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NGA honours Demas Nwoko, for his art, architecture

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From Left: Mrs. Anyibofu Ugbodaga (Nee) Nwoko, Ralph Wicox, Dr. Simon Ikpakronyi, Demas Nwoko, Chief Chuka Oboli, Dr. Paul Dike, Otunba Segun Runsewe and Dr. Ken Okoli at the event

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) last week opened a show in honour of Prince Demas Nwoko for his contributions to the development of visual arts in the country. The event also saw the presentation of a book in his honour titled, Demas Nwoko: Preeminent Artist, Outstanding Architect.

The documentation comes on the heels of a similar celebration of another eminent scholar and painter of the Zaria Art Society, Prof. Jimoh Akolo.

On assumption of office, the acting Director General, Dr. Simon Ikpakronyi, assured the art community, particularly the visual arts sub-sector that he would try his best to restore the glory of the parastatal.

He also promised to bring back majority of the old programmes for which NGA was known for, including documentation of lives and works of founding fathers of visual art.

According to Ikpakronyi, NGA is documenting the activities of members of the society because of the crucial role they played and are still playing in advancing fine art scholarship and practice in Nigeria.

He disclosed that Nwoko bestrode the art scene in Nigeria like a colossus for over six decades.

“It is interesting the way he was able to fuse the creative elements of fine art and the technicalities of architecture with relative ease.

“He is as good a painter as he is an exceptional stage designer, architect and builder. He also left lasting imprints as playwright, dancer, director, actor and furniture maker,” he said, adding: “Today is the first leg of the package on this accomplished artist. We are showcasing images of his art works to get a glimpse of his creativity. We shall be showing his physical works at the second leg of the programme which will take place in no distant time in his home town, Asaba, Delta State.”

Chairman, Governing Board of NGA, Umaru Azores Suliaman, was at the event and he commended Nwoko for not making his artworks exclusive of the elite.

“We applaud this multi-dimensional artist and modernist. I believe that we have to tap into his mountain of wisdom and intellect for the benefit of the present and coming generations.”

The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, who was represented at the event by Chuka Oboli, revealed Nwoko’s contributions towards youth employment.

“I’m therefore not surprised that NGA has rolled out the red carpet for him. It is an honour to whom it is really due.

“Being an art lover, I’m familiar with his works. They are exciting as one can always see the extra effort he puts in each work no matter the medium to ensure they blend with nature and showcase Africa’s rich culture.

“As a custodian of the culture of our people, that makes me really proud of him.”

In his goodwill message, the Director General of the National Council for Art and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, expressed the need for the country to recognise its heroes while they are alive.

“It is time to document for posterity, the works of our pioneer artists and others with rare attributes for our younger ones to learn the fact that hard work pays,” Runsewe stated.

And when it was time for the highly celebrated Nwoko to speak, he stressed that building a nation is the business of everybody.

He recalled how he was invited alongside other colleagues to help in formulating the national cultural policy and their recommendations, including the need for the creation of the Ministry of Culture.

Nwoko, however, decried the fact that several years after, the nation is yet to come to terms with the responsibilities of the ministry.

“When you mention culture, people think about dancing but culture is not about dance, dance is out. Culture is also not about painting, sculpting or singing music. Culture is one thing that involves and concerns everybody participating on equal basis. The king is not higher than the mad man in the market place when issue of culture is put on the table.”

He added: “When cultural decisions are taken and people abide by them, there will be no act of corruption. There will also not be any need to go after individuals to imprison them for stealing.”

Commending the new leadership of NGA, Nwoko observed that as the custodian of all cultural properties in the country, NGA should as a matter of urgency; intervene in redeeming the decimated contemporary artworks at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

Noting that most of its collections are wasting away for lack of care, he expressed no surprise that public monuments are also suffering from lack of care and maintenance.

He further called for capacity building for NGA staff abroad, particularly on protection of national property.

“When they come back, let them rescue our national creative properties. That is what every country has to offer the world,” Nwoko stated.


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