Nigeria At 50: A Generational Statement Arts Review

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Nigeria is indeed a country of heterogeneous ideas and visions. This explains the reason behind the cacophony of voices that trail the humongous  N10 billion, now reduced to N6.5 billion, budgetted for Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary. While many Nigerians rail at the amount, some others see the commemmoration of the nation’s golden jubilee as a long-awaited opportunity to celebrate Nigeria’s 50 years of political independence, and square with some other African countries like Ghana, Senegal and Cameroun.  

 The Thought Pyramid Art Gallery owned by Jeff Ajueshi  is one of those who share the optimistic view.  In preparation  for this, it has assembled a variety  of captivating  art works from seasoned artists to project Nigeria’s image in visual representation to the whole world.                   The art centre located in Wuse 11 Abuja   recently held an exhibition of the art works which captured some of the political and socio-economic happenings in Nigeria since independence.

  Mufu Onifade, one of the 50 exhibiting artists takes a look at  the one -week event which took place in Abuja last week. The exhibition cannot be better  described than a generational statement. He writes:

From now till the end of the year and probably beyond, various artistic nay cultural celebrations would bubble up the space, at various venues across the country. But more importantly, the visual art sub-sector is expected to chronicle the country’s social, economic and political experiences in visual form; and this is one of the thrusts of  the exhibiting show titled Generational Statement. This long-awaited 50th anniversary of independent nationhood exudes a multitude of celebrations, which cuts accross all strata of the society. As a nation of multi-cultural diversity and surplus natural resources, Nigeria is reputed to be practically flowing with milk and honey. These are  visible in some of the creations packaged ready for public consmption.

Since 1960 when she got her independence from colonial masters, Nigeria has constantly and delicately operated as a nation in transition, even among the comity of other nations. Her post-colonial period has brought on her people from various shades of inconsequential imbroglio ranging from politics to enonomics.

The civil war, the recurrent coups and counter-coups, the internal strife and different shades of struggles among her people of many nationalities are characteristic of experiences culminated in the modern day nascent democracy. Such experiences  visually recorded in various media were on display.

In view  of prevailing circumstances, the visual art sub-sector, which has been constantly constrained to the lower ebb of food chain, has, within the purview of robust cultural development, provided unequalled succour to both the nation and her numerous immigrants and visitors. The richness of Nigeria’s aesthetic legacies is re-embossed in the variety and diversity of creative outputs engendered by flourishing generations of Nigerian artists.

Ever since Aina Onabolu, the doyen of Nigerian art took the bull by the horn and transplanted visual arts into the school curriculum in Nigeria, academic training has combined effectively with informal training to produce a profoundly rich sub-sector. By extension, various generations from that era through to the era of the modernist artist, Ben Enwonwu to this contemporary times, have engraved their impressions on the artistic sand of time.

That the Thought Pyramid Art Gallery, Abuja founded and run by its curator, Jeff Ajueshi, has generously assembled an astonishing variety of art works from seasoned practitioners for a commemorative exhibition titled Generational Statement is a bold statement on the volume of creative products on the Nigeria’s creatively fertile soil.

As Ajueshi proudly, but succinctly puts it, this one-of-its-kind show “ parades accomplished artists whose works are capable of telling the story of Nigeria from different perspectives of themes, mediums and aesthetics”. These works, as he explains further, are captured in exquisite paintings and sculptures rendered in an array of mediums and concepts. The exhibition  also addressed “recreation, pre, post, and neo-post freedom of the Nigerian essence” while not losing sight of attracting expressive visual art forms and scholarly critique and commentaries on Nigerian art.

Bruce Onobrakpeya, in recognition of his masterful antecedence and historical relevance to contemporary Nigerian art, was selected as Guest Artist for the show. His catalystic approach to art development is more than enough qualification to play this noble role in the midst of other 50 exhibiting artists including Ben Osawe, Sam Ovraiti, Duke Asidere, Bob Aiwerioba, Enotie Ogbebor, Sam Ebohon and Mufu Onifade. Others are Donald Onuoha, Ogaga Tuodeinye, Rotimi Akinere, Tony Enebeli, Toni Oshiame, Ayodeji Agboola, Nelson Edewor,  Raji Olanrewaju, Ajibade Awoyemi, Ola Balogun, Suraju Adekola, Stanley Dudu, Chukz Okonkwo,Tolu Aliki, Emmanuel Dudu, Ada Godspower, Olumide Oresegun, Klara Nze, lyke Okeyin , Uche Onyishi, Francis Umoh and Stanley Agbontaen.

Chinedu Onuigbo, Moses Zibor, Nelson Okoh, Frank Beli, Joe Essien, Tyna Adebowale, Prosper Akeni, Emmanuel Ozugwo, Babalola Lawson and lke Francis also joined Chike Obieagu, Bob Nosa Uwagboe, George Edozie, Victoria Udoidian, Olufemi Kayo, Oyerinde Olotu, Oviri Aleric, Uche Uzorka, Aldophus Opara, Tom Sater and Godswill Ayemoba to make the show padded with unassuming creativity. These artists are representative of a cross section of generations of contemporary Nigerian artists and their diverse works speak volume about the Nigerian identity in visual form.

Thought Pyramid is one of the few galleries holding the forte in a credible manner in Abuja. It is named after the iconic postulations of one of Nigeria’s political giants, Mallam Aminu Kano whose composite image in the country’s socio-political consciousness, “his unblinking patriotism, his positive iconoclacism, his enlightenment and fervent desire for a strong, united and prosperous nation, through ventilation of progressive and execution of ideals for a respectable visibility in the comity of nations”, are reminiscent of his unequalled legacies.

According to Ajueshi, “At the Thought Pyramid Art Gallery, these qualities and aspirations (for the nation) are shared with the late great patriot”. As a gallery in the promotion of visual arts and culture and the inalienable magic mirror of the sector, the Thought Pyramid goes further to serve as a public space for the singular vision and creativity of thinking heads that create the arts.

As an art centre with untainted world class consciousness, it tells the stories through research, documentation and publication, while, in practical terms, promoting art through exhibitions and providing marketing opportunities within a space conducive for art collectors to comfortably view and acquire rare art works from the nation’s capital city.

All efforts are geared towards the promotion of Nigerian art and culture and one hereby hopes that as Nigeria prepares for her 50th independence anniversary, all these aspirations and operations will, on the long run, rub off on Generational Statement as an avenue to positively project Nigeria’s image in visual representation to the world at large.