By Tajudeen Sowole
If the recent activities of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA. Rivers State Chapter) is something to watch keenly, Lagos as the only art hub in Nigeria could be challenged. The Diseye Tantua-led executive seemed to have expressed this much during the 2015 edition of the chapter’s yearly art exhibition titled New Frames, held at Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The exhibition, which was tracked via the Internet featured 60 artists who had on display works that cut across medium such as drawings, paintings, mixed media, sculptures, textiles, photography, graphics, printmaking, fabric/fashion, installation and video art.
Tantua described the coming together of the artists as a demonstration that the Rivers State Chapter of SNA
“has risen to an unconventional height of ingenuity and display of creativity.”
SNA, Rivers State Chapter, in recent times, has also been organising Lecture Series. More importantly, what the chairman SNA (Rivers State Chapter), Tantua described as the group’s “unified organisation” also used the event to celebrate “its existence and continuity,” as well as celebrating Nigeria at 55, “to showcase the relevance of art in nation building.”
Among exhibited artists are Tantua, Ilesami Micheal, Uloma Asiegbu, Ekeoma Peterkingsly, Millicent Okocha, Benjamin Ejiohuo, Obiora Anamalez, Timinadi Clifford, Sweet Maduike Sam, Tonye Pollyn and Charity Ide. Also exhibited were Nnana Micheal, Abiodun Oladele, Ifediora Eeneka, Ogakwu Chinedu, Brown Dodd, Jacqueline Suowari, Osuene Okemute and Woko joy, among others.
Tantua recalled that after the assumption of office as chairman SNA, he immediately commenced work, particularly ensuring that new members and students of the chapter get the “needed guidance and direction,” as benefits of being a member of the professional body. To achieve his goals for the association, Tantua said he impolred the mass media, particularly, digital areas. “My team of executives and some committed SNA members tapped into social media and created a WhatsApp and Facebook group pages for SNA Rivers Chapter, which aided the dissemination of information amongst members,” Tantua stated during the opening of the exhibition.
He also explained the intention behind the idea of the Lecture Series, which he said was to create awareness about the value of visual arts. “Not long after, I started a ‘Lecture Series’; getting seasoned professional artists, professors, lecturers and teachers, give talks on art related topics, and hoping to energise and motivate members and also to create public awareness of the positive values of art in Rivers State.”
Resource persons at the Lecture Series included Tobenna Okwuosa who spoke on Contemporary Nigerian Art; the gallery space, strategies and participation’, August 2014; Oliver Enwonwu, SNA Rebranding’, September 2014; Chriss Aghana, The Art of Photography., November 2014; Sam Dede, Black African Heritage, July, 2015; Segun Aiyesan, Planning a Successful Exhibition', June 2015; and Olu Ajayi, The Business of Being an Artist, September 2015. Guest speakers at the events included Professor E.J. Alagoa (Emeritus), who has been the SNA Patron for years and Frank Ugiomoh, an outstanding Professor of Art History who has always supported SNA Rivers.
In an environment such as Port Harcourt where art patrons are rare to come by, Tantua used the occasion of the event to appreciate supporters of art. “Mr & Mrs Osa Cookey, avid art enthusiasts and collectors, provided the organisation a temporary accommodation for meetings in the heart of the government reserved area of the state, opposite the Polo Club.” He noted that the gesture of the couple “brought about a big change to the association and triggered a 'Cafe and Art Gallery' soon to opened.”
Still on the Lecture Series, the chairman argued that the executive of the chapter has brough in some level standard. “In line with modern techniques and approaches in delivering public lectures all members were involved in the acquisition of branded
Chairs, tables, projector/ stand etc through donations.”
He assured that, the lectures have come to stay in the art calendar of Port Harcourt. “More lectures organised by the association are coming up after our Art Competition for primary and tertiary institutions in the state.”