Wednesday 11 December 2019

Tomorrow, Ben Enwonwu Lecture revisits peace, conflict resolution

'Storm Over Biafra' (oil on canvas, 1972), by Ben Enwonwu.
When The 11th Distinguished Ben Enwonwu Lecture holds on December 12, 2019 at MUSON Centre, Lagos Island, the artist’s 1966 peace mission to the world will be revisited.

Organised by The Ben Enwonwu Foundation and themed Art: An Instrument for Peace, Conflict Resolution and Socio-economic Transformation, the 2019 lecture will be delivered by its guest speaker is Ms. Harriet Thompson, The Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria.

On October 5, 1966, a copy of Ben Enwonwu’s critically acclaimed work, ‘Anyanwu’ (1954-55), was donated by the Nigerian government to the United Nations (UN) in promoting world peace. Standing gracefully at the lobby of the UN’s headquarters in New York, ‘Anyanwu’ symbolises an emergent African continent with many of her countries gaining independence. Other works by the artist advocating for peace, conflict resolution and societal transformation include the series ‘Children of Biafra’ (1968-72) and ‘Storm over Biafra’ (1972), which chart Enwonwu’s anguish over the Nigerian civil war.

Against this background, the 11th Distinguished Ben Enwonwu Lecture aims to promote peace and conflict resolution by creating social transformation and change.
The lecture will seek to also address systemic oppression, such as racism, colonialism, sexism, religious fanaticism, violent extremism, and relations in mainstream institutions and practices.

It is hoped that the lecture will spark a shift in our collective consciousness, resulting in a reinvigorated and revitalised population, restored civic pride and economic prosperity. The Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF) was established in 2003 in honour of celebrated Nigerian artist, Professor Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu MBE, NNOM (1917-94). The Foundation aims to sustain and build on his life and works through which he forged a philosophical basis for contemporary Nigerian art by fusing Western techniques and indigenous traditions.

In 2004, the Foundation started its distinguished lecture series, which has become a major gathering for the rich diversity of contemporary Nigerian society. It offers an opportunity for national and international leaders, renowned academics and policy makers to share their understanding and perspectives on the role of art in causing desirable societal changes while contributing to nation building and economic empowerment.

Through scholarships and grants, The Ben Enwonwu Foundation supports research, exhibitions and publications that foster innovative and scholarly artistic expression. Previous beneficiaries of the scheme include students of Yaba College of Technology, Ahmadu Bello University, Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Lagos.

In furtherance of its objectives, the Foundation opened an art centre in the artist's home to promote research into his practice.
The centre's year-round educational programme explores Enwonwu’s art practice, the cultural and social context of his work and links to contemporary themes. The centre also houses leading gallery, Omenka, which represents a select number of African and international artists while examining in an experimental and research-minded way, contemporary art developments and discourses in Nigeria.

Currently, the Foundation is embarking on several projects, which include publishing a catalogue raisonné of Enwonwu's works, as well as autobiography, lectures and writings on contemporary African art.

The distinguished lecture series was instituted in 2004 to immortalise Prof. Ben Enwonwu's unequaled contributions to the growth of art in Africa and the world. The first nine editions of the lecture held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) while the 10th held at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos. The series offers an opportunity for national and international leaders, renowned academics, policy makers and the rich diversity of contemporary Nigerian society to share their understanding and perspectives on the role of art in causing desirable societal changes including the upholding of cultural identity and relations, human rights/social justice and economic empowerment for nation building.

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