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‘We need to groom younger ones to be great thinkers, wealth creators’

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Godwin Archie Abia is one artist that has not ceased to experiment with new medium. Starting with animal bones art in the early 1990s, the Director of Win Arc Gallery transited to graven art when bones were out of reach for him. Not satisfied with his newfound love, he diverted to painting, using it to boost his graven art.

While many people, including artists, are lamenting the havoc COVID-19 pandemic has done on the global economy and the art space, Abia is leveraging on the social media — facebook, Whatsapp among others — to promote his works; paintings and graven art.

On how he moves from one medium of the art to another, he said, “people who knew me before now will attest to the fact that I started with animal bones. I left the art form for painting and when I noticed many artists were into painting, I came up with graven art and oil painting.

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“I did not study visual art, but as time went on I developed the urge to paint, while still experimenting with animal bones. But it got to a time I could not see cow bones to even buy, yet the urge to paint was very strong.”

He disclosed that it was amid the struggle of how to move forward that he began an encounter of someone teaching him how to paint in his dreams.

“I had no prior knowledge of the person, but he would tell me: If you want to achieve this or that, this is what you have to do consistently,” Abia said.

With many of his works on justice, peace, celestial beings, love and abstractionism, Abia believes there is always the spiritual aspect of man, which direct his creativity. According to him, life is like a coin, it has two sides — light and darkness.

“I am for light, not darkness because nobody sees in the dark. My early days’ works in my over 25 years in the art depict my relationship with God. One of my works entitled, Homage to God, reflects this relationship. The title comes from a story of a tree in my town called Nkubia, which is where the name of the town originated. Although, the tree has been cut, its benevolence was so great that the barren, hapless and needy ran to it for help.

“In Homage to God, you will find a cross on the trunk of the chopped down tree, which depicts the supremacy of Christ over deities. Some people may argue it, but it is my faith. However, at the middle of my sojourn of my career, I tilted towards contemporary art because I do not want to be labelled a religious dogma,” he revealed.

With over 25 years of practice, Abia feels it is time to give back to the society and doing this, he relocated his Win Arc Gallery from Ikeja to Peace Estate, Baruwa, Ipaja, a suburb of Lagos.

According to him, the purpose of bringing the gallery nearer to the grassroots is to catch the teens and young people early, give them platform to learn how to draw and appreciate art.

“We need to teach these younger ones, especially those in primary and secondary schools the different media of art, expose them early to practical works as it is done in China. This is to identify their areas of interest and then, groom them to be great thinkers and creators of wealth.

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“Could you imagine that there are many private schools that do not have visual art teachers, which is not proper for our education. So, we shall be on ground to bridge the vacuum created by these schools,” he said.

Officially opening December 19, Abia, whose work was auctioned in Mild Gallery, New York, United States of America, three years ago, explained that one of the ways to sanitise our communities is to equip young people with skills that would make then fend for themselves and art is one of such skills.

Aside abstractionism, Abia generously use women to pass on his messages: “This is because women are like a depository; you get what you put in them. My works speak about topical socio-political and economic issues. For instance, the painting entitled: Stop the Killing, where I used newspaper cuttings to draw attention of the killings across the country was done three years ago, but the message sound as fresh as if it was done yesterday because the issues raised are still with us.

“There is also, Is Oil A Curse Or Blessing, a rhetorical question. One can deduce that oil that is supposed to be a blessing for the country has become a curse for some. My local council area, Eket, in Akwa Ibom State, has its fair share of bad roads yet the state is one of the oil producing states of the country,” he said.

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