joe Musa, Ozolua Uhakheme, Dr. Ola Balogun, Prof. Peju Layiwola,and Otun Abaoyin Adedeji.

The birthday celebration will be concluded by the National Gallery of Art’s public presentation of his biography at TAFAS Gallery, Ikeja.