Consulate General Smaila, Okoku attend Nigerian artist Onobrakpeya’s exhibition in US
It can only take an individual of global repute with extremely distinguished achievements in his career to gather people of same pedigree in their chosen fields. That was the sight of personalities, experts and professionals who graced the art exhibition of one Nigeria’s most celebrated and recognised artists and literary icons, Bruce Onobrakpeya, in the United States of America, recently.
Onobrakpeya has poured himself into art and painting for almost all his life, and this time, people from all walks of life came together on April , 2023, at the High Musuem of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, for the display of his intellectual works and “preview of The Mast And The Cross.”
It was an art exhibition like no other, and only a lover of his profession and someone who holds one of Nigeria’s highest national honours, could have pulled such calibre of audience. The roll call of famous Nigerians in attendance include ex international Paul Okoku, Mike Nsuk, one of the leaders of ANOG and their secretary.
It is noteworthy that the Consulate General office through the leadership of Amina A. Smaila invited all guests to the occasion. Not only was she in attendance but she was also personally involved in showing off the displayed artwork quite impressively and introducing the guests to Onobrakpeya.
Born on August 30, 1932, in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, Onobrakpeya is widely acknowledged and renowned for his contribution to African modernism. Though trained as a painter at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria, Kaduna State, his postgraduate participation in Mbari Club printmaking workshops in Ibadan and Osogbo in 1963 and 1964, were decisive for his career.
While he was trained in block printing and serigraphy in Zaria, the Mbari workshops exposed him to copper engraving and etching, leadingn to experiments in relief paintings such as plastographs; a technique that has become his signature among his many inventions in printmaking and relief sculpture.
Aside painting, he has had a commanding influence on generations, contributing illustrations to poetry volumes and novels of national significance lecturing in secondary schools and tertiary institutions. Many of his students have become notable artists themselves.
Onobrakpeya pioneered bronzed lino relief and metal foil deep etching in bold patterns and colours, to explore Nigerian folklore and contemporary life. His aesthetic drew inspiration from a variety of source material, including the art of the Benin Kingdom, regional Nigerian landscape painting, Christian iconography, and the political turmoil of his home nation, all of which he depicted in his art.
“My childhood experience of the cultural environment of Urhobo and Benin formed the artistic bedrock on which I continue to build. My early exposure to these arts sustained my artistic expressions by giving me access to a world of imagination, through bridging the thin gap between realism, surrealism and abstraction,” he explained.
One of his best-known series, The Mask and the Cross (1967–1968), explores the life and suffering of Christ rendered with the artist’s signature brand of mythical realism. After his training in Zaria, he developed an interest in forging a unique style which aimed to decolonize itself from western influences. He went on to exhibit internationally and establish himself as an important figure in contemporary African art, notably working as an educator for over 40 years. Today, his works can be found in the collections of the Vatican Museum in Rome, the National Gallery in Nairobi, Kenya, and the National Museum of African Arts, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., among others.
For his monumental achievements and contributions to literature, he is the recipient of the UNESCO Living Human Treasure Award and recognition at the 44th Venice Biennale.
Some of his numerous art works are: Hunting Rabbits and Birds (1977), Boat Regatta (1973), Negritude (1960), Peace Health Long Life and Wealth (2002), Emote Erinvbin III (1982), Leopard in Cornfield (1965), Ibiokpo, Kurve Ive (1988), Afieki I (1978), Atete Gwre Oghoro – o (Village gate), (1983). Gove metal foil relief (repousse) (1980 – 1983). Four Plastographs (i-iv) (1984), Dance to enchanting song (Panel IX) (2008), Palm Wine Women III (2007), Igbeze (Hunter’s maquerade) (1988), Dance On The Bush I (1998), among others.
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