By MCPHILIPS NWACHUKWU
IN whatÂ looked like theÂ Â first official visit of the acting director general of the National Gallery of Art, NGA, Muku Sabo Abudullahi, Sunday last week to the Lagos office of that federal parastatal responsible for the preservation and promotion of contemporary Nigerian arts and artists, the comatose centre, which in the last two years, under the leadership of Chief Joe Musa enjoyed unprecedented beehive ofÂ focused andÂ determined visual art activities symbolically marked a return of life.
Activities at the centre came to a lull following unresolved crises that rocked the parastatal early in the year, leading to the suspension of Chief Joe Musa and four other directors on allegations of misappropriation of funds. With the suspension of Musa, the Kogi State born technocrat and soft spoken art administrator, Muku Sabo Abdullahi was appointed on acting capacity to bring leadership drive for the troubled parastatal.
Coming to Lagos in the company of chairman of Board of theÂ National Gallery, Barrister Peter Eze, president, Association of Gallery Owners, AGAN, Chief Frank Okonta and president, Society of Nigerian Artists, Uwa Usen, the acting director general in a well attended conference held at the Aina Onabolu complex told culture journalists and members of SNA that he had come to tell them, that though, the National Gallery of Art had been rocked by crises a good part of the year, the Centre does not intend to put a stop to some of the laudable programmes, with which it has come to be known.
Abdullahi said the National Gallery was still committed to several of its projects; and assured artists not to express fears about the non continuity ofÂ the projects , especially those ones which promote the interests of Nigerian arts andÂ artists. He outlined three projects, which the National Gallery intends to carry out before the end of the year. These projects according to him are: African Regional Summit & Exhibition on Visual Arts, (ARESUVA), the fourth National Symposium on Nigerian Art and Stakeholders Forum.
Talking about theÂ proposed ARESUVA scheduled to hold at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, November 19 to 21, Muku Abdullahi explained that it was unthinkable to abandon such a project, which apart from keying into the Federal Governmentâ€™s seven point agenda, also has the capacity to creating an alternative economic platform for diversification for a mono product dependent economy like Nigeria.
He said: â€œThe National Gallery of Art has instituted a programme called the African Regional Summit & Exhibition on Visual Arts (ARESUVA) with the set objective of promoting visual arts as a strategy for achieving rapid economic development in the African region as envisioned in the New Partnership for African Development( NEPAD).â€
Muku revealed that the three day event, which will hold under the theme, The Impact of the Visual Art Sub- Sector on the African Economy, 79 artists from within and outside the county have been invited to participate and a total of 11 speakers from within and outside the country.
Contributing to the briefing, Professor Tony Okpe of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who also serves as one of the curators of 2009 edition explained that arrangements have been concluded for Nigerian born and American based art scholar, Oluchukwu Oguibe, to come to present a lead paper at the occasion. Okpe said: “Oguibe paper is expected to discuss how the optimal and creative utilization of African resources can create platform for capacity building.â€
Also invited to come and brainstorm with artists are Ivorian artist, Yacouba Konate Gavin Young, Mutheu Mbondo, Clementina Delli, Ola Oloidi, S.A Adetoro, Osa Egonwa, Pat Oyelola and Frank Ugiomoh. â€œTheÂ essence ofÂ this regional invitation of scholars,â€ Okpe further explained “is to provide comparativeÂ platform for the discourse of the trend and potentials of African art talking from the points of regional differences.â€
Coming shortly after ARESUVA will be the fourth edition of National Gallery of Art symposium on art, which is scheduled to hold between November 29 and December 3 at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. The programme coming on the theme; Art and Technology in a Developing Society is designed to bring artists and art scholars together for a meaningful interaction over all aspects of Nigerian art.
The yearâ€™s activities of the Centre will be rounded up withÂ Stakeholders forum on December 7 at the Cyprian Ekwensi Centre for ArtsÂ and Culture, Abuja. The themeÂ of the Stakeholders Forum according to Muku is Visual Arts as a Catalyst forÂ Economic Advancement and will also be marked with an exhibition of works of art from Zaria at 50.