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Printmakers show solidarity with First Rhythm as Bruce Onobrakpeya receives national honour


Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya

Ahead of tomorrow’s National Merit Award ceremony in Abuja, the recipient in Humanities category, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya, is also being honoured with a group art exhibition by his fellow printmakers, Visual Printmakers Association of Nigeria (VPAN). The group art show features works of over 20 artists, with Onobrakpeya, its life patron, as a guest artist.

Titled First Rhythm and opening on December 9, 2017 at The Resource Place, Ikeja, Lagos, the exhibition, is VPAN’s maiden show. According to a member, Dr. Kunle Adeyemi, the show is to celebrate the master printmaker for being the recipient of the 2017 Nigerian National Order of Merit Award (NNOM).

Onobrakpeya is a leading modernist in printmaking, whose innovative work is well respected in both studio and academic spaces, within and outside Nigeria.

With Jerome Elaiho as special guest of honour, the exhibition, include Gallery Talk on Printmaking Art, will be delivered by Filani. Earlier scheduled for last October, the exhibition continues as a tour event with its next stop at Quintessence Gallery, Parkview Ikoyi, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, Ibadan, Benin and Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, as some of the venues listed.

Perhaps, the largest gathering of print artists, First Rhythm will also features works of Prof. Salubi Onakufe, Dr. Adeyemi, Timipre Willis-Amah, Mike Omoighe, Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce, Moses Unokwa, Ojo Olaniyi, Bode Olaniran, Pius Emokpo, Inyang Effiong and Omon Sophia Igbinovia, among others.

At a preview inside Ovuomaroro Gallery, Papa Ajao, Lagos, the curator, Moses Ohiomokhare, said, “Bruce’s award is being celebrated by print artists today, though it took so long for Nigeria to recognise him at 85.”

Adeyemi assured that honouring Onobrakpeya with the exhibition “is a new beginning for the visual arts and the arts in general” and noted that the national award for Onobrakpeya “is a specialised one for merit in Humanity.” and tracked Onobrakpeya’s school years from Zaria days till date, and concluded, “Baba has been in the forefront of printmaking in Africa.”

Printmaking had been popular, even long before Onobrakpeya chose the medium, as his area of specialisation. But Adeyemi argued that Onobrakpeya has raised the art with his own inventions, adding, “A lot of us have benefited from his threshold.”

His son, Mudiare Onobrakpeya, who represented his father at the preview, argued, “Nigerian printmaking is the most-developed in the world,” in fact, boasting, “printmaking is the Nigerian offering to the world” and advised “that the exhibition should go international.”

To which Adeyemi agreed, saying, “We have exported printmaking to the West via workshops” and supported his claim with Nigerian visual vocabulary introduced into printmaking lexicon. “For example, ‘kitchen foil’ is now called ‘metal foil’ in Nigerian vocabulary.”

He also stressed the fact that an average collector can afford print as the process “is very democratic.”

A juried exhibition, First Rhythm’s participating artists were chosen based on what is described as “innovative efforts of each artist,” as criterion. The same artists are showing at all the listed venues.

Ohiomokhare’s Curatorial Statement says, “There is the desire to place printmaking more in the public eye to increase individual collections and that of permanent archives. There is also the desire to make a lasting impression in the promotion of new developments in printmaking.

The printmaking techniques, the experimental and contemporary approach, have become matters for public discussion. It is a rare opportunity for the best of Nigerian printmakers to gather under one roof to share practice, learn from each other and exhibit. This is the beginning of an adventure and Quintessence is happy to jump-start this journey.

“First Rhythm will feature many prints, which have never been on public display before and many of the works convey a sense of community and have formed new narratives. They are demanding and exciting methods that will invite questions from admirers of the techniques.”

In 1963, the introduction of graphic method of Intaglio printmaking at workshops by a Dutch artist, Rudolf Harold van Rossen, inspired Onobrakpeya’s passion in the reproductive medium. He has since then been known as Africa’s number one master printmaker.

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