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50 years of Osogbo Art exhibition loud in America

By Kabir Alabi Garba
17 April 2017   |   4:25 am
An Art Exhibition, the show, which remains open till April 28, is facilitated by Mayor Michael S. Purzycki and Sister Cities International in memory of the late Dr. Tunde Durosomo.

Philadelphia based representative of CBCIU, Chief Stanley Straughter (left) and Chief Muraina Oyelami at the opening of the exhibition in the Wilmington City Hall, on April 6, 2017

The exhibition held, in January this year, in Osogbo and Abuja hit its target of celebrating artistic enterprise of Osogbo Art Movement. And spurred by the successful outings at the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo and Thought Pyramid Gallery, Abuja, the attention has now shifted to the United States of America (USA) where the show will continue, berthing in several cities such as Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta, New York and San Francisco among others, till the end of 2017.

This international leg of the exhibition began last week at Redding Gallery, Louis L. Redding City/County Building, 800 N. French Street, Wilmington, Delaware, United States. Tagged, Osogbo NIGERIA: An Art Exhibition, the show, which remains open till April 28, is facilitated by Mayor Michael S. Purzycki and Sister Cities International in memory of the late Dr. Tunde Durosomo.

Durosomo, a native of Osogbo and arts patron, was the Senior Economic Advisor to the Mayor of Wilmington until his passing last year. He had, among others, facilitated a group exhibition of Osogbo and Ife artists in Wilmington in 2005 and is highly regarded both in the city and in his hometown.
Speaking in an interview before he travelled to the US for the show, a leader of the Osogbo Artists Movement, Chief Muraina Oyelami described the Wilmington show as using “one stone to kill two birds” as the management of CBCIU decided to use its members’ invitation to Durosomo’s memorial to mount an exhibition in his honour.

Chief Oyelami said: “The City Council has organised a memorial in his honour and so the opportunity presented itself to include an exhibition of Osogbo art in the programme.  The Ataoja, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, his Olori and some chiefs have been invited, as well as myself and Chief Jimoh Buraimoh. We thought it won’t be good if we don’t have an exhibition in his honour at the memorial.” He disclosed that the CBCIU was sponsoring the show in the US, as well as funding his trip and that of Chief Buraimoh.

Oyelami, who is also the Eesa of Iragbiji, added that though he and Buraimoh are travelling with some paintings from Nigeria, most works for the exhibition have been loaned from private collectors in the US because “the idea is not to sell but to showcase.”

Essentially, the show is seen as ‘practical effort’ to consolidate the profile of the ancient city of Osogbo as breeding ground for creative enterprise. It is on record that in the 1960s, Osogbo witnessed a series of artistic activities ranging from painting and sculpture to music and theatre. The results attracted international attention and paralleled Osogbo’s artistic status in Nigeria with that of Paris, France. Since then, Osogbo art has become a trademark, signifying the richness and vitality of Yoruba art and culture, most impressively expressed by the annual Osun-Osogbo.

Two different groups of works can be distinguished. There are the paintings, sculptures, beads, and textiles sold locally and internationally, and other works depicting Yoruba deities and festival motifs. Then there is the second group of works.

A huge chunk of the credit for placing Osogbo on the world’s cultural map would go to late Suzanne Wenger, and Georgina and Ulli Beier, who did not deliberately start an arts school or movement. Rather, what they started with was to engage the young boys (and girls) who were in the Duro Ladipo Theatre to do some art works during the long hours between play rehearsals. The experiment succeeded beyond Ulli and Georgina’s wildest imaginations, and has boosted art and culture on a global level. What should be highlighted now are some of the distinctive features of the experiment, whose features constitute the reasons why CBCIU Osogbo is engaged in celebrating the contributions of the Osogbo School of Art to the global Art community.