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On statues and public appreciation

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Fela Kuti Headless Statue

When the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, recently unveiled a giant headless statue of departed Afrobeat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a flurry of reactions trailed the initiative. While some appreciated it just for what it is, others elected to raise questions depending of course, on their understanding of the art piece.

Years ago, American artist, director and producer who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art, Andy Warhol, had envisaged the possibility of that happening when he said, “Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

Warhol, who died in 1987 went on to admonish his colleagues saying, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Notwithstanding, the reactions to Fela’s headless statue were varied and mixed grill. For instance, Ikhifa Mike wrote on his Twitter handle: “This is not acceptable, a legend like Fela can never be described using headless statue… it is wrong,”

Reginald Ohiri’s reaction, still on Twitter went this way: “Zuma gets a complete statue in Imo State, but Lagos erects a headless statue of Fela. Bad idea. Not Fela.”

All the way from Swaziland, James Hall waxed: Mixed reactions to Lagos’ giant statue of Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti. Some glad the man has been remembered, others find the headless statue scary.”

In the last two years or thereabouts, residents of Lagos, those passing through, or even those visiting have noticed an upsurge in the number of artworks sprouting up in different parts of the state, be they at roundabouts along the Lekki corridor, or in sundry places of interest or found spaces.

Between January and September this year, Fela’s statue, and that of the legendary Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) chieftain, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, along Lateef Jakande Road, Ikeja, are the two giant statues that have cropped up. This is in addition to improvement done to monuments like the newly upgraded Tinubu Square Fountain in Lagos Island. This and many more give out the governor as one that has a lot of affection towards the arts and culture.

At the inauguration of the upgraded fountain, Ambode, who was represented by the Special Adviser and Acting Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Adebimpe Akinshola, informed that many initiatives have been perfected by the state government to scale up its tourism potentials, especially through upgrade of infrastructures and preservation of monuments in the state.

It is in the light of this that many see the new sculptures, whether that of Awolowo, or the Afrobeat legend as a reflection of the governor’s recognition of Nigerian legends and the need to preserve same.

The initiative, some say, apart from reflecting Ambode’s love for the arts, also mirrors his desire to portray Lagos as the centre of aesthetics and culture, as well as in keeping with his promise to make the state “the hub of entertainment and arts in Africa.”

This was confirmed by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, who said even though the governor is an accountant by training, he is also “an arts enthusiast and he started right from his school days. You know, his secondary school was in Warri and his university was University of Lagos. Except you’re close to him, you won’t know that he’s very deep in matters of arts.”

However, while some Lagosians see the initiative as reverencing legends through arts, some others expect the government to pay more attention to more pressing issues that affect the daily lives of the average Lagosian, instead of erecting memorable structures.

Elizabeth Osademey, a student of University of Benin said: “I respect the fact that we recognise and still appreciate activists, who were fearless in expressing their views. They are truly icons and deserve more. I believe the artworks give value to Lagos. This means a whole lot to Lagosians and Nigerians as a whole.”

Henry Nwachukwu, a resident of Ikorodu, also acknowledges steps taken by the government in identifying and honoring heroes, who have left tremendous marks in the country. But he also feels that the government should pay serious attention to the populace, which he thinks are having a rough time.

While Wayne Samuel, an intern in a media organisation, says that the statues add to the aesthetics of the state, and also a job opportunity for some artists, Andrew Onwuzurike, a media consultant and educationist said the exercise reminds him of history and of those, who made Nigeria great.



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