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Award winning Benson captures Nwoko’s Legacy In The Realities Of Demas

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A corss section of guests watching The Realities of Demas INSETS: Benson and Nwoko

Back from Venice International Film Festival where his film Daughter of Chibok earned him the prestigious Virtual Reality Award, documentary filmmaker Joel Kachi Benso was at the just concluded ART X Festival to screen his latest project, The Realities of Demas. 

Based on the works of renowned Nigerian artist and architect Demas Nwoko, the seven-minute-long film explores two of the architect’s most iconic works, which are located in Ibadan – the New Culture Studio and the Dominican Chapel. Through the film, viewers are taken on a virtual tour of Demas’ New Culture Studio, a sprawling building that is situated on a hill close to the University of Ibadan, and was built in the late 70s. The studio boasts an amphitheater space, which was inspired by the Greek Coliseums, and offers thespians a rehearsal ground for their theatrical productions. 

Inside the Dominican Chapel, viewers are immersed in this unique space that was designed with a fusion of Catholicism and African culture. The soundtrack to this scene is the near-hypnotic chant of the monks, who surround the viewer, while they make their evening supplications. 

Most of Demas Nwoko’s designs incorporate modern techniques while still reflecting the African roots. For instance, there are buildings that he built with local materials such as clay and laterite. 

“I have read about the New Culture Studio a lot. I went to Ibadan last year because I was designing something similar but I didn’t have the opportunity to visit it. But watching this in VR is a whole new experience. I danced when I started watching it and people around thought I was crazy but they didn’t understand,” one of the viewers said.

The film was made possible through the support of ART X and Guardian Studios, and marks the first time the artist’s work is captured using virtual reality technology. Benson, who is recognised as one of the pioneering filmmakers in VR, spent two weeks putting the footage together. He described the film as an educational tool for every architecture student.

Presently, Benson is exploring the idea of documenting Nigerian modern art in 360 and making the content available to educational institutions.

“I think virtual reality can serve as a great educational tool for our institutions. Students don’t have to break their heads to get information about their research products. It is also an innovative way to archive our heritage,” he said.

Benson emerged the first African to win the prestigious Virtual Reality Award at the Venice International Film Festival this year. That accolade has put him in the spotlight and though he admits it is sometimes overwhelming, he says he is grateful for the opportunities it has created for him to collaborate with international VR filmmakers and continue to push the envelope of storytelling. 

His winning film Daughters of Chibok is still a hot topic and continues to tour film festivals across the globe.


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