Sunday 30 June 2024

Fiofori, Ibrahim, Orara...leaving strong legacies of visual culture

Book cover of Tam Fiofori's celebration of the 1979 Benin monarch coronation.

HAMID Ibrahim, Tam Fiofori, and Zinno Orara threw the community of visual arts in mourning within few months. Most disturbing was June 25, 2024 when Fiofori and Orara reportedly died on the same day. Ibrahim died on March 31, 2024.

Fiofori died as a legend whose career cuts across photography genres. He was also an author whose works contributed rich contents to the art exhibition circuit of Nigeria for many decades. Fiofori's wealth of experience in photography was shared at many fora. One of such events happened when he was a guest speaker at Fashola Photographic Foundation, in 2017. 

 "The era of Jack of all in photography is over," Fiofori told guests during the event organised by former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola in memory of his late father, Gafar. Fiofori described photography as a noble profession that comes with ethics, particularly the human relations aspect. "Your profession will earn you respect," he advised photographers. "Respect the privacy of people when they say 'No." 

Twenty years ago, Fiofori authored a 188 pages book titled 'A Benin Coronation Oba Erediauwa', which picturised  his coverage of the monarch's ceremonial ascendance to throne in 1979. "I dedicate this book to the Benin monarch, and to my late parents, Chief Emmanuel Eremaye Fiofori JP, Okom 1 of Kalaegeleme War Canoe House, Koni-Ama, Okrika and Mrs Gladys Owupele Fiofori, who provided me with the fulfilling opportunity to grow up happily in Benin City as well as the unique privilege of coming in close contact with the wonderful and powerful culture of the Edo people," Fiofori wrote on the dedication page of the 2011 edition of the book. "This book is also a testament of my experience as a a "Benin-boy." An all black and white pictorials of the Benin monarch coronation, the book was first published in February 2004.

Born in 1942, Fiofori had a great career as a documentary filmmaker, which expanded his photography passion. In a tribute, iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival, Lagos, noted his depth in telling Nigerian and African stories during several decades, when he shaped the narrative of Nigerian and African stories. "His contributions to documentary filmmaking and photography were not just artistic expressions but powerful commentaries on society, culture, and history," iRep Lagos stated. "Tam's dedication to the IREPRESENT Documentary Film Festival was nothing short of inspirational." 

The tribute issued by Femi Odugbemi on behalf of the Directorate and Board of iREP recalled how Fiofori's presence at nearly every single edition of the festival was a testament to his commitment and passion for the craft. For example, during the late filmmaker's later years, "he continued to submit new work, demonstrating his relentless creativity and his desire to capture the ever-evolving stories of our times."

Excerpts from the tribute: "Tam Fiofori's legacy is one of brilliance, innovation, and an unyielding spirit. He not only chronicled history but also inspired a new generation of filmmakers and photographers to pursue truth and authenticity in their work. His absence will be deeply felt, but his influence will continue to guide and inspire us.

 "As we mourn his passing, we also celebrate his life and work. We are eternally grateful for the time, talent, and wisdom he shared with us. May his soul rest in perfect peace, and may his legacy continue to illuminate the path for future storytellers. Rest in peace, ‘Uncle Tam.’ You will be dearly missed, but never forgotten."

After his illness that had the Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA) members got other colleagues to the rescue of Ibrahim, he eventually died at the Federal Medical Centre, Yaba, Lagos. Ibrahim's death was announced by former President of GFA, Sam Ebohon on March 31, 2024. 

Hamid Ibrahim.
"Dear friends of Hamid Ibrahim, it is with deep sorrow that I announce the passing of Hamid today at about 4:20 pm," Ebohon stated. "He has been having frequent dialysis for a while. He got weaker by the day and eventually went into coma three days before his passing. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Amen."

During Ibrahim's month long illness, over three million naira was said to have been raised by colleagues. Sadly, it turned out that money and all the other supports rendered by friends and colleagues weren't enough to rescue him from the jaws of death.

Ibrahim was Vice President of GFA when Abraham Uyovbisere led the guild. As a student, he won the Best Life Drawing at the School of Art, Design and Printing Technology, Yabatech, (1990) and later picked Award for Excellence in Painting organised by Academy Press (1990).

Ibrahim's ascendance to a fulltime studio career started when he was Illustrator/Vis sualiser: at Concept Unit and Laurel Graphix Advertising Agencies, Lagos (1988-1990); Art Teacher: Command Secondary School Jos (1990-1991); Freelance Cartoonist: Sunday Standard and Lagos Weekend (1990 -1991); Illustrator, Lantern publications; and Illustrator/Cartoonist: Hallmark Newspaper.

His exhibitions included Heritage, National Museum, Jos, (1991); Reflections of Our Mind, National Museum, Lagos (1992); Essence Russian Cultural Centre (1995); Content of Time, Mydrim Gallery, Ikoyi (2010); Celebration of Colors (ADSA) Art and Design Student Association (1990); Exhibition of Art and Design, Art and design Students (1990); Young Masters Art Trust Saloon Exhibition, Ikoyi (1990); National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Exhibition, Abuja (1991); Mydrim Gallery Opening Exhibition, Surulere, lagos (1991); Transcending Boundaries, London. (2012); A Few of My Favourite Things, Parkburst, Johannesburg (2009) and Society of Nigerian Artist, National Theatre (1991), among others.

After the news of Zinno's death broke on the social media, a formal statement was released by his children, describing his demise as "sudden passing of our father." 

Zinno Orara.

 On behalf of the children, Majiri Zinno Orara, briefly recalled his lifetime: "Zinno Akpoghene Orara was born on 17 November 1965 in Benin City. He attended Government College, Ughelli and the School of Art and Design (Polytechnic), Auchi. He graduated at 23 in 1988 specializing in painting and illustration. He also holds a degree in Philosophy. He would have been 60 next year.

Orara's solo art exhibition titled 'Boundaries And Bridges', which was shown at Quintessence Gallery, Lagos, in 2010, was used to raise funds for medical bills of Adaora. The theme of the exhibition focused the recurring Jos, Plateau State communal crisis, confirming the artist's interest in his environment.

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