Foundation celebrates life, works of Bentu 20 years on
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who declared the exhibition open, appreciated the contributions of Bentu to the promotion of art, and urged artists to live up to their responsibilities towards nation building.
About 50 pieces of works were on display, most of which were human figures. While some pry into the socio-political issues, others deal with mundane issues of life.
These works of art, produced by the master himself before his demise, had, according to the family, been under lock and key for maximum protection. While 14 of them were marked for sale, the rest would be taken back to the gallery established in honour of Bentu.
The opening of the exhibition attracted personalities from the northern part of the country, including the Emir of Lafia, Alhaji Mustapha Agwai 11, Alhaji Maitama Sule, Director General, National Gallery of Art, Muku Abdullahi, as well as some of Bentu’s students while he lectured in ABU.
In his address, Alhaji Sule recalled a time in the nation’s history when great writers and visual artists held sway and described them as those who knew what they were doing. He added that he may not be an artist, but he has, however, remained an art patriot, the very reason he was associated with the activities of National Art Council in its formative years.
“We organised the first NAFEST in Nigeria before the celebration of FESTAC 77”, he said. Sule expressed worries that people often mistake culture for only music and dance. According to him, culture is the totality of a people’s experience, people’s identity and their way of life. According to him, any nation that loses its culture loses its identity. He therefore urged government not to allow Nigerian culture die so as not to expose the people totally to alien cultures.
A former student of Bentu, Professor Jerry Buhari, delivered the exhibition lecture. He described his former lecturer as a teacher and administrator, who never failed to talk about social issues as they affected his society.
“He was an activist, not always in politics but some times in politics”, Buhari said.Speaking on behalf of the foundation, Christabel Narin Bentu said it was a way of keeping the memory of her father. She said the Foundation meant so much to the family, considering how much time and passion her father committed to building a legacy in the industry.
To sustain the legacy, she said an art gallery and library would be established in Bentu’s home for artists. “There would also be a studio for painting, not just for the members of his family but to the art society in general”, she said.
Bentu was famous for his quote that “art is a part and a reflection of the cultural heritage of a nation. No nation could be respected unless the people respect and appreciate their own artistic heritage.”
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