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US brings smArt to Nigeria

By Prisca Sam-Duru & Vera Samuel Anyagafu
IT is  customary  to mount works of art on walls  during exhibitions. But the United States Department of States smARTpower Sharing Culture presentation organized by the Public Affairs Section of the US Consulate General held in collaboration with Women and Youth Art Foundation, Ibadan  last week was devoid of any such thing.

The smARTpower initiative  taking place in Lagos and Ibadan according to the US Consulate  is a programme that builds on US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power diplomacy” which embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools to bringing people  together and foster greater understanding.

The week long Workshop which opened at the Omenka Gallery Ikoyi Lagos, had visiting  American Artist, Brett Cook from Berkerly, Calfornia who was chosen among 900 applicants, thrill the guests comprising artists, art teachers, stakeholders and students with his presentation titled, “Sharing Culture  in Nigeria”.

Impressive artistic record

Brett Cook who described himself simply as an artist, educator and healer, is a distinguished artist with very impressive artistic record whose works foster good group relations and cultural exchange.

He has led series of presentations and multifaceted workshops including  collaborative creation of artifacts, celebrations, public art installations and digital documentation with the view  to fostering new connections and building community. And at the end of his digital presentations, the audience could not hold back their testimonies about  how indeed, Brett has taken art to a more innovative, revolutionary, engaging and sophisticated level which are yet lacking in the  sector in Nigeria.

The digital presentation revealed that Bret uses art as tool for peaceful revolution and for cultural interconnectivity. It was so challenging that stakeholders demanded to know  how  he used his kind of art for poverty eradication, which is another  kind of transformation.

In line with this, the president of Women and Youth Foundation, Dr Peju Olayiwola, stressed the need to set up a huge craft market in Nigeria for economic sustainability. According to her, “in addition to building the craft market where artists can display their works for buyers, the nation must revive Bronze casting in Benin so that   the people involved  in the art can be well paid for giving the country a good image.”

The digital presentation according to Brett contained materials done in the last twelve years which showed an amazing and stunning level  that he has long attained with spectacular art works and art sense that translate to empowerment and relationship building, with the objective of creating an incredible positive change.

Explaining some of the strategies utilised to achieving  transformation, the artist said “I interviewed people on why they hated visiting museums and there after, went ahead without permission though, to paste paintings of them on the walls of the museum.

This action , he explained, drew their attention and marked the beginning of visiting museums to see their pictures and other beautiful things. Also, about the deserted streets of Harlem which had buildings abandoned for gangsterism, “I interviewed people who hated going there, got their views and again, pasted their images on the walls of abandoned buildings and this also attracted visits to communities they hated to visit.”


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