Sunday 15 January 2017

Celebrating Five Decades of Osogbo Art Movement

By Tajudeen Sowole

As deeply academic as art, to a large extent, is currently in Nigeria, the revered spot of informal contribution cannot be discounted. Among such revered non-academic space in the practice of art is what the creative sector's vocabulary is regarded Osogbo school of art.

Chief Muraina Oyelami, a first generation of Osogbo artists.
Five decades on, Osogbo art, which has produced quite an army of masters as well as excavated great native potentials in creative enterprise is rolling out the drums to celebrate a golden period. In the forefront of the 50 years of Osogbo Art Celebration are Chiefs Jimoh Buraimoh and Muraina Oyelami. Basically being celebrated with art exhibitions in two cities, the 50 years mark is sponsored and organised by Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU) Osogbo. The exhibitions start with
a preview tomorrow at CBCIU while the show continues the next day till January 23, 2017. After the preview, comes launching of the Journal CBClU in Osogbo on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.  The exhibition is further scheduled to continue on January 24, 2017 at Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Wuse ll, FCT, Abuja where it will be curated by Mr. Jeff Ajueshi, the Artistic Director of the centre.

 On receiving the informtion about 50 years of Osogbo art, the instant curiousity was: from which period is the five decades calculated? Mathematically, it suggests 1966/7. More curious, 1966 was the period that Osogbo artists were left on their own to fate, after the expatriates Uli Beier and Georgina concluded the workshops. From the texts of the 50 years celebration, 1966 seemed to have been declared as the official birth of Osogbo art movement.

  Recalling Beier's departing statement, the organisers of the anniversary disclosed that the German described the Art movement as an answer to the colonial contents of European art. And against prophecy of doom for the Osogbo artists, Beier assured:  'Early prediction that Osogbo artist would soon run out of steam after their European Mentors left Nigeria in December, 1966 looks particularly ridiculous.'

  And for those who chose to mark five decades of the movement, remembering cynics that Osogbo artists have come to stay is just one of many other factors that inspired the exhibitions. "It is not only this misconception that the Exhibition desires to invalidate, but it is essentially a celebration of an Artistic movement that has not only remained true to its cultural identity and essence."

  From the resilient textures of the first generation of Osogbo artists, whose works keep competing in contemporary space; to the activities of the second generation who benefited from Austrian expatriate, Suzanne Wenger; the Osogbo art as an icon in African art is no longer contentious. In fact, Wenger also known as Adunni Olorisa, in 2015 had a posthumous recognition to immortalise her work. A group, Adunni Olorisa Trust (AOT), set up to manage the legacy of the Austrian mentor and the Sacred Grove Artists launched a campaign 'Save Our Art! Save Our Heritage!', in Lagos.

  Contents of the exhibition marking the fifty years anniversary include paintings, sculptures, beads, and textiles as well as

other works depicting native Yoruba deities and festival motifs.

Also included are what the organisers described as contents that recognised the inputs of Wenger. And that of Georgina Beier, who "did not deliberately start an arts school or movement," but engaged  youths from  "Duro Ladipo Theatre to do some art works during the long hours between play rehearsals."

Meeting of elders by Jimoh Buraimoh
 Irrespective of the misunderstanding of what the foreign couples were aimed at, the value of their legacy is no doubt enduring. "What should be highlighted now are some of

the distinctive features of the experiment, whose features constitute the reasons why CBCIU Osogbo, plans to celebrate the contributions of the Osogbo School of Art to the global Art community."

  Indeed, the CBCIU has every reason to celebrate the Osogbo art movement. Part of the core contents that inspired the ancient town as preferred choice place to establish the facility is the revered recognition of Osogbo art across the world.

 Listed among the highlights of the 50 years anniversary are: "Although there were already contemporary artists trained according to modern (western) art techniques and perspectives in Nigeria, the Oshogbo experiment was the first to have succeeded in encouraging a contemporary modern art that would build on and continue the indigenous art traditions; the artists themselves were by and large young men with only rudimentary formal western- style education, after which they became artisans, petrol station

attendants or, in the famous case of twins, a dancer for itinerant medicine peddlers; and easily, the achievement of Georgina and Ulli showed the ability to turn the underprivileged and disadvantaged status of these young men into great assets:

no certificates were required of them to join in the experiment."

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