Sunday, 2 September 2012

Meet Wewe, Iroha... Olympic art gold medalists


BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
THEY were not in the sporting arena at the London 2012 Olympics, but they got gold medals representing Nigeria at the summer games. You wonder how?

Meet the Olympic art gold medalists — the painter Tola Wewe and photographer Uche James Iroha.

The artists were recognised at a show titled, Creative Cities Collection London 2012, which is said to have attracted over 500 artists from across the globe. It was organised by the Chinese government to drive the country’s tourism potential, using the summer games.

During a close encounter at the Watersworth Gallery, Lekki, Lagos, Wewe opened up on the Olympics show. “It was a lesson in how to promote art on the international stage,” he said.

Posing before the camera with his gold medal, Wewe noted that China, which is the new attraction in the world art market, is raising the stake by the day to coerce the kind of relevance it wants.

In the show’s catalogue, the Chinese government reveals the gathering  “is dedicated to acquiring and exhibiting contemporary art from around the world, encouraging the flourishing of artistic talent, creativity and dialogue across nations.” 
Tola Wewe, Olympic Art Gold medalist

FOR Iroha, one of his works from the Gele Series, a lighting rod at the Emeka Udemba, a Germany-based Nigerian artist curated Beyond Football-Shifting Interest and Identity held last year in Lagos.

The work, depicting a lady in Ibo-blouse and iro with gele, captured in a football pitch, though will pass for an outdoor ad, added a sporting flavour to the art content of the London gathering.

It would be recalled that when he showed the work in Lagos, he captured football enthusiasts in different forms, one of which promotes the Nigerian female fashion style.

On the London Olympics gathering, Iroha discovered the aggressive manner Chinese people are making best use of “opportunity to stamp their new found economic authority through cultural channels, especially within the Olympics framework.”
 On the quality of presentation at the Creative Cities Collections show, Iroha appeared not too impressed. “I have a few questions in terms of the quality of the general presentation of the works, which I felt was not as high as what you'd find any where in the world.”


WEWE, who got the a late information for entry to participate was only able to present one of his works in the possession of a friend outside Nigeria, argued, “Nigeria needs to learn from the Chinese efforts.”

Some of the works selected out of the 500 pieces on display, he said, would be displayed at a new museum of contemporary art being built in China.

“My work Truth, a 109 cm x 209,” he noted, “was among the pieces selected for the museum.”
And for being among those whose works were perhaps adjudged bests, “Iroha and I, as well as others, got gold medals each.” 
Uche James Iroha's Gele,  Olympic Art Gold winning work.
 He noted that the investment of China in this direction is not a jamboree, but a strategy aimed at making the country a tourist destination.

“In the future, the proposed museum of contemporary art would attract admirers of these artists. You never can tell, a Picasso, Vincent Van Gosh might emerge among some of us who exhibited,” he said.

Indeed, the opportunity of a global gathering such as the Olympics was not actually lost to the Nigerian government in promoting the creative sector of the economy given the Bank of Industry-led art and culture contingent to the London games. However, the focus of the Nigerian effort appeared different.

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