Saturday 24 December 2011


Back from recluse, Ajiboye glows in The Art Family
By Tajudeen Sowole 
(First published,Tuesday, September 16, 2008)      
BEYOND the image of a vibrant cartoonist earned over several decades, one of the living masters of the canvas, Josy Ajiboye, is warming up for a group art exhibition.
 Ajiboye became a household name with the now moribund Daily Times newspaper as a popular signature on the weekly cartoon corner of Sunday Times known as Josy Ajiboye on Sunday.
   Expected to open at the Red Brick Building, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos on October 1 through 14, 2008, the show titled The Art Family, offers the public to see an artist whose prowess as a painter is as strong as his cartoonist image.
  And significantly, the show also presents a dynasty of artists courtesy of Ajiboye's effort. Joining the patriarch for the group exhibition organised by the NCAC are the wife, Adunni and their four children: Segun, Rotimi, Yemisi Osundina (married to artist, Kunle Osundina) and Aderonke. Thye all received their early tutelage in art under Ajiboye.
  The preview of the exhibition revealed that out of 55 exhibits, the father will be presenting about 25 works. This dominance, effectively, places the rest of the family as guest artists of the show. This, perhaps, explains why works of other exhibiting artists were not available for the preview. "No, that's not the reason," Ajiboye protested. The works, he said were not available because "they were still with the framers"
  Inside the NCAC building, venue of the preview, it is glaring that commonality exists between Ajiboye and his partner, the NCAC - both have been inactive in art exhibitions for a while. In fact, the NCAC art gallery, as at the time of the preview, was being renovated due to a near total breakdown of its infrastructures.
   NCAC must have thought that the new look of the building is better presented to the public with a big artist like Ajiboye.
But beyond that, the Public Relation Officer, NCAC, Zainab Zakari stated that the attraction is that "a man who has been able to use his art to make such a national impact deserves to be given attention."
  However, NCAC's interest, according to the Lagos Zonal Liason Officer, Chinwe Abara, is attributed to the fact that Ajiboye has sowed the seed of potentially bigger art family.
   It is common to hear of family of lawyers, medical doctors, accountants, engineers, but hardly of artists, Abara noted, saying that the exhibition, arguably, would be the first of its kind in the country.
  Aside the novelty of exhibiting a family of artists, Ajiboye's works, as seen during the preview explains an artist whose fluidity on oil and canvas remains as captivating as the impact made by his cartoons, back in the glorious days of the Daily Times titles.
  Ajiboye's art on the canvas, largely representational though, but would engage the mind of any viewer, intellectually.
One of the pieces, Greed, a photo finished of a cock captured in reflective action before a mirror, presents a scenario best described a behavioural pattern that cuts across all creatures.
 From wild life to domestic subjects, Ajiboye's work stresses the thin line between advancement in age and mastery of art.
  He explained what progression of the environment in which an artist works makes for better communication: "You look at the culture of a people, standard of their assimilation - from time to time - before arriving at a subject and style of painting."
He has no apology for being such a passionate naturalist, particularly wild life, as works like Gazelle and Treasure reveal.
An artist whose image of a cartoonist is looming over that of being a painter, disclosed that there is a misconception here because "painting is my first love."
From his childhood love for painting came the training of a donor programme, Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) and further training in Commercial Art at Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos, also with the support of SIM.
 With that background, perhaps there is no need for a search into the root of his prowess on canvas. Extensive training in drawing, he argued has no alternative in art, adding that most of his works are done through life sketching while the paintings are carried out later in the studio.
 "Nothing is a as good as life drawing. In art, every creature has anatomy, not just the human figure; birds, trees and every other thing under the sun that grows and dies. In art, you cannot improvise any of these anatomies, hence the need to be versatile in life drawing."
  And for those who think it is fashionable to be labeled abstract artist, Ajiboye argued that art goes beyond abstraction. "If all it takes to be an artist is to just put something onto the canvas; content and context, which only the artist understands, then people won't have the need to study art at higher education level; anybody can become an artist."
  Could that explain the absence of abstract works in the body of works to be exhibited? "No, I have abstract works, but one or two," he said.
 No doubt, drawing skill flows like stream in the family. Ajiboye-Osundina's tale of how she began her artistic career is a testimony.
The Obafemi Awolwo, ife, Osun State-trained artist recalled her experience as a five-year old girl: "I woke up around 5 p.m. in the evening after observing my siesta, saw daddy on his drawing table with his head placed on the drawing board. I picked my slate and chalk, moved outside to sit with Dad's studio apprentices.
I started a drawing of a house, noticed my brothers at a corner each doing their drawings too!
"Soon, mum came out with her big drawing board, sat among the trainees, putting them through.
 "Everybody around me was drawing, which made me concluded that all human beings possess the ability to draw. I never knew how wrong I was until I got to school, and my teacher went round showing to other teachers and pupils, the not too fantastic drawing of a cat I made!
 "Alas! They were all thrilled and trooped in to see 'the wonder girl' as I was referred to. Then, it suddenly dawned on me that only a few people possess the ability to draw!"
  In the art gallery business that is so unpredictable, coupled with Ajiboye's long absence and relatively known children and mother artists, the challenge ahead goes beyond the skills of the canvas, isn't it?
Segun and Rotimi were confidence of the public's acceptability of the group. 
  "It's been long awaited and I have high hopes that the public will be delighted to see what the art family has to offer," Segun said.
Rotimi added: "For the family, it's an epic moment we have been looking forward to. It feels great being among the exhibiting family of trained artists and especially with a father who is a notable contemporary Nigerian artist. I do know for sure that art loving public would not be disappointed after the show."
  However, the beauty of nature, scenery, its diverse inhabitants of human and other animals beckoning visitors to the show with equally diverse expressions on canvas could be the commonality in this family exhibition.
  Sub-consciously or not, Yemisi and Oluronke must have imbibed the passion of the father for nature on canvas.
 Yemisi who said that she works in diverse media, representing floral and nature mostly in watercolour, did not hide her "love for God and the works of His hands," just as Oluronke added that "the exhibits were done out of great passion for nature and the environment."
  Ajiboye had his first exhibition at the Gong Gallery, Lagos in 1977 and followed it up in 1979 with another one sponsored by the French Cultural Centre, but held at the French Embassy, among other shows.
  His last show was held at the Didi Musuem, Victoria Island, Lagos in 2002.


Rain of honour for The Art Family
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published Tuesday, October 07, 2008)
ACCOLADES for veteran artist, Josy Ajiboye, were loud at the opening of his family art exhibition on Independence Day.
 Held at the Red Brick Building, National Gallery of Crafts and Designs, National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos, the show, The Art Family, had dignitaries within and outside the art circle present to add colour and glitz to the occasion.
  Among the guests were His Majesty, Akran of Badagry, De Wheno Aholu-Menu Toyi I, Ambasador Segun Olusola, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, Prof. Yusuf Grillo, Kolade Oshinowo, Simi Ogunsanya, Dr. Kunle Filani and members of the diplomatic circle.
  With sponsorship from Fobat Group International, other members of the family that joined the patriarch for the group exhibition were the wife, Adunni and the four children; Segun, Rotimi, Yemisi Osundina (married to artist, Kunle Osundina) and Aderonke.
In his welcome address at the opening, the Executive Director, NCAC, Mr. Maidugu said Ajiboye was the choice of the government agency on the nation's 48th Independence Anniversary because the "Council considers him as one of the role models from whom our society could learn a lot from."
  Reading the address, his representative, the Lagos Zonal Liaison Officer, Chinwe Abara quoted Maidugu as noting that Ajiboye's over 40 years career in art has contributed tremendously to the cultural sector of the nation's economy. The exhibition, he added, was organised to honour him for what he described as the artist's exemplary efforts.
  His words: "In the national drive to accomplish our Millennium Development Goal, MDG, there is need to focus on those principles of commitment, dedication and family values which people like Josy Ajiboye symbolises. The Council would also like to use this occasion to implore private and corporate citizens to emulate the example of the Fobat Group International, Lagos, in supporting and providing needed patronage to the cultural sector of our economy."
  The Special Guest of Honour, Akran of Badagry described the gathering of artists as a very unique family and suggested that Ajiboye would make as much name as the Late renowned art genius, Picasso.
 For the chairman of the occasion, Chief Olusola, the event offered him an opportunity to inform those who did not know that Ajiboye's signature had a role to play in one of the nation's most celebrated TV show, The Village Headmaster.
 Calling him, "the arts man", Olusola, a member of the rested popular TV drama series recalled that Ajiboye did an artist's impression of the lead character, Headmaster in the publication of the original story in the 1970s. He showed the said publication and the artist's drawing of the character to guests.
 "Josy Ajiboye had rallied round us in the early days of the TV series-The Village headmaster and ended up donating the image of the Headmaster in the publication of the original story at the request of our publisher-printer Segun Sofowote".
 Olusola also used the occasion to inform the public that Ajiboye's art family would exhibit at the Ajibulu Moniya Gallery, Surulere, Lagos as part of activities to mark 50 years of TV in Africa next year.
   For the show, the genres of the exhibits were split among the family. While the mother had the exclusive on batik, the paintings and drawings were that of other artists.

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