|Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya being decorated with NNOM by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo|
Titled First Rhythm and opening on December 9, 2017 at The Resource Place, Ikeja, Lagos, the exhibition, which is VPAN's maiden group show, according to a member, Dr Kunle Adeyemi is to celebrate the master printmaker for being the recepient of the 2017 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM).
Onobrakpeya is a leadingmodernist in printmaking, whose work, particularly in the area of innovations, is well revered in both studio and academic spaces, within and outside Nigeria.
Onobrakpeya's acceptance speech:
I thank Your Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for awarding me the Nigerian National Order of Merit.
It is a great honour and a very high point in my career as an artist. This recognition will enhance the role of the arts in the development of our nation. It will also inspire other artists to create great art works that will do the country proud.
Going back two thousand years, Nigeria had created the timeless Nok Terra Cotta sculptures. These were followed by Ife, Benin, Igbo Ukwu, Esie, and other classical arts. Indeed, Nigeria was first introduced to the outside world through these art pieces. Then came the colonial era when indigenous artworks lost their significance. We are fortunately, now at a period of artistic renaissance. I use the opportunity provided by this award to ask Mr. President to help accelerate this upward swing. First we ask for the ratification of our cultural policy to empower the artists. We need good working spaces in terms of studios and artists’ villages. The artists will be happy to receive abandoned structures in Lagos, Abuja, and other parts of the country.
We urgently need infrastructures and set-ups for modern art museums and galleries where we can showcase our best pieces as well as prevent their loss to foreign collections.
Art museums and galleries are self-sustaining and our tourism will benefit very much from them.
In addition to what will make artistic production strong and add to national economic and social benefits, we request that our President put aside some funds for informal art education through workshops. The annual Harmattan Workshop which I started at Agbarha- Otor in Delta State about twenty years ago brings in young professional artists from across the country for hands-on workshops directed by experienced artists. Such workshops empower Nigerians to live on the artworks they create; they help to develop the areas they are situated in and bring friendship and peace among different ethnic groups who participate in them. The Federal Government should encourage individuals and corporations such as the NLNG to establish prizes for artists to spur young and experienced ones to reach greater heights.
Once more I thank Mr. President for the award which I promise to hold in trust for fellow artists, other individuals, groups and establishments, all of whom have worked very hard to elevate our art to have global recognition and sharpen the consciousness of fellow Nigerians to be proud of our culture.
With Jerome Elaiho as special guest of honour, the exhibition include Gallery Talk on Printmaking Art, which will be delivered by Dr Kunle Filani. Earlier scheduled for last October, the exhibition continues as a tour event with its next stop at Quintessence Gallery, Parkview Ikoyi, Lagos. Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, Ibadan, Benin and Agbarha Otor, Delta State, are some of the venues listed for the tour exhibition.
Perhaps, the largest gathering of print artists in quite a while, First Rhythm features works of others such as Prof Salubi Onakufe, Dr Adeyemi, Timipre Willis-Amah, Mike Omoighe, Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce, Moses Unokwa, Ojo Olaniyi, Bode Olaniran , Pius Emokpo, Inyang Effiong and Omon Sophia Igbinovia, among others.
At a preview, inside Ovuomaroro Gallery, Papa Ajao, Lagos. the curator of The exhibition, Moses Ohiomokhare stated that "Bruce's award is being celebrated by print artists today, though it took so long for Nigeria to recognise him at 85."
Adeyemi assured that honouring Onobrakpeya with the exhibition "is a new beginning for the visual arts and The Arts in general." He noted that the National award given to Onobrakpeya "is specialised one for merit in Humanity." He tracked Onobrakpeya's school years from Zaria days till date, and concluded that "Baba has been in the forefront of printmaking in Africa."
Printmaking had been popular, even long before Onobrakpeya chose the medium as his area of specialisation. But Adeyemi argued that Onobrakpeya has raised the art with his own inventions.
"A lot of us have benefited from his threshold," he added.
Mudiare Onobrakpeya, who represented his father at the preview argued that "the Nigerian printmaking is the most-developed in the world." In fact, he boasted that "printmaking is the Nigerian offering to the world." He advised that "the exhibition should go international."
Adeyemi agreed with Mudiare: "We have exported printmaking to the West via workshops." He supported his claim with Nigerian visual vocabulary introduced into printmaking lexicon. "For example, 'kitchen foil' is now called 'metal foil' in Nigerian vocabulary."
He also stressed the fact that an average collector can afford print as the process "is very democratic."
A juried exhibition, First Rhythm's participating artists were chosen based on what was described as "innovative efforts of each artist," as criteria. The same artists are showing at alll the listed venues.
Ohiomokhare's Curatorial Statement: "There is the desire to place printmaking more in the public eye to increas individual collections and that of permanent archives. There is also the desire to make a lasting impression in the promotion of new developments in printmaking. The printmaking techniques, the experimental and contemporary approach have become matters for public discussion.
It is a rare opportunity for the best of Nigerian Printmakers to gather under one roof to share practice, learn from each other and exhibit. This is the beginning of an adventure and Quintessence is happy to jump start this journey.
First Rhythm will feature many prints which have never been on public display before and many of the works convey a sense of community and have formed new narratives. They are demanding, and exciting methods that will invite questions from admirers of the techniques."
In 1963, the introduction of graphic method of Intaglio printmaking at workshops by a Dutch artist, Rudolf Harold van Rossen, inspired Onobrakpeya's passion in the reproductive medium. He has ever since then been known as Africa's number one master printmaker.