By Prisca Sam-Duru & Vera Samuel Anyagafu
The old British Prison located along Broad Street Lagos which has since metamorphosed into a cultural recreation centre known as Freedom Park, wore a fresh and more tourism like look last week, when nothing less than 18 life-size sculptural works were commissioned by Omooba Yemisi Shyllon.
The works, donated by the foremost art collector to Freedom Park, which is said to be worth N30m was according to him, part of his contributions to the development of the Nigeria art and culture.
Commissioning the sculptures, Shyllon who said he is fully committed to championing the cause of visual art in the country, added that “ I felt that if we have a park like this and we just do a story of how people were imprisoned, visitors just walk around, take beer and eat food, they will not go away with food for their soul, food for their mind, food for their lives, so that is why I donated these works”.
The collector who started collecting art at the age of 20 when he was in the University of Ibadan as an undergraduate has so far, continued to increase the tempo of his job which he said is a legacy he wants to leave behind.
Prior to the donation of the art works, Shyllon narrated that he was invited by architect Theo Lawson who is the designer of Freedom Park during which he discovered that there was a missing gap in what the park represented, “because I have visited so many parks all over the world and I felt I should make my own little contribution, so I commissioned three artists, Adeola Balogun , Patrick Agose and Kehinde Jagun to produce life-size sculptural works which depict different cultures of my people, that is, the Igbo, Calabar, Hausa, Lagos, Mid West, Edo, etc”.
Culture is what identifies the difference between different peoples of the world and in line with this, all the creative works commissioned Shyllon noted, represent different cultural spread of Nigeria which are expected to attract different visitors from all over the world to the Park, to help them appreciate the cultures of the people.
“I am very obsessed about art, that is number one, two, I am very obsessed about the culture of my people, and when I say my people I mean all Nigerians and I believe that it is one area we are all neglecting, people are not talking about our past and you find out that many people are looking at our culture from the very wrong, demonic and backward way”, he lamented, stressing that “ This is not true and that is what I have been doing for the past 36 years of my life, collecting works of art and investing in our culture, sponsoring scholastic researches and organizing lectures where people talk about our culture and art”.