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The Journey to Mastery Exhibition

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Curator of Journey to Mastery Exhibition, Mrs Ify Dozie with guests at the opening ceremony Mrs Uche Balogun and Mrs Temi Edu

Mrs Ifeoma Dozie and Ceejay Jibunoh, children Chief Newton Jibunoh, the founder of Didi Museum (Didi) recently curated The Journey to Mastery Exhibition, between April 18 and April 27 in Lagos. Twenty-two works of art by Ayoola Gbolahan and Uche Edochie were up for sale (11 by each artist) while some other works collected over the 60-year period were exhibited for attendees drawn from traditional institutions, corporates and international communities. We are particularly interested in hearing about the importance of investing in art, sustainability and preserving art. We invited Mrs Dozie for her comments, and thank her for contributing to this special Q&A feature.

Congratulations to Didi Museum, and to you for curating this special Golden Jubilee celebratory exhibition with your brother. How do you feel it went? 
We are very proud of the Journey to Mastery Exhibition. The theme Journey to Mastery is a celebration of the respective journeys of Uche Edochie, Ayoola and Didi Museum. The exhibition showcased works from Didi’s private collection dating back to the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s – and more recently from the year 2000. In addition to this, 22 works from the two exhibiting artists were also featured. The opening ceremony on April 17 was very well-attended. The event was hosted by my father, Chief Newton Jibunoh and the special guest of honour, the Obi of Isselu Ukwu. There were also a number of notable art patrons, art educators, celebrated Nigerian artists as well as friends of the Didi Museum institution. The number of guests who attended on the opening day and the subsequent days, has exceeded our expectations. Overall, it has been a success and we are quite pleased.

Do you believe the show will have an impact on your audience and the wider society?
Yes, we do believe the exhibition will have an impact on our audience and the wider society. One of the key objectives of Didi Museum is the collection and preservation of African Art. Didi Museum has always believed in tradition and preserving Africa’s fast disappearing cultural norms and arts. As part of the Journey to Mastery campaign, we have been able to remind our audience of the role Didi has played in the development of Nigerian and African art. It is fair to say that Didi Museum has played a pivotal role in bringing Nigerian art to where the global arena is today. Virtually every well-known artist has exhibited at Didi over the years, and the museum has also hosted exhibitions in Europe. Artists from other parts of the world have also exhibited at Didi. Education of this legacy and the continued role which Didi will play, has a direct impact on our society.

Did your parents actively teach you how to preserve art, or did you just see it happen? Can you explain how this is done please?
No, our parents did not actively teach us to preserve art but it’s fair to say art is part of our DNA. Didi Museum started with very humble beginnings in our family home. As a result, we were raised surrounded by art. Paintings and sculptures were our tapestry, our visual stimuli growing up. Artists were our friends and studios were our playgrounds. My most vivid memory was when Kenny Adamson painted “Portrait of Time” on the walls of our home. I watched the story unfold, the colours, the vibrancy and the passion. Growing up, art was an integral part of my life, so when I moved into my first home, empty walls are an alien concept to me. The home only felt complete when I was able to adorn the walls with paintings.

Your father remarked that art is not only to be stored but “should be part of people’s lives.” Would you like to expand on that?
A phrase I live by, and which you hear often amongst art collectors and patrons is that ‘’Art is life’’. Art reflects life, and every artist is a storyteller. That truth is the inspiration behind my Dad’s statement that art should not be stored but be a part of people’s lives. It’s the same way that books should not be locked up in a vault; and it’s the same reason why poetry is best shared. A painting, a sculpture – all art tells a story. In the past it was our form of communication, it existed before the written word. It’s such a powerful platform and the stories are poignant, colourful, thought-provoking, personal and liberating. One of my greatest joys is having people over to my home to see and enjoy my art collection. It’s a very common habit of art collectors everywhere in the world. My life has been enriched by art, I have learnt a lot about the Nigerian and African history, and about perspectives on life in Nigeria and in different parts of the world. About our struggles and shared human emotions. And, most importantly, I have learnt a lot about humanity. All from art.

Investing in art is important for a number of reasons. Please can you provide your own personal thoughts on this?
Great question! I think it’s important to understand that I am an art collector and not an art dealer. True art collectors buy art as a passion and not necessarily as a monetary investment. What I mean by this is that when I collect a piece I am not thinking about the monetary return on investment. I am thinking about how it enriches my home, my life and the lives of those who come in contact with the works. I consider the works I collect as valuable assets which I endeavour to preserve, and it is difficult for me personally to resell a valuable asset that I love and which has become a part of my life. Regardless of my personal inclinations in this area though, I do believe investing in art is important. In addition to the role it can play in one’s life as I outlined in some of my previous answers and the impact it has on the way one perceives the world, it is important to note the global average return on investments in art is approximately 25 per cent. The caveat here though is that art is relatively illiquid as an asset and achieving maximum returns can depend a lot on the timing of re-sales. Regardless, the proliferation of auctions in the art world today, including Nigeria, is a reconfirmation of the fact that art appreciates in value.

Founder of Didi Museum Chief Newton Jibunoh and special guest of honor; The Obi of Issele Uku

Do you believe that corporate bodies have a duty to invest in art?
I must commend Nigerian corporations, as quite a number of them have made – and continue to make – significant investments in art. So yes, I do believe that institutions have a responsibility to invest in art. By doing so, they are playing a significant role in the promotion and celebration of our cultural heritage as represented in the art world. I would like to see the same number of corporate bodies who invest in Nigerian music and fashion also investing in art. The art scene still has a way to go in this regard. An interesting parallel when you talk about the role of corporate bodies, are the traditional rulers and the role they have played over the years. Although not corporate institutions, it’s important to reflect on how they have acted as custodians of arts and culture in African societies over the years. Our traditional palaces are homes to some of the most exquisite Nigerian art pieces; many of which have been donated to Didi Museum. Didi Museum actively consults with traditional rulers on cultural ideas and for education on some controversial issues of art, culture, history and tradition. I think many corporate bodies can be inspired by this and should seek to emulate this.

What’s next, after this exhibition? Do you intend to curate more exhibitions or was this a one-off to mark this special occasion?
The Journey to Mastery exhibition is indeed the start of my own journey in curating. I am very passionate about the role which Didi Museum has played in the past, and the role it can play in the future. So yes, there will be a few more cultural celebrations at Didi Museum. We will definitely continue to showcase the works of Nigerian and African artists, but it’s important to note that Didi Museum is quite different from a gallery. As a museum, its role is broader. Exact details are still being worked on, so watch this space!


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