Saturday 13 September 2014

For Azeez at 50, basic art knowledge wins transformational agenda debate

By Tajudeen Sowole
It was a celebration of art and academic activism recently when friends, admirers and colleagues of artist, Dr Ademola Azeez converged during one of the events scheduled for his 50th birthday.

Dr Ademola Azeez
Organised by Culture and Creative Art Forum (CCAF) at the Science Complex Hall, Federal College of Education (Technical), (FCET) Akoka, Lagos, it was a celebration via symposium themed Art Education and the Imperatives of Transformational Development in Nigeria.  
  Sub-consciously the theme, perhaps, added to the recent and common usage of "transformational" by a section of Nigerian social and political groups perceived to be loyal to president Goodluck Jonathan. But the seemingly political tone of the theme disappeared when the two guest speakers at the event, Dr. Rod Adoh Emi at the Department of Creative Arts, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State and Dr. Kunle Adeyemi, Department of Graphics, School of Art and Design, Yaba College of Technology, Yaba Lagos delivered their lectures.

Chaired by prolific painter, Kolade Oshinowo the gathering stressed Azeez’s passion for the role of creativity in national development. Azeez, who is the Chief Lecturer at FCET, Akoka, is also a founding Secretary of CCAF. Shortly before the lectures, Dr. Kunle Filani, the President of the CCAF reminded the gathering that the group has "honoured seven people in the arts and culture sector." Stressing the activist in Azeez, Filani described the celebrant as a one-man rioter "who could go to any length to confront tough situations." For Azeez's status in the art and culture space of Nigeria, marking his 50th birthday could have been more elaborate, Filani argued. "Azeez has passion that translates into efficiency." But the celebrant, according to Filani, "wanted a low-key event as a mark of respect for the death of his friend, Bamidele Aturu." A civil right lawyer, Aturu passed away in July, 2014.

Adoh Emi started his presentation noting that art "is a generic term" as well as a "process." He traced the transformational agenda of the federal government to a 2009 gathering of world leaders where developing countries were the focus. He argued that art, in Nigeria, has proven that it can create wealth through employment opportunity. Adoh Emi however highlighted areas of impediment such as weak "basic art education" at the rudiment as well as higher educational levels. He therefore recommended that art education is as essential as English and Mathematics.
 Adeyemi’s presentation agreed with Adoh Emi: "art education is key to transformation." He stressed that art education enhances development "across the board irrespective of profession." But the teacher as a fountain in basic art knowledge, Adeyemi argued, is too crucial. "The art teacher is a catalyst in the development of any nation."

A section of the audience responded to the two  guest lecturers by blaming lack of updating schools’ curriculum as well as review of the academic structure for the decline in art education.
 Reflecting on his 50th, birthday, Azeez, during a separate chat briefly revisited his sojourn as artist and art educationist. "I thank God for everything; coming this far as an artist.". Azeex's professional stride, particularly in the area of insisting that things should be done right within the academic environment may not be exactly clear to those outside the ivory tower. But within the mainstream art space, he has proven to be a fighter against mal-administration and poor management of artists' affair. For example, he had, severally, confronted the leadership of the National Gallery of Art (NGA) and Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) on issues about development of art in Nigeria.

Azeez and his family shortly after the Symposium
And beyond 50 years, activism for Azeez may take another form, perhaps heeding to the Yoruba warning that 'ti a ba nd’agba, a nye ogun ja' (as man crosses into elders' age, jaw-jaw takes over from war-war.) “There is still so much to be done in the coming years and decades, In Sha Allah," Azeez assured. But the medium and focus, he disclosed, will change. "I hope to engage my subjects through more of seminar, workshops and symposium." 
 Shortly before Kehinde Adepegba read a citation of the celebrant, a representative of the college, Dr Jumoke Ekioluwa, Deputy Provost, FCET, Akoka described Azeez as "a highly cerebral person."

Within the academia, Azeez has been stressing his passion for a broadened art school system that complies with contemporary challenges. For example, three years ago, he led a conference themed Energy, Information Technology and Vocational Education, which was organised within the FCET. Quite a gathering, it was the sixth Biennale International Conference of the school. Presentations that enriched the conference included that of  Frank Ugiomoh's Towards an ICT Driven Vocational Entrepreneurial Education and the Challenges of Vocational Education in Nigeria. Other sub themes included: Culture And Creativity In A Dynamic Nation; Employment Opportunities Through Fine And Applied Arts Education; Energy In Creativity, Style And Fashion; ICT And Pedagogy In Vocational – Technical Education; Governance, Power Sector And Future Of Vocational Education In Nigeria; ICT And Food Security; and Information Tech., Employment Opportunities Through Home Economics Education.

Azeez holds a Bachelor Degree in Visual Arts, Master degrees in Educational Administration, Master degree in Visual Arts History, and Ph.D in Visual Arts History.

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