Echoes of the first Ilorin art exhibition

By Adeleke Gbenga

If history of the visual Art exhibition is to be written including roles played by some states of the federation in the promotion of Art exhibition, especially African Arts, Kwara state will definitely not be counted. States like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Niger, Kaduna, Oyo, Osun etc will surely be prominent among these states.
This is because these states like Oyo, Osun and Niger for example are not only parts of Nigeria where little vestiges of African Arts could still be found inspite of damages inflicted on the traditional African setting by foreigners but are also parts of Nigeria where the revival of African Arts and culture are gradually being promoted.
Oyo and Osun are frontline states in these endeavours while Niger state despite its Islamic religion still tightly holds on to some of its pre-Islamic African Arts and culture. For Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, it is hardly surprised that Art festivals are very popular in these states. This is due to their cosmopolitan nature. But for Kwara state, it was as if African Arts never existed in this part of Nigeria before the invasion and ravages of foreign religion, Islam.
There was even an attempt by the Kwara state University in conjunction with the Emirate to establish an Islamic Museum which will be adorned with Islamic visual Arts thereby promoting Arab culture in Ilorin. This is an indication of the terrible fate African Arts have suffered in the hands of Africans.
However, the Society of Nigerian Artists appeared to be determined to re-write the history of African Arts i.e visual Arts in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital. For the first time, it opened a gallery for the visual Art exhibition in Ilorin last week.
To celebrate the Nigerian centenary which Jonathan administration is mobilizing Nigerians for, the society of Nigerian Artists deemed it fit to organize an art exhibition dubbed the centenary exhibition which was staged from the 11th of December to the 21st.
To show the non-chalant attitudes and ignorance of Nigerians in this part of the federation to African Arts, only few Art aficionados honoured the invitation sent to many for this programme. However school students filled the art gallery of the Kwara state Art Council at Gerri Alimi, Ilorin.
An opening of the visual art gallery for exhibition was part of the programme for the day. Among those who presented papers was Dr.(Mrs.) Areo Mojisola whose paper was titled “Art in nation building: A heritage that must not die”. She is a lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Oyo State.
The other presenter was Mrs. Akinwumi J.O, head, the Ilorin Liaison office, Nigerian copyright commission. The title of her paper was “Artists and copyright law”.
The president of the society of Nigerian Artists, Dr. Ebigbagha S.Z, lecturer at Niger Delta University, Bayelsa in his opening remarks said the Society of Nigerian Artists decided to celebrate the centenary with Nigeria, with art exhibition in order sensitize the society about positive role of art in development.
He lamented that Nigeria is still in this state of underdevelopment simply because of the marginal role assigned to art in the nation’s development. “We are consuming nation which is a reflection of the poor state of our productive sector. Any nation that consumes and does not produce can not develop. This is the lot of Nigeria as a nation and it is a reflection of the fact that we have neglected art in Nigeria.
“Art is capable of stimulating production because art is about creativity, especially the material aspect of the art. Therefore if we have given a deserved role to art in the nation’s productive sector, Nigeria would have been a productive nation. All this shows that we do not have culture of production.
“We as a nation consume what other nations produced. This is attributable to the role arts of these foreign nations play in affecting our psyche, our way of thinking and our perception. We are gradually being recolonised through the arts and technologies of these developed nations. This is more so in the present age of globalization.
“We have unfortunately lost most our heritage simply because we have lost our arts and culture. To stimulate our productive sector and awaken our development potentials, we need art.
“Now that it appears  everything is down in Nigeria, the Society of Nigerian Artists is using this opportunity to re-orientate our younger ones to develop interest in arts” he says.
For Dr.(Mrs) Mojisola Areo whose paper was titled “Art in nation-building. A heritage that must not die” she revealed in her presentation that the reverse is the case contrary to general belief that science and technology take precedence over art.
She stressed that art is so important in life that virtually in all aspects of human life, art can hardly be left out. As far as she was concerned, art is life and life is art.
Lamenting on the poor state of African arts in Nigeria, she observes “we live in a country that even though, it is celebrating its centenary, it seems to be sinking in terms of development of its science and technology.
“Daily we are bombarded by leaders at various levels expressing good intentions, wishing and struggling to move the country forward. But inspite of all their efforts, the country seem stagnant or at best going n circles. Why? The season is very simple. An indispensable aspect and bedrock for the development of the so much desired science and technology is being neglected. That is art”.
For the second paper presented by Mrs. J.O. Akinwumi, the Liaison officer for the Nigerian Copyright Commission, whose paper was titled “Artists and copyright Law” she harped so much on the importance of intellectual property protection.
She stressed that the protection of copyright which is an arm of intellectual property is a collective social responsibility. “We all have a duty to ensure that the rights of creative geniuses are not violated. There is no doubt that copyright is playing a more important and prominent role in global affairs than was case previously.
“The increasing reliance on innovations in the field of communications and information technology and higher contribution of the copyright industry in the nation’s GDP which are all products of creativity, underscores this new relevance. It is therefore not out of place to state that for a nation to make any meaningful impact or progress in the world today, it must have in place a sound intellectual property policy and regulation” she stresses.
Kwara State Art council troupe entertained the audience with cultural dances twice on the stage to drive home the significance of the African arts and culture.
The highlight of the programme was a formal opening of a gallery upstairs for an exhibition. This was done by elder Ajayi Osuolale, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development, Culture and Tourism, Kwara state.
Before he formally opened the gallery for exhibition, he charged Dr. Areo Mojisola to look into the possibility of exploring role the indigenous languages could play in recovery back the African Arts. He equally challenged school students who were present not to loss hope because of the present condition of Nigeria, adding that they should take advantage of the availability of visual arts to acquire one skill or the other.
He said in the pre colonial indigenous African society, there was nothing like unemployment as being witnessed today. He also said through visual art, their creativity could be developed and enhanced for productivity which is what Nigeria presently needs.

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