Lagos – A veteran artist, Prof., on Tuesday urged government and arts enthusiasts to create the enabling platforms for artists to expand their practice and works.
Onobrakpeya said in Lagos that more platforms were needed for the artists to blossom in the country and be at par with their international colleagues.
He said that artists especially the young ones often inspire him and his own art because some of them were very good.
He said that his yearly “Harmattan Workshop,’’ which holds in Delta was a platform where artists came together and collaborate to learn techniques under old masters and exchange ideas.
“Harmattan Workshop artist’s retreat is our own cultural and philosophical language through literature, art and symbolism to showcase our heritage.
“The artists sensitise the environment, so that people will see clearer how artists work and what they produce.
“The Harmattan Workshop is important because it promotes the art. So, if it is replicated elsewhere it will help promote art the more,” he said.
He also called for the promotion of declining art forms such as pottery and blacksmithing, saying reviving their fortunes would rekindle the sector and
create employment opportunity for young Nigerians.
According to Onobrakpeya, people engaging in pottery and blacksmithing are very minimal in the country and were hardly noticed.
“Although, pottery is still practiced in the north but people seem not to be interested anymore.
“These are some of the things we look into at the Harmattan Workshop and try to revive them because we still need them,” he said.
He said that the non-prescriptive but political aspect of his work and the works of others were vital in opening up the political and cultural space in Nigeria.
The artist said that his last works, “Aba na Nya”, at his last exhibition in Lagos early this year was named after the fabrics that have been used as a textile canvas for his work.
“Aba na Nya’’ is an Okpe (Urhobo) word which became well known as an expression of disapproval of inferior fabrics introduced into Nigerian markets.
“Aba na Nya therefore is a metaphor for change.
“The series made partly from the collage of fabric left over by his wife’s dress maker, are graphic illustrations of stories of change.
“They are an inspiration and invitation for us to tell our own stories of change.
“The technique itself is very experimental and the work that has been created is bold, fresh and relevant to the digital age,’’ he said.
Onobrakpeya noted that although the message of the pieces of Aba na Nya were not prescriptive, the series were very political in its subject matter.
“I ask our people to go back in time and relive our timeless values which will be fertilised by exposure to equally good values beyond our borders for a meaningful present and a hopeful future.
“The series depicts various stages of change in Nigerian society that are of interest to the artist,” he said.