Sunday, 27 May 2012

Benamaisia … From recluse to Colours of Nigeria


 BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
BEYOND the security challenges and recurring political tensions in the country, the artist, Israel Benamaisia, sees hope, which he describes as beauty of colours across Nigeria. He shares this optimism at a recent show titled, Colours of Nigeria, which held at the Arts Gallery, National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.
  Benamaisia says his participation in festivals and cultural activities across the country exposed these beauties to his palette. From Benin to the rest of Niger Delta, through the southeast, north and southwest, Benamaisia captures the beauty of dances and costumes at festivals and other cultural activities of Nigerian.
The artist Isreal Benamaisia (second on the left), Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, former Governor of Cross Rivers State, Donald Duke and the D-G, National gallery of Art (NGA) Abdullahi Muku during the opening of the exhibition
   For the Izon (South-South) and Ondo people among the Yourba, wedding appears to have won the artist’s attention, as he showcases the Izon Royal Wedding Procession as well as the Ondo Wedding ceremony.
   In the popular Arugungu Fishing Festival of Kebbi State, Benamaisia shows the excitement of such event in The Competitors.  
  The images — stylised representation and semi-abstract forms — expose an artist sandwiched by identity.
Fishermen's Stampede III, acrylic on canvas, by Isreal Benamaisia
  And when the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, led guests, which included the former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; former beauty queen, Nike Oshinowo-Soleye and Director-General of National Gallery of Art (NGA), Abdullahi Muku, round the show, the artist was just too reticent to offer explanation about the works. Insignificant abstract or stylised pieces, as he says, “are exactly what I wanted, at least for the purpose of what I am doing right now.”
  Whatever his mission, he appears to have surrendered conceptuality to the dictate of the viewing public or art connoisseurs. And has been argued, an artist naturally possesses the intellectual strength to dictate the direction of the public’s perception, even manipulates people’s choice of collection to fit his concept. Benamaisia is not short of such quality.
   Why was he reluctant? “I am not afraid of anything. As I said, for this show, the message has to be conveyed in the simplest form; and I think figurative painting does that.”
   Indeed, the artist has a depth of conceptuality in his vein, as seen in such works as Geometric Composition and Fishermen’s Stampede III, simply acrylic on canvas, no protruding surface.
 
Sisterly support from ex-TV girl Ruth Benamaisia (right)
HOWEVER, he appears so passionate about promoting the beauty and colours of his fatherland such that the opening, though had light attendance, was rich in class of people who either came to view or tagged some works.
  Specifically, his mission, he says “includes a rich destination for cultural and artistic tourism and investment, and also to rekindle and sustain interest in our cultural heritage aside from emphasising the significance of culture as a tool for building mutual understanding among different peoples.”  
   He projects that the works will serve as visual documentation of the people’s culture in view of the fact that they are fast going through adulteration, infiltration and outright adaption of foreign ideals and colouration.”
  Having been out of the show circuit for over a decade, Benamaisia’s return with Colour of Nigeria may just be the platform to reassert his creativity, as he introduces a more textured surface on his canvas with the Plaster of Paris (POP).
  In his CV, he listed, as part of his past shows, a permanent exhibition at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos (2006 to 2009) and the United States Information Service/Yaba College of Technology Print Exhibition and others.

   Also, some of his works can be viewed at the Federal Palace Hotel, Nigeria LNG Ltd., Ecobank, Cactus Restaurant and Chevron Nigeria Ltd.

Ere Oloba Dance (Ekiti State)

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