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Renowned sculptor, Michael Ogiebo, passes on


Michael Ogiebo at work

Michael Ogiebo at work

A renowned Nigerian sculptor has passed on at the age of 80 at Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Council, Edo State. Late Ogiebo had gone to Kaduna to join his uncle, Pa Iduimho, to be apprenticed as a bricklayer and carpenter: while returning from work, he saw a cultural work on display, which captivated his interest. Its creative impact changed his choice of what he had originally planned to do in life.

He specifically changed the format of the piece he saw which was made of paper and starch to experiment with wood. Young Michael, in no time,
started creating objects in wood patterns and excelled in it with astonishing products that would stand the test of time.

“One day, as I was hawking my carvings on the streets of Kaduna, a white man saw me and admired my works,” he recounted years later.

Ogiebo couldn’t remember the name of the white man, but he said he was working at the British Council in Kaduna, adding, “He liked me and my
works so much and he bought me tools for carving.”

During one of the many riots in Kaduna, flew Michael to Benin City for safety onward to his hometown, Fugar. Since then, this writer has kept a tag on Michael and his works at Auchi, as the years rolled by.

Late Ogiebo had a peculiar approach in producing items to depict various traditional concepts of Fugar cultural events like female and manhood celebrations in gigantic formats.

Ogiebo was soon discovered by the Federal Government Art Agencies that created outlets for him to various exhibitions. The first was with the British Council in 1966. His works enabled him to travel to Cairo, Egypt, for an exhibition in 1974 and topped it with the famous FESTAC exhibition in Lagos in 1977 and another joint outing in Lagos in 1978.

Uncle Mike wasn’t good at remembering names, but he had a very sharp memory. The Federal Government included him among other creative disciples that formed the Nigerian Technical Aid Corps Programme to Jamaica in 2007. Amongst prominent Nigerian art lovers and collectors who have his works are Chief Sunny Odogwu in Asaba, Chief Okoya of Eleganza fame, both at his factory and residence in Lagos. Ogiebo’s his works are permanently on display at the Edo State Art Council Gallery in Benin City, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Michael Ogiebo is dead, but I can testify that apart from the works he left behind, his family is keeping him alive as his son, Chris Ogiebo, 39, took after his father. He holds a Higher National Diploma in
his father’s calling from the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi.

What a living legend Michael Ogiebo was!

* Usman Abudah is a journalist and founder of Afenmai Heritage and Cultural Studies, wrote in from Benin City, Edo State

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Michael Ogiebo
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