Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Beauty and The Machine Show in Lagos


Yinka Olatunbosun

From April 20 to May 10, Freedom Park Lagos will present Beauty and The Machine, an exhibition of new installation works by Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya. It is the first of a series of exhibition taking place this year to commemorate 60 years of the artist.

Beauty And The Machine will feature -never been exhibited-line of works that make a bold statement on the value still present in recycled materials.

This installation art style is no stranger to the several techniques innovated and improvised upon in the age long practice of the artist. It is a style borne out of his childhood fascination of the workings of machines. The exhibits are sourced from automobile parts, fabric materials, metals, beads, wood, computer parts, iron rods, steel, aluminium, and plastic parts, with interesting designs and spaces that have been realisable for the artist to reshape to create captivating art forms.

Beauty And The Machine through its exhibits, aims to lend voice to the clamour on the importance of recycling as a means of environmental sanitation as the incorporation of these erstwhile worthless materials into embodying art, not only improves upon the aesthetics of our environment but is beneficial to the revenue growth of our economy and most importantly, a propagation of The Art.

The exhibition holds a unique posit as his premier in Freedom Park, a heritage site and a cultural centre that focalizes on the individual expression of imagination and creativity, with the latter being the very standpoint of Onobrakpeya’s practice.

Onobrakpeya was born August 30, 1932 in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State to Urhobo parents. He spent his formative years in Edo State, and went on to become an arts teacher in Western Boys High School and Ondo Boys High School. He continued his tertiary education in the Nigerian College of Arts, Sciences and Technology, now the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he studied Fine Arts. As an undergraduate, he was one of the key members of the Zaria Art Society, a group of student-artists who came together to jointly repeal the “colonisation” of their artistic identities; this was prevalent given the colonial presence and establishment in the country at the time.

He is an artist, art educator and culture advocate renowned for the versatility of his artistic practice that has birthed several techniques and styles including bronze lino relief, plastograph– an epoxy-base etching technique, and creating a set of ideograms, Ibiebe, that are symbolical to his artistic productions. His works stand out as the most researched, reviewed, critiqued and documented in Nigeria and arguably, the African continent.

Amongst his recognitions are the UNESCO Living Human Treasure Award which he was a recipient of in 2006, and the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) conferred on him in 2017. The opening reception for the artist at the show takes place on Saturday, April 20.