Now, It’s Time to Celebrate the Masters…

Two galleries located in two affluent Lagos neighbourhoods are partnering for the first time for an art exhibition to celebrate Nigeria’s art lecturers. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke writes

Amidst the kaleidoscope of vibrant hues and eclectic styles that often define the bustling Lagos art scene, a forthcoming exhibition gleams with a promise of intrigue and enchantment. Titled My Lecturers Art Show, it illuminates the horizon, offering its alternative uniqueness and equally compelling and captivating creativity. The exhibition, a collaborative effort between two Lagos-based art galleries, Iwalewa Gallery of Art and Ogirikan Art Gallery, plans to bring together, for the first time ever, art lecturers from various backgrounds and styles all around Nigeria.

Scheduled to open sometime in early June, the eagerly anticipated exhibition positions itself as a towering paradigm of artistic brilliance, inviting aficionados and collectors to immerse themselves in the captivating offerings of such accomplished artists as Auchi Polytechnic lecturers: Omodamwen Eguasa, Wale Ajayi, Shola Kukoyi, Emmanuel Ikoro, Samuel Viyaje, and Kent Onah; Lagos State University’s Olojo K. Kosoko; University of Benin’s El Dragg Okwoju; University of Nigeria’s Oluwafemi Oloidi; Niger Delta University’s Timipre Willis Amah; University of Lagos’ Bolaji Ogunwo; and Yaba College of Technology’s Kunle Adeyemi.

Surely, it would be reasonable to expect the exhibition organisers to elevate its essence by meticulously refining it to encapsulate a rich and vibrant portrayal of Nigeria’s dynamic and multifaceted cultural landscape. Their attention to detail would not only amplify the avant-garde allure of the upcoming art extravaganza but also shed light on a mesmerising blend of cutting-edge contemporary artistry and time-honoured traditional motifs interwoven across the ages—a juxtaposition that captures the very essence of Nigeria’s cultural panorama. By meticulously unravelling the intricate web of artistic influences and interwoven narratives, this exhibition has the potential to offer an enlightening glimpse into a nation where innovation flourishes harmoniously alongside age-old traditions.

More importantly, the proposed annual event, beyond its celebration of Nigeria’s art educators, stands as a potent catalyst for profound dialogues, intricate explorations, and heartfelt appreciation of the vibrant tapestry of Nigerian artistry. In other words, it will be a dynamic hub for cultural exchange, weaving together diverse communities in a harmonious symphony of shared creativity. This transformative platform, therefore, not only offers a stage for esteemed artists from tertiary institutions to unveil their exceptional talents but also serves as a showcase, displaying the richness and variety of the burgeoning local art landscape.

Interestingly, almost all of the exhibiting artists—with the exception of a handful—seem to be well-known personalities on the local exhibition circuit. However, this does not necessarily imply an unofficial sneak preview of the exhibition for the local art scene’s cognoscenti. Much, after all, still hinges on the artists’ submissions and the curatorial team’s competence. Take the works of Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, lecturer Kunle Adeyemi, for instance. They previously seemed to be eclectically impersonal and characterised by restlessness, but they have apparently come together in a coherent vernacular during his last year’s solo exhibition, Innovative Testament, at the Tim and Carrol Gallery in Ikeja, G.R.A.

Then, there is Niger Delta University’s Timipre Willis Amah, who might wish to leave more memorable impressions with his participation in My Lecturers’ Art Show. In his last solo exhibition in Lagos, held four years ago, he displayed works done with additive plastography, a printmaking technique patented by the iconic Bruce Onobrakpeya. This forthcoming exhibition offers him an opportunity to transcend what he once described as his big-fish-in-a-small pond status. Aficionados should, on the other hand, expect the same subtly contrasting brighter and more sombre-hued colours from the paintings of the University of Lagos lecturer, Bolaji Ogunwo. With a painstakingly burnished profile, he presents himself for not just his three solo exhibitions—two in Nigeria and one in the UK—but also for his participation in 42 local and international group exhibitions.

Having a sculptor like Omodamwen Eguasa, who draws inspiration from the cultural elements of Benin folklore, in the exhibition not only emphasises the organisers’ dedication to diversification but also spotlights the heritage-rich artistic traditions. Eguasa’s expertise in metal casting, originating from a prestigious Benin bronze-casting lineage, adds depth to his contribution. With academic achievements—a B.A. (Hons.) and an M.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Benin, Benin City—he brings forward a legacy of commitment to the craft. This inclusion elevates the exhibition, showcasing the intricate craftsmanship entrenched in Eguasa’s family legacy and providing attendees with a vivid portrayal of skilled artistry. The other sculptor, Shola Kukoyi, under whose tutelage many established successful sculptors have passed, also holds an MFA in sculpture from the University of Benin. He is known for his proficiency with metal sculpting, showcasing intricate designs that enthral viewers. Despite the demands of his academic duties, he gracefully carries out his roles as the Auchi Polytechnic’s head of the sculpture department, dean of the school, and chairman of the Polytechnic Schools Management Board (PSMB).

El-Dragg Okwoju, on the other hand, is a prominent figure in the local art scene. Despite juggling between his studio work and over 30 years of teaching art at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Benin, his name still resonates strongly in artistic circles. An alumnus of the University of Benin, like a larger part of the participating artists, he is also inspired by themes revolving around the cultural heritage of the historic Benin City.

Reading between the lines of bringing together these artists under the same banner suggests a profound synergy existing between the two organising galleries, Iwalewa Gallery and Ogirikan Art Gallery. Both renowned for their deep passion for African art, they symbolise a vibrant artistic spirit. Bolstering this connection, the founders—Femi Williams of Iwalewa and Adeolu Tahouf of Ogirikan—have embraced a friendship that transcends the confines of their professional lives. Williams asserts that this bond has kindled a powerful synergy resonating across the art community. Together, they have forged a collaborative partnership that not only enriches their respective galleries but also amplifies the global influence of African art. Tahouf echoes this sentiment, acknowledging the profound impact of their intertwined fates on the art world’s landscape.

Yet, a lot more should still be expected from these gallery spaces, which are situated in upscale Lagos neighbourhoods—Iwalewa in Lekki and Ogirikan in Ikoyi. Indeed, this subsisting partnership for the My Lecturers’ Art Show may be a precursor to more fruitful collaborations in the future.

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