Sunday, 27 November 2011

ATO ARINZE'S SCANDNAVIAN EXPERIENCE (2008)

Cultural exchange... Arinze shares Scandinavian experience
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published in 2008)
THE recently held Europe trip of the Craft Potters Association of Nigeria (CPAN) must have taught members of the contingent a lesson about having a focused group of professionals who share common interest.
  One of the artists, Ato Arinze, while sharing his experience shortly after returning from the tour noted that it is hard for any artist to survive in Sweden without belonging to a group of gallerists.
  Six members of CPAN left Nigeria to the Scandinavia last August on a ceramic tour of Sweden and Norway, as part of the cultural exchange between the three countries. Under the theme, Clay Without Borders, other artists include Fatimah Bello and Nwokike Josephine. Four male potters Ogbonna Dennis, Owolabi Olusanya and Ayoola Ibukunoluwa.
Ato Arinze with some of his works



  It would be recalled that in November 2007, eight Scandinavian potters visited Nigeria in the first part of the cultural exchange. The visiting artists from Norway are Tulla Elieson, Sidsel Hanum
Anne Line Sund and Gunilla Maria Akesson, while Asa Jacobson, Margon Lindberg, Elisabet Svensson and Inger Sodergren are from Sweden.
  In Sweden, there is a group of co-operative consisting of artists and gallery operators that controls the art gallery scene, Arinze noted. The activities of the group, he explained make it easier for the artists and the gallery owners to forge a common front.
  He stressed that the galleries are categorised based on their diverse specialised areas. One of such galleries where the Nigerian group exhibited, Arinze said is called Burkina Faso Gallery, and had African art as its focus.
  "As part of the exchange programme, we had two shows in Sweden. One at one of the specialised galleries, Burkina Faso Gallery, which is for African art, while the other show was held at Blas and Knada Gallery which specialises on works of glass and clay."
  According to the artist, the Nigerian potters engaged their Scandinavian counterparts in a five-week ceramic activities which included exhibitions, seminars and workshops as well as visit to interesting places during the tour.
  For an artist to be well grounded in creativity, there is a structure from the secondary school level that helps aspiring artists to be better professionals, Arinze said. "In Sweden, there are vocational schools made compulsory for every secondary school leavers. It's a two-year programme that allows a student to decide a choice of career, before going into the university." He  advised that such a structure is worthy of emulation if Nigeria must attain its goal of an industrial giant in 2020.
  Earlier before their departure, the Nigerian contingent assured that the cultural exchange would go a long way in promoting Nigerian pottery and open the minds of CPAN members to new culture their immediate environment.
  Three academic and three full time studio members were among the Nigerian potters on the tour. The exchange was sponsored by the Swedish Institute in conjunction with Konstansverkscentrum K.H.V.C and the Norwegian Association of Arts and Crafts funded by the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  The members will share ideas and techniques in the common profession of ceramics.
   Established in 1996, CPAN is an umbrella body for all potters in Nigeria with the primary aim of improving on the basic needs of its members. The necessity of the group, the members said arose from the fact that Nigerian potters are handicapped in terms of the availability of the much-needed raw materials with which to function effectively. 
Ato Arinze's works

   Using the period of the exchange to explain the focus of the group, members noted that there are no processing industries that produce such materials as glaze, prepared clay, machinery and tools e t c. As a result, individual potter has to provide their need with the necessary inputs from clay to glaze materials, they explained.
   Ultimately, the association, according to the group is to set up a national resource centre where potters can acquire tools and basic materials, and also an avenue for practical training, they said.

"We have also tried to encourage specialisation in the different sectors of ceramics such as tools and material production by individuals and established potteries. The resource centre will also provide a library and a conference hall. The land for this venture has been acquired in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria and will be developed in due course.
"The invitation of potters from other countries to participate in our activities is another angle to our quest to develop and share knowledge with our counterparts on the international level. With this dimension, we will be able to keep abreast with happenings and developments globally."

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