By PRISCA SAM-DURU & VERA SAMUEL ANYAGAFU
The annual Living Icon Project which is in its 5th edition, on Monday, brought together the most accomplished painters and sculptors on the Lagos contemporary art scene,for the celebration of one of Nigeria’s literary Icons, Professor J P Clarke-Bekeredemo as a living Icon.
Documenting Living Icon Project which was conceptualised by renowned artist Olu Ajayi, has since its inception, honoured today’s leading thinkers, academics and policy makers with previous recipients, as HRM Oba of Benin, Profs Wole Soyinka, Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onabrakpeya, etc.
Themed “Locating the Intersection Between Fine Art and Literature”, it featured participating artists;Sam Ovraiti, Duke Asidere, Olu Amoda, Toni Okujeni, Raqib Bashorun, Sam Ebohon, Chinwe Uwatse, Adeola Balogun, Lekan Onabanjo and Gerry Nnubia.
Others were Ato Arinze, Abass Kelani, Emmanuel Irokanulo, Sade Thompson, Angela Isuiwe, Wallace Ejoh, Hamid Ibrahim, Ibe Ananaba and Tola Odunorin.
The Project Supervisor Kolade Oshinowo also, joined the artists in sketching and painting the living legend while seated in the hall.
At the end of the exercise which lasted from morning till about 4pm before it was opened for private viewing, Oshinowo who appeared satisfied with the project as well as the choice of the Icon for fifth edition said that, “I think the idea is to put on the front burner, individuals that have made tremendous contributions to humanity. We are not talking about Nigeria alone, we are talking about people who have made impact in the area of serving. You will agree with me that right now in Nigeria, we do not celebrate self- worth, what we celebrate is net –worth. Our crave for monetary acquisition has wiped off those values in us, that make us look towards integrity and selfless service. So, the idea of the project is to draw attention to the fact that there are people that we need to celebrate. If you look at the list of people who are given awards and titles in Nigeria today, you would just wonder what has gone wrong with us.
They celebrate people that have lots of money, sing their praise on the dailies whereas the very people who have impacted positively to the society, are unfortunately, forgotten. This project is to highlight such people.”
Describing the celebrant as one whose works have impacted greatly on his life and that of others, the Iconic artist explained that, “I grew up reading J.P Clark and he’s been there, these are people who have worked so tirelessly to raise generations of Nigerians, but have they been accorded the right honour they deserve?
Reacting to the theme of the project Kolade noted that, “Literature is art, there is poetry in art, there is poetry in drawing lines, they are inseparable. The only thing is that one is rhythm and the other in pictorial form. I remember Prof. Wole Soyinka saying that how he wished that he could put on canvass everything that he has written but I advised him to hold on to his priceless skill in writing.
The founder of Didi Museum, Chief Newton Jibunoh who was excited that the project held at his Museum said that, “Prof. J.P Clark and I have been friends. When I wrote my second book, he did a special poem for me, which is a part of his collections and I am happy that he is being celebrated here and I appreciate the organisers for the honour done him. It came at the time we are also honouring Nelson Mandela. He is a very hard working man. Nelson Mandela is an icon that left so much for the entire global community. An icon we knew would go one day, but we did not want him to go, because we do not have a replacement in the whole world.
Professor Yusuf Grillo who was among art patrons that graced the important event, said he was happy that the tempo of the project and quality of people who have been documented, have not fallen. According to him, “I was among those who have been honoured and I am happy that J P Clark is the fifth Icon. He is indeed, an icon worth celebrating because of his works which so many people have benefited so much from.”