Friday 26 July 2013

‘For technological advancement, children art is fundamental’

By Tajudeen Sowole
The solution to Nigeria’s lack of technological advancement may remain elusive unless creativity is built into the formal and informal upbringing of the young ones via art, a lecture forum of First National Children Art Exhibition has argued.
Organised by the National Gallery of Art {NGA} at Cyprien Ekwensi Centre for Art and Culture, Garki, FCT, Abuja the lecture segment of the exhibition had a perfect choice of guest speaker in artist and architect, Prince Demas Nwoko, for a topic that, basically, links technological growth to the importance of children art education, formal or informal. 
Nwoko, 78, is a renowned artist and architect whose works, particularly in architecture are highly revered. In fact, his career, which started evolving as a trained fine artist and later architect, indeed, underscores the argument that technology cannot be built on the vacuum of art. 
During his lecture, Nwoko stressed that technology as a discipline cannot exist “without the knowledge of art”. He explained that if children are taken through art education at the elementary and secondary schools, their “aesthetic judgment” when they become professionals on the field of technology or any science related areas “will be more exact”.
  1. D-G, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo viewing works during the opening of the First National Children Art Exhibition in Abuja.
Ahead of Nwoko’s lecture, the Chairman Senate Committee on Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Senator Hammed Hassan Barata; the Minister, High Chief Edem Duke; Minister of Youth Development, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir; and host, the Director-General of NGA, Abdullahi Muku had stressed the importance of creativity in children for the future growth of the country.
Among the special guests were the newly appointed Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Mrs Sally Mbanefo; former classmate of Nwoko at the Nigeria College of Art, Science and Technology {NCAST, now Ahmadu Bello University, ABU}, artist, Jimoh Akolo; and foremost Nigerian art historian, Prof Ola Olaoidi of University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Noting that technological development “is dependent upon full engagement of the Arts”, Barata, who was the chairman of the event assured the gathering that the National Assembly will continue to give the NGA necessary support. “This would be better achieved through forums like this where the nation’s children are encouraged to discover their talents at young age”.
Duke also agreed that the future of Nigeria’s technological development lies in the creative contents of raising today’s children. “Today’s child art is the assurance of the virility of tomorrow’s creative industry”. He however acknowledged that “Nwoko’s vibrancy, both as a scholar and artist will aid” stronger understanding of raising creative children to become adults that will excel in whatever chosen field in the future.
Abdulkadir stated that the event was a “huge investment for the future of Nigeria”, capable of providing “a springboard for reawakening culture”.
For Muku, the art exhibition and lecture came as an icing on the cake of several children and youth related creative gatherings organised by NGA across the country, regularly. The  programmes, he said are aimed at promoting creativity and patriotism among children  He listed such programmes as Saturday Art Club, Annual National Children’s Day Art Competition/Exhibition series held  at 23 outstations of NGA across the country as well as National Visual Arts Competition for Children

On the theme of the lecture, Our Future Lies in Children Art, Muku argued that bringing a Nwoko, an artist whose career bridges art and technology to speak on the subject offers a broader perspective through the guest speaker’s experience. “His well of knowledge is deep” enough to offer the intellectualism “we are bound to benefit from”.

The guest lecturer, Prince Demas Nwoko.

After delivering their speeches to a packed -hall of adults and of selected students from primary and secondary schools in Abuja, Nwoko’s much-awaited presentation had to wait a little longer as Duke led guests out of the hall to the opening ceremony of the art exhibition. On display were works of young artists, which, according to Muku have been selected from across the country via the various children art events organised by NGA.
Although Nwoko’s lecture was eventually delivered to an estimated half of the audience that started the event – excluding Duke, Abdulkadir, Barata and Mbanefo - the argument about making children go through art at formative formal and informal education levels as a springboard for the future advancement of a nation was more explicit. Read by Helen Uhunmwagho as the author sat beside the podium, Nwoko’s paper asked a very salient question and suggested an answer. “How can we achieve technological development through art?
He started by defining technology as the process of making things “through the practice of craftsmanship to interpret design”. Nwoko noted that at the early age, children are “armed with the keen awareness of their immediate environment. He therefore noted that with the early formal education being given to a child in the contemporary world, “children art is the only viable avenue for developing the aesthetic senses and craftsmanship of the child fully”. He explained how the early formative stage of the child’s art inclination has a link to proper understanding of the environment. “The art is a means of measuring how developed the children have become in their understanding ability to the world around them and participate effectively in its development and management”.

And as creating art is about image and picture, Nwoko stressed that “drawings and colour codes are essential tools of science and technology”.
As an architect whose works are renowned for their native African contents, Nwoko warned that a people’s quest for science and technological self-reliance is incomplete without digging into their identity. He argued that the advanced countries have succeeded in creating enviable images that reflect their own identity and culture, from which they make “products that can compete in the global market place where you are required to present your own copyrighted products”.
And as Nwoko tasked the designer of Nigeria’s elementary education on the importance of art education he concluded his presentation by warning that “if the current state of art education continues, we are not going to reach the promised land of technological development by our projected year of 2020”. 
Indeed, art education at the elementary level must have been denigrated such that the “best” of art teachers do not think they should practise outside the tertiary institutions. This much, a member of the audience noted – during the interactive session of the lecture - and lamented that such system leaves children art in the hands of inexperienced teachers. Professors in art, he argued, should not exclude primary and secondary schools in their choice of places of work if truly, child art is fundamental to development of the larger society.
It is also of note that in the last one decade or more, a section of art teachers in the tertiary institutions across the country have expressed fear over the quality of students enrolling to study art as well as the declining numerical strength of enrolment. The issue was also revisited by by the chairman of the lecture, Dr ken Okoli of Department of Fine Art, ABU. “Enrolment in art schools is dropping” Okoli stated.

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