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In Abuja, Archibong’s catalogue documents Transcorp Hilton’s art

THE belief that art without documentation is incomplete must have informed the gathering, on Wednesday as another effort in art documentation was recorded when Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja in collaboration with BHS International launched a book containing works of the artists done for the hotel in the last 23 years.

The event, a book launch with dinner was held inside the Logos Room of the hotel and attended by selected dignitaries across the country who were privileged to have a copy of the book containing pictures and texts of the artist’s works done for Hilton hotel. Archibong’s works at the hotel are about 50 including the commemorative plaque outside the hotel.

To further strengthen the documentation,  copies of the book, it was learnt, will be sent to all Hilton Hotels across the world. Hilton, a global hotel conglomerate boasts of over five hundred hotels worldwide. The event was part of Archibong’s 50th birthday celebration, and art exhibition with a theme that focussed on art and nation building. It is also scheduled to hold in Lagos as an extension of events marking his birthday.

Painting of the proposed City centre for TBS by Archibong
Painting of the proposed City centre for TBS by Archibong

It is of note that the artist’s theme always hovers around the nation’s quest for development and usually have international dimension; either held at diplomatic gathering or have support from that circle. In 2005, he had a solo show entitled Re-orientating Creativity for Human Development at the same venue, for a period of one month. The show was an effort in educating both the government and corporate bodies on the role of creativity in nation building. About 150 works of his done in14 different media, spanning a period of 23 years were on exhibit.

In the same year, he had another show as part of the first Africa Development Bank, ADB Culture Week held in Tunisia where he represented Nigeria, in a solo mission of using my arts to promote tourism potentials of this country.

Listing his sojourn within that frame of focus, Archibong said, his show at Sandstone Convention Centre, South Africa, during the South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum, in March 2002, was attended by statesmen and diplomats, including the then Vice President of that country, Dr. Jacob Zuma who was the special guest of honour.

Shortly after, another show of his was held at Bat Centre, Durban, he recalled, stressing that the same mission of his had him selected as part of an exhibition with 150 world top sculptors at an event called Sculptors International, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. In 2006, at the European Union Commission, Brussels, Belgium, his solo show titled Peace and Cultural Development and held at La Galleria-Europaid Co-operation Office, Brussels, Belgium  offered the international community to share the artist’s thought on creativity in promoting peace.

Documentation of works of art in this part of the world, he noted, is very weak, hence the need to start documenting his works. “Aside records through newspapers, hardly are works documented properly in this part of the world. Artists, naturally, are occupied producing more works and give less importance to documentation,” but Archibong would not blame artists, rather “those who are in the business of art documentation; I think they need to do more.” He noted that if this country has to develop, Nigerian artists have to take up the challenge because it’s their destiny.

Last year, the National Gallery of Art, NGA, revisited the issue of art documentation and promised to commission art historians in a scheme that the director general of NGA, Joe Musa said “would have one art historian specialises on a particular artist.” Culture, Archibong said, has to go diplomatic, particularly in the era of re-branding the country.

“This is the time to use culture as a tool in re-branding the country. It is at little or no financial cost to the nation, but left for the government to decide what is its priority in promoting the culture of the land using the diplomatic structure as contained in my several proposals to government.” He, however, hopes that his next book after the current one, which looks at art and nation building would get the support he needs to get the document to the diplomatic circle.

He shared the contents of his next book which includes the opportunity to use the Tafawa Balewa Square as a haven for culture and tourism: “Art has been shut out of industrial development of the nation for too long. Meaningful development would continue to elude the country unless artists are allowed to be part of the larger enterprise.
The TBS, will become a cultural hospitality, retail and entertainment centre with a five star hotel, large shopping mall, a museum, art and craft gallery, an auditorium, theatre, fashion, modelling and photography studios, a recreation club with art garden. It is high time Nigeria had a business centre of world class. The new TBS will help to attract tourists who will eventually become investors in Nigeria.

“This country’s inability to explore culture has brought corruption to highest point, led most Nigerians to believe in getting rich without working – it is loss of value for a people that need total orientation.”

The book, which he said would be launched towards the end of the year, will also contain what he called “infrastructure development and wealth creation for the people through art and culture.” He argued that having a national monument such as the TBS managed by a private group, particularly one with culture and tourism as focus is indeed a blessing to this nation.

“It is modelled after popular centres like Sandton City and Sun City in South Africa, and Trade Centre in Dubai, using our artistry of Nigerian culture. Delay in redeveloping the TBS as a business tour destination, according to our foreign partners has resulted to huge lost to this country: lost of a minimum of two million visitors annually; one million employment; N1.6bn worth of foreign investment.


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