Monday, 19 October 2009
BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
IN a show involving 10 Nigerian artists and their counterparts from Cameroun, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin, Gabon and France, which began in Douala, Cameroun, last week, the vibrancy of Nigeria’s art scene was showcased. Titled The Last Pictures VI and curated by the Camerounian, Catherine Pittet, the show featured works from 46 artists from five countries. Tola Wewe, Abiodun Olaku, Alex Nwokolo, Duke Asidere, George Edozie, Wallace Ejoh, Patrick Agose, Babalola Lawanson, Bob Uwagdo and Josh Nmeshionye were the Nigerian artists whose works opened what has been described as a “world tour exhibition”. However, only three artists -- Nwokolo, Edozie and Lawason -- were said to be physically present at the first show held at Maison Du Parti, Douala. “Our works attracted the largest crowd, and outsold others at the event, ” Edozie declared on return from the trip. Such response for Nigerian art was expected: the strong position of the country’s art on the continent could be felt in the brochure as Agose’s bust, Devotion Time, is the only work on the cover of the brochure. Other works of the artist that represented the dynamics of the sculptural skills of Nigerian artists were Modest, Our Neighbour and relief piece, Festive Moment. The next stop of the show, according to the organisers, is the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. And it holds between November 19 and 23. The tour is scheduled to berth in France, after showing in about four other countries across the continent and Europe. With the rough surface moulding of Agose, classic realism and photo finish of Olaku, native and ancestral-centric art of Wewe, impressionistic look of Ejoh, design-like form of Nwokolo and Lawson; liberal and aggressive content of Edozie as well as cubic touch of Asidere, the strength of Nigerian art would be confirmed back home when the show stops over here. AND when Nwokolo, on return from the trip, disclosed that nearly all the works of Nigerian artists on display “were sold”, the look of the brochure and the numerical strength of these artists in the show must have been well thought out. An aerial view of the old Oshodi by Nwokolo as well as a similar view in another, Neighourhood, were worth the attention accorded the artist. On the criteria for selecting artists for the show, Pittet, who was in Nigeria last year for the project, made wider consultation and also, attended several shows held during her visit. ONE great surprise about the show is that it received several supports from Nigeria. Two of the leading sponsors are Civic Centre and Virgin Nigeria. Yet, a lot of artists at home are struggling to get corporate sponsorship for their shows. Brand names of about 16 sponsors from Africa and Europe were seen in the brochure of the exhibition. Perhaps Pittet was so organised to win many sponsors across the world “because the initiative was coming from a well focused individual” Olaku argued. Pittet said the series started in Cameroun in 2004 as one of the most important national artistic events of that country, adding, “it has gathered the most talented artists of the country and has been devoted to confirm and reveal talents from creative and innovative Africa in the last three years.” A Paris trained artist, Pittet, in 1989, opened her first shop La Petite Boutique in Bonapriso, Doaula, “where one could find various products of artisans, among other things.” She later set up Gondwana, an art space dedicated to Camerounian artists whom she had always worked with since the beginning of her enterprise. Gondwana, she explained, is a yearly African art show. Her dream is for the label to represent and promote exchanges and unity among African artists, home and the Diaspora.