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From bone collage to graven art, Godwin Archie-Abia experiments with new form

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Godwin Archie-Abia is one of the few Nigerian artists, who have not stopped experimenting with forms, texture, style and content of their art. Despite his over two decades practice, starting with the bone collage in 1990s, he has creatively interrogated the metal, and now, he is into graven image art.

Disclosing the reasons for his movement from one medium to the other, the Akwa Ibom State native said it is a way of being relevant. He noted that he moved away from using bones, because he had to constantly challenge himself. “Some of my clients began to complain of the weight of my works. They said they had to pay extra. It was as a result of this that I began to think of how to create works that are light. That was when I moved to metal.

“Though I still work with metal, it is mostly for commissioned works.. Most of my works on sale are in other art forms,” he said.Speaking on graven image, as an art form, which he started experimenting six years ago, Archie-Abia noted that though it demands a lot, it comes out in 3D format.He observed that artist from Nigeria are making waves in the world over and breaking new grounds. However, despite this success, government at all levels should create enabling environment and encourage local artists, especially the young and upcoming ones to be their best and create more jobs.

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Archie-Abia, therfore, called on government to set the pace for artists to follow, knowing that with the right environment, the country’s youths and fresh school leavers will create jobs without depending on government.“We are growing, but we are not yet there. The environment is too harsh for startups to make a living, workspaces are dwelling in the cities and rent for the available ones are high. Artists need help to grow; they need sponsored exhibitions both within and outside the country,” he said.He observed that the art sector operating without a visible art policy opens it to all manner of things, aside from government losing huge revenue, there will be no direction for operators.

Archie-Abia, who runs Winc Arc Gallery, disclosed that some of the ways to help upcoming artists include government at all level partnering corporate organisations to hold art shows, saying this will serve as platform for many of them to sale their works.He noted that it is high time lawmakers came up with laws that would make all national buildings, roundabouts and public spaces to have the works of Nigerian artists in them, adding, as well as incorporating local art into these public spaces so that they can “tell our history, promote our culture and create.”

He commended former governors of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode, for giving artists opportunity, as well as opening art frontier with the beautification of the state with artworks. “I saw a man at Ikeja the other day starring at one of the works under the bridge and I was exited. Overseas, hospitals put artworks in their wards and patients gaze at them and are okay. Artworks are therapeutic, but it is unfortunate we are not taking advantage of them here.

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“If you go to Italy, you will still see some of the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and others standing decades their original owners died, but which of our artists can we project that way? None, so we need to start now to preserve our art and artist.

“ Government should kickstart this by furnishing the hospitals and clinics with artworks, then other institutions will follow. Imagine a situation where government comes up with a policy that all its institution should have so and so number of artworks; imagine the effect on the economy and art business,” he said.

The Archie-Abia, who has taken part in different exhibitions within and outside the country, also wants government to be in the forefront of preserving local artworks either in the galleries, at roundabout or any public space. He disclosed that the situation where artworks at junctions and other public spaces are destroyed each time there is a road construction or renovation of a building should be checked, saying each time such works are destroyed, is like expunging the name of the artist or sculptor that created the work from the surface of the earth.

He also called on government to see to the maintenance of these artworks in public spaces because they are part of the monuments that make up the country’s heritage.

Archie-Abia feared that with the way government handles local art works, there is the likelihood that it might not be able to properly preserve some of the stolen art works when they are returned from Europe, especially now that the call for reparation is high. He noted that maintenance is key and also involve spending huge sums of money on those artifacts to make them look as original as one could think.

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The proprietor of Winc Arc Gallery also called on state governments across the country to emulate what Lagos State government did to the Three Wise Men statue, which it transferred to another location when it was reconstructing the road, saying such means has helped to preserve the work.

Archie-Abia observed that bangles, rings, slippers, cloths, necklaces, anklets, figurines, among others, can rake in huge revenue to the country if the practitioners are well organised and motivated to bring out their best. He noted that in the United States of America special locations are provided for those into this form of art and if they are unable to meet up with their rents, some of their works commiserate with their rents are taken and sold to settle their debts, adding that Nigerian government should introduce this form of incentive to encourage these artists, especially as they are on the bottom rung of the ladder.

The artists also called for artworks to be used as collateral to obtain loans in banks or in any other financial house, saying this is what is obtainable in advanced countries across the world.He said: “They serve as collateral to get loans and even as means of exchange in some occasions. The people do this because they know artworks appreciate in value, especially as they could be auctioned for more money. Nigerian government should follow this trend, as part of the ways of developing our local art.”

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