At LABAF 2022, Demas Nwoko Unveils New Book, ‘Concrete Thinking

Yinka Olatunbosun

At the just concluded Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF), a handful of journalists took part in the meet-and-greet session with the legendary artist, architect and scholar, Demas Nwoko. The session which preceded the public presentation of the new book titled ‘Concrete Thinking’ revived conversations around his involvement with the Mbari club and his trajectory through the Nigerian College of Arts Science and Technology, Zaria (now Ahmadu Bello University) where he studied Fine Art.

Nwoko had contributed to one of the most significant art movements in Nigeria’s art history – the Natural Synthesis movement – driven by the ‘Zaria Rebels,’ to his illustrious multidisciplinary career as a painter, sculptor, set designer and lecturer at the University of Ibadan. 

As an architect and builder, his invaluable contributions to nation building through his creative output and his philosophies formed the crux of the new book titled ‘Concrete Thinking.’ Published by New Culture Publications, the book is a product of the artist’s seven decades in Nigeria’s arts, design and culture spaces and his critical interventions into arts and national development. The book, ‘Concrete Thinking,’ has been a lifetime project for the writer who envisions real independence for Nigeria.

Nwoko may have built countless projects as an architect but the foundation he and his contemporaries laid in arts with the holistic education of the Mbari Club movement will remain in collective memory despite a lack of replication or a conscious continuity. 

While reminiscing on the circumstances that served as catalyst to the movement, he revealed: “What happened before independence was appropriate. It was an action that individuals took. We were all students at either Ahmadu Bello University or University of Ibadan preparing for independence. Why it did not blossom into a culture – the history of the nation itself is checkered. 

“Independence was a political issue. There was a colonial government and we needed to move away from that to form our own government as a people. This is the time to start again. We are privileged to be alive and we are waiting for you people to do what we did in 1959 and 1960. We are still around to guide you as much as you want. 

“The occasion that brought me here is the launching of my two books that I had been writing all my life. We are supposed to make an effort to direct our future to our cultural advantage. We should not cry over spilled milk. 

His contributions to nation building through his creative output and his philosophies, has been well documented over the years, in journals, magazines and festschrifts; to make this new collection, ‘Concrete Thinking.’

“Concrete thinking is a book that took a lifetime to mature and materialise; it covers my entire adult working life. Starting with my activities in the tertiary institution, a period that prepares one for his contributions, physically and intellectually to the society. At this point, when you have chosen a career, you have to be put through the process of advanced acquisition and utilization of technological skill which is necessary for the realization of one’s objectives in life.

“There lies the difference between general thinking and concrete thinking, because concrete thinking is a thought process that must end in practical reality, albeit physical or philosophical. This is what I refer to in my new culture philosophy as one process that amalgamates “thinking and tinkering’’ to qualify as thinking that is thought through which generates viable human development,’’ he stated in his foreword.

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