Art Pantheon Unleashes Akintunde’s Auto-Inspired Futuristic Art

Installation, illustrations and paintings are the vehicles that convey the futuristic design concepts by the visionary car designer and architect, Adedapo Akintunde in a solo exhibition at The Art Pantheon’s Space inside Oniru, Lagos. Asides its artistic value, it’s a statement on building infrastructure to advance innovation. Yinka Olatunbosun reports

The first sight was the car installation within the premises of Art Pantheon in Oniru. It’s a show and a crossroad for arts and architecture, humanity and science as well as artists and art connoisseurs.

At the recent grand opening of the exhibition ‘Autovista: African Vehicle Visions: an exhibition of car and concept designs,’ the car designer-cum architect, Adedapo Akintunde was excited to talk about what motivated his multiple drawings and water colour renditions of the prototype of an African car. 

Pushing back against the culture of importation, Akintunde repurposed materials he found in Nigeria to create the monster car installation that was the cynosure of all eyes. 

Akintunde described his style as full of dynamism. “My designs look like things already in motion,” he said. “This propulsive mindset is what drives Autovista; the movement is forwards.” Walking through the adjoining exhibition rooms, he recounted how he began making sketches of cars as a child.

“When I was growing up, my mother didn’t want me to draw. I used to draw on the edges of the newspapers. I would make small drawings then but now I am able to work on big canvases,’’ he said as he occasionally acknowledged greetings from friends who arrived at the show.

For a show that would end on April 10, there was a lot to view-at least 71 pieces of the different parts of the car prototype in varying sizes. From miniatures to large paintings, he has infused passion in equal measure across the pieces to speak volumes about the dearth of innovation in Nigeria.

“I am particularly trained in industrial thought and today, our naira is approaching 800 to one pound. This exhibition is to open people’s minds up to what the industry can be and my chosen subject is car design. Future African cars will come from these drawings.

” What is stopping us from doing more prototypes is because we don’t have the premises for research and development. If we had more designers in government, for instance if we have a designer-general, then we can bring the exchange rate back to one pound to two naira just like it was some years ago. We have everything here. We have the materials. I built that car 100 per cent out of Nigerian materials,’’ he argued.

When asked if he was concerned about the global agenda for climate change and sustainability especially with the trend in Europe and other developed world where the private use of automobiles is being reduced with urban transportation, he revealed that his agenda is quite different.

“The problem we have here are human disasters. They (the western world) have natural disasters. If Nigeria is getting warmer. It is a huge opportunity for our solar development. If we are going to make an ideal country and specify it for human habitation it is Nigeria. Nigeria is not getting any hotter for it not to be an advantage.

“The only disadvantage that we have is the people. After this exhibition, we hope that many will be moved to build cars and do building materials and start to use intellect in different ways,’’ said the car designer who studied Architecture at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), graduating with distinction in his final year design studio presentation. He would later study Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Arts, London, where he graduated in 1994.

Curated by Peju Alatise and Ade Shokunbi, the show reflects Akintunde’s versatility across art and design with his works such as Circa, Trika 2, Regional Character, Green Revolution and Colourway On the Highway.

The Director, The Art Pantheon, Nana Sonoiki also described Autovista show as “a truly unique exhibition in Nigeria’s history,” creating “a space to engage with art as a catalyst for technological advancement and national progress.”

In the catalogue for the exhibition, Joseph Omoh Ndukwu tracked the progression of automotive technology in Nigeria: “It has been a long road building the automotive industry in Nigeria, and still more has to be done. Beginning in the 50s, Nigeria started to have cars assembled in the country.

Starting with companies like the Federated Motors Industries and SCOA Nigeria Plc., Nigeria had operational assembly lines manufacturing Bedford TJ trucks and Peugeot pickup trucks. Production improved in the 70s with Volkswagen and Leyland becoming more dominant in the market. In the 80s, however, things started to take a dip due to economic downturns,” he said.

Akintunde is the Managing Director of Ivixi Design Movement Ltd. Having studied car design and working in the UK for some time, he returned to Nigeria and to architecture, rising to become the Group Creative Design Director of Design Union Consulting and a director of several other architectural establishments.

The show ends on April 10.

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