Sunday 8 September 2013

'Experience Osogbo Art Fair'… Projecting culture with foreign partnership

By Tajudeen Sowole
 From being a yearly art show in Lagos, Experience Nigeria has added more flavour to the just-ended Osun Osogbo Festival in Osun State.

Organised by Oladele Olaopa-led African Arts Resource Centre (AARC), the show made its outside Lagos debut at the festival, as Experience Osogbo Art FairOver 75 works from 15 artists showed at the exhibition hall of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU).

Shortly after returning from Osogbo, Olaopa, who spoke to The Guardian, said Experience Osogbo Art Fair was conceived to bring art shows back into the festival, saying it was in collaboration with Osun State Government with the hope that it would continue the arts and culture identity, which Osogbo has been known for these past decades.

He recalled that Ulli Beier and Susanne Wenger’s effort in promoting the art of the people has greatly contributed to the creative development of the country. But with Experience Osogbo Art Fair, “we are taking it up by organising a yearly show.” Specifically, the exhibition, he stressed was designed “to promote the native artists in Osun State”.

Artists whose works were shown included Sunday Osevwe, Kayode Adewumi, Lanre Ayuba, Sangorinu Adewale, Akangbe Ogun, Iyiola Kazeem, Adeyinka Fabayo, Olaitan Bolarinwa, Rotimi Togbe, Adewale Oloruntogbe, Femi Johnson, Ademola Onibonokuta. The Experience Nigeria art competition and exhibition, which moves to Abuja in November 2013 has been supporting young artists since 1991.
Executive Governor, State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (middle) Mr Oladele Olaopa of AARC (right) and Dr Charles Akinola of OERP with the Susanne Wenger Award for Excellence in Art 
Though the Experience Osogbo Art Fair is not exactly in the art competition format, the event, however, produced a prize for ‘the best exhibiting artist courtesy of the state government’.
Tagged Susanne Wenger Award for Excellence in Art, the N50, 000 prize was given to Adewale Oloruntogbe by the governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.

Impressed by what he described as the new look of the festival, Olaopa noted that there was a trade mission perspective to the event, which created opportunity for participants to meet their foreign counterparts.

Meeting visitors from abroad during the event, he disclosed, has led to a proposed collaboration. “We met some visitors from the US, who have shown interest to collaborate with us for next year’s event”. The partnership, which is expected to have “10 American artists showing with Nigerians here”, Olaopa hoped, “will help build entrepreneurship into the career of the new generation of Osogbo artists”.

 While recalling that the first generation of Osogbo artists who had ‘experimental art workshops’ under Beier and Wenger over 40 years ago, he said the workshop has left a legacy reverberating across the art scene at home and in the Diaspora.

Rufus Ogundele, Muraina Oyelami,Yinka Adeyemi, Ademola Onibonokuta,Adebisi Fabunmi, Tijani Mayakiri and Alake Buraimoh were the first set of participants at the historic workshop with Beier and Wenger.

Perhaps what distinguished this workshop from others was the fact that the participants had freedom to express their creativity with little or no confinement in formal setting. “The workshop basically encouraged them to awaken their hidden creative instincts,” he said.

Also, artists such as Twins Seven-Seven, Taiwo Olaniyi, Muraina Oyelami, Adebisi Fabunmiand Jimoh Buraimoh joined the workshops. However, Olopa noted, “the wonderful legacy survives in the works of a new generation of Osogbo artists some of who participated in the first Experience Osogbo Arts Fair. 

Meanwhile, AARC’s effort to make the Abuja debut with Experience Nigeria is still ongoing. For its 2013 edition tagged Splashes of Nigeria… Shades of things To Come, the organisers’ decision to move it from Lagos where it has held since 1991 may just be the change required to get broader attention.

Scheduled to hold in November at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the event, according to Olaopa, is taking off now so interested artists can submit their works early enough for the jury.

Thematically, the 2013 edition is geared towards “encouraging optimism among Nigerians”. He noted that at this period of Nigeria’s economic and political challenges, art should be used to make a difference by continuing to play the role of a medium “for social changes and understanding between government and the people.”

An estimated 100 entries of works are expected for the competition, but only three, he said, would be given prizes during the grand finale at Transcorp Hilton. The top prizes are N100, 000 for first; N250, 000 for second and N150, 000 for third place winners. However, the prizes are not restricted to the top three. The next three winners also get N50, 000 each.  

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