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Nigerian artists’ will get to the very top in the world – Okonta

By Akoma Chinweoke

Art promoter and president of Art Gallery Association of Nigeria (AGAN), Chief Frank Okonta has said that better days lies ahead for emerging artists in the country if given the required exposure that would adequately position them to reap from entire new market and opportunities that abounds in world of creativity.

Okonta who disclosed this in Lagos at an art exhibition of the Auchi Polytechnic Class of ’99 tagged INTRINSIC, hosted by the African Artists’ Foundation noted that the country’s art industry is richly blessed with  incredible talents which if provided with a conducive environment  has the capacity to rule the world and  portray  a positive side of the country.

The art exhibition of the Auchi Polytechnic Class of ’99 which came ten years after the  artists graduated  from the prestigious Polytechnic, offered another unique opportunity for eight out of the seventeen   99 grandaunt artists namely; Emmanuel Dudu, Agbara Titus, Nsek Joe, Imoesi Imhonigie, Asuku Musa, Ola Balogun, Franklin Enebeli and Klaranze Okhide to come together once more to exhibit works made in the last decade in their quest for artistic greatness.

The collections shows the development and evolution of the artists in their varying styles from Titus and Dudu’s realism arrived at strictly through the use of palette knives. Their depiction  of the worlds around them are at once familiar and strangely askew.

Similarly, Nsek and Enebeli’s neo expressionistic styles break form into shapes, resulting in an interesting distortion of subject matter. Imhonigie’s landscapes focus on the role of light on subject matter in a style that may be identified as impressionistic, just as Asuku’s paintings draw the seekers to pockets of light revealing inner depths to the subject matter, while Balogun’s works explore lines as a medium of movement in his expressionist paintings and Klaranze’s expressionistic use of colours in depicting mood in her painting.

Bearing his mind on growth of Nigeria’s art industry AGAN boss said “ I am very impressed with what we are doing art wise. There has been a major improvement in art in the past ten years. The number of exhibitions that we are having now has encouraged art lovers to see new works all the time and the younger ones are coming up. I think this is the time for the youths to take art to a very high level. Even money wise, many people are buying art works and its  value has appreciated greatly.

Chief Frank Okonta, AGAN Chairman (middle) and other Art patrons pose with the exibitors at the event.

There is a big leap from what it was. So, I am very happy that the art industry is growing but we need a lot of support  from the government and private organizations. I would like to see a big Nigerian gallery of art in Lagos and Abuja where our group of artists’ can have a room to do an exhibition of about 200-300 works. We are growing, we are getting there and we will get to the very top in the world.

So we need an art place, a place that is like emolument for Nigerian artist. Government design is on paper but we want to see it happen. Government has the money to at least  build two major beautiful edifice that we can call our national gallery  in Lagos which is the art capital and Abuja  because people are eager to see what is happening art wise in Nigeria.”

He added that the artists’ can get art materials at a very subsidized rate, that would make them really come out and paint what is in their minds as many are limited in their choice of colours. “That is why I respect Nigerian artist because he uses his knowledge and creativity to combine many colours to get one particular colour.  If he can get his materials at moderate rate,  it would make it possible for him not to go through much pain to achieve what he wants to achieve.”

Also speaking at the event, President Society for Nigerian Artists (SNA), Mr Uwa Usen, noted that time has come for the country to put artists’ in places of authority so that they can influence decisions of government that would be in their favour. “We encourage our members to be involved in politics. Nigeria at 50,  we will be celebrating our artists’ and the art so far. We would look at the various schools,  their contributions and the various impact these contributions have made. So, we would be assessing ourselves in terms of what art has contributed to the growth of the country.  So, far I think we have done well as we have used art to attract a lot of foreign visitors, correct our image, and advertise our culture”  He said.

However, Zainab Ashadu, Assistant Director AAF pointed out that  societal development would continue to be hindered if creative expression which aims at addressing relevant societal issues through artistic endeavours are not supported and invested in.

The curator commended the works of the emerging artist which shows the development and evolution of the artists’ in their distinct styles and assured them that the foundation would  continue to  give artists the opportunity for creativity in self-expression.


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