Thursday, 1st June 2023

Pomp, pageantry as NGA rewards excellence in creativity

By Oji Onoko
21 May 2023   |   4:36 am
And the Visual Arts Personality of the Year is… Her picture beamed on the giant LED screen hanging on the iconic stage ably designed by Muhammad Sulaiman. The follow-spot picks her from her seat as she now stands: the queen of arts in all her eminence...

Deputy Editor of The Guardian, Greg Page-Nwakunor, receiving his award of Arts Journalist of the Year from Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adeshina

And the Visual Arts Personality of the Year is… Her picture beamed on the giant LED screen hanging on the iconic stage ably designed by Muhammad Sulaiman. The follow-spot picks her from her seat as she now stands: the queen of arts in all her eminence: fly whisk on her right hand, the head gear towering to the sky… The full light then floods the entire stage with cloud of smoke from the smoke machine. At the same time, the Aso Rock band struck Paul Play Dairo’s highlife hit song: Mo So’orire; Eleda Mi Modupe o. Without prompting, Chief (Mrs.) Oyenike Monica Okundaye fondly called Nike of Nike Arts Gallery glided to the stage executZaing delightful, graceful and stylish dance moves belying her age. The packed hall erupted in applause as they not only sang but danced along with her.

Holding aloft her Crystal plaque, the recipient gushed: “This award belongs to the women and youths. My word of encouragement to them is for them to follow their heart. Any family that has young artists should support them and not make them feel that art is nothing, Art is life. I come from a very poor background but art has taken me to greater height today.” As the band played Simi’s melodious song, Duduke, she danced out joined by those on stage and band of admirers from the audience in the orchestra pit…

Earlier, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had presented awards to two Inspiring Young Artists of the Year: Helen Ogochukwu Nzete and Izuchukwu Clifford Agba for their “innovativeness and enterprise as a young studio artists and inspiration to aspiring young studio artists in the country.” While presenting the award of Arts Journalist of the Year to The Guardian newspapers’ Deputy Editor and coordinator of the Arts section, Gregory-Page Nwakunor, “for his outstanding contribution to the promotion and propagation of arts and culture in Nigeria” Adesina had quipped, “now, this is our own” referring, of course, to his primary constituency, journalism which elicited laughter from the audience.

Other awardees at the high-octane event organized by National Gallery of Art (NGA) are: Thought Pyramid, Gallery of the Year, “for setting the pace in gallery management in Nigeria and exceptional promotion of modern art in the country;” Comrade Ojo Agbor Idabi, NGA Exemplary Staff, for his “inspirational leadership as Chairman of RATTAWU, NGA Chapter. Your commitment to the welfare of NGA staff has continued to inspire succeeding leadership of the union;” Mrs. Patricia Nkwocha, Curator of the Year, for her “innovative programmes that attracted enduring collaborations with other organizations and maintaining an active studio practice” and President, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Muhammad Sulaiman, Distinguished Visual Arts Leadership Award, for his “visionary leadership and commitment to the upliftment of visual artists in Nigeria and mentor to young artists.”

But the crown went to Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya who bagged the Lifetime Achievement Award for his “pioneering role in the scholarship and practice of modern art in Nigeria as well as mentorship of generations of visual artists in Nigeria.” Indeed, Print making for which he is now world famous, was a minor art which he developed through five phases into a major art form!

His Art Gallery and Studio set up in 1976 is still waxing strong, as a Centre for studio practice and mentoring of young artists. Commending the patriarch for the honour recently bestowed on him in the United States, the Director General National Gallery of Art, Ebeten William Ivara declared: “In a coincidental case of double celebration, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya, this same month, specifically on April 6, 2023, Representatives of Georgia State Assembly, United States of America, honoured him with the key to Georgia at The High Museum, Atlanta. Barely a week after, the modernist artist, humanist and philanthropist was equally bestowed with the Honorary Georgia Citizen on 13th April for his exemplary career as artist, role model, father and teacher of many generations of Nigerian artists. This confers on our very own Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya the Goodwill Ambassadorship for the State. In the words of Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, ‘the honorary citizenship affords him to travel to other states and to nations beyond the borders of the United States of America, or wherever he may hereafter travel or reside with the ease and privileges of a citizen.”

The maiden edition of National Gallery of Art’s Mast Festival and Awards which took place at Cyprian Ekensi Centre for Arts and Culture, Abuja on April 18, 2023 was the epitome of glam, sass and class. Designed to reward excellence in creativity, it had in attendance major players in the visual arts sub-sector and the arts including the diplomatic community: Head of Culture & Tourism, Africa Union, Hon. Quadri-Adu Kehinde; Cultural Affairs Attaché, US Embassy, Peter Burbe; First Secretary/Head, Consular Section, Embassy of Spain, Patricia Gomez Lanzaco; Charge D’Affairs, Embassy of the Republic of Philippines, Rodrico C. Atienza; President, UFUK Dialogue, Emra IIgen and an official from the Chinese embassy. The Commandant General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was represented by the Commandant, NSCDC, FCT Command, Dr. Peter Samuel Maigari while Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) had DCC I. O. Seidu and CRC Oruadachi Umoru as representatives of the agency. DGs of Nigeria Tourism & Development Corporation (NTDC), National Theatre, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Voice of Nigeria (VON) and National Council for Arts & Culture (NCAC) were represented by directors from the respective parastatals. The Director, Admin & Finance, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Muhammad Shehu, was also present among other distinguished members of the public… Intermittently, Aso Rock band supplied old school music to the delight of all. The guest artists equally displayed abundant stage presence and voice control: Humble Gee with his fusion of Bob Marley’s “Exodus” in Prophecy and gospel singer, Jane Godslight hitting home with Nigerians Unite. It was pomp and pageantry galore as the event wound down…
Onoko, former Arts Editor, THISDAY, is Deputy Director, Overseeing office of Director, Information Services, National Gallery of Art.