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Government, wealthy Nigerians need to support art workshops, extra-tertiary institutions – Onobrakpeya ….showcases decades of artwork at Art Twenty One

If art workshops and extra-tertiary art institutions are given the necessary support by both the government and philanthropic Nigerians, a lot of Nigerian artists, especially those in the rural communities will be able to get some form of training, according to a Nigerian printmaker, painter and sculptor, Bruce Onobrakpeya.

The impact of such support, according to Onobrakpeya, will not only lead to increasing foreign earnings as a lot of Nigerian artists are now exporting their craft abroad, but will also give many unemployed youths a source of livelihood.

“The government has set up universities, college of education and college of technology and so they are doing a lot in training artists but the individuals who have money in the country should support extra-tertiary art institutions to grow,” Onobrakpeya said at the Façade art exhibition by Art Twenty One.

While the government is focusing on other areas of the institutions, Onobrakpeya said they should also make provision for allocation, “to fund art workshops” as they are very important in grooming artist, “especially those in the rural communities, who do not have opportunity to attend the colleges and extra-tertiary institutions. By doing this art can touch the grassroots and provide them with a livelihood.”

The 88-year-old artist who has had some of his artwork exhibited in different museums and galleries around the world- Tate Modern in London, the National Museum of African Art of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and Sweden told BusinessDay at the Art Twenty One gallery at Eko Hotel that Nigerian government needs to do a lot more to improve the condition of the art industry.

According to Art Twenty One, the reason for the solo exhibition of Onobrakpeya’s artworks was born out of the desire to re-examine the concept of painting as it concerns African art and thus, informed the body of works that was displaced in the exhibition.

The title of the show-Façade references the flawed notion shared by a majority of the public that there are limits to what a painting is, according to Sunshine Alaibe, Artist and Client relations at Art Twenty One.

“The exhibition is called façade, an exhibition of paintings by Bruce Onobrakpeya. The exhibition is a collection of his work spanning from the 60s till today and it showcases his experiences; things that he has seen, things that he has dreamed and things that he wants to communicate to the audience,” Alaibe said.

Despite being formally trained and with a degree in Painting obtained from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (now Ahmadu Bello University) Zaria, Onobrakpeya has carved a niche for himself as a Printmaker per excellence, having developed the style with innovations and new inventions.

He has also included in his portfolio, other techniques including drawings, assemblages and digital art. As such, over the years, his exhibitions have comprised a melange of prints (linocuts, metal etchings, serigraphs etc), sculptures and paintings.

“I have been working for over 60 years and it was time to let at least examine what I have been doing; bring out the work and let people see and draw ideas from my creativity over the years,” Onobrakpeya said.

Speaking on Nigeria’s contemporary art industry, Onobrakpeya said art has evolved in Nigeria as a lot of Nigerians now appreciate and respect art and the “value of art to the society is now quite apparent.”

According to him, an artist is now someone whose contribution to the economy is recognized. “When we came in, art was not so well respected but now, art is something that has gain recognition. We must praise the first set of leaders in Nigeria who instituted the art schools that trained some of us.”

Advising young artist in Nigeria, he said they should be patient in breaking even. “They should first and foremost look at art in connection with the beauty and once they can do that very well, the naira will come.”

On how the exhibition of his artwork will motivate and impact the Nigerian art industry, guest curator Kennii Ekundayo said: “Onobrakpeya is an institution on his own, he is been around for years and this exhibition is another opportunity for him to reach out to emerging artist once again.”

Speaking on the challenges facing the contemporary art industry in Nigeria, Ekundayo said there is not enough support for the industry.

“As he had mentioned, there is not a lot of support and that is why it is easy for our younger artists to be sold to the international art community. I think it would be important to have an even more enabling environment for these artists so that they are not easily cajoled,” he said.

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