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Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Harmattan Workshop exhibition turns LCA into museum

By  JAPHET ALAKAM

Lagos Court of Arbitration, (LCA) has always been a busy place with people who visit the three storey building in Lekki Phase 1 Lagos for the resolution of commercial disputes via arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. But the centre was turned to a museum of sort as all the floors were filled with various types of artworks courtesy of a historic exhibition by one of Africa’s most respected artists, Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya and his Harmattan workshop.

• Gala Day under the River IB by Bruce Onobrakpeya
• Gala Day under the River IB by Bruce Onobrakpeya

The exhibition which is sponsored by Global law firm, Hogan Lovells, a film that have been active in Africa for decades and a keen supporter of African art and culture in association with the Lagos Court of Arbitration (LCA), opened on September 16 and will run till December 16, 2016.

The exhibition, themed “Harmattan Workshop” opened following a press briefing with Hogan Lovells Africa team including their head of Africa, Andrew Skipper, the President of the Lagos Court of Arbitration, Yemi Candide-Johnson, Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya, and the curator of the exhibition, Sandra Obiago.

Onobrakpeya, who is one of the people that pioneered the famous modern art movement, Zaria Rebels, is also a master at creating art techniques, which showcases Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage.

The Harmattan Workshop, the brain child of Onobrakpeya, began in 1998 when he decided to launch an informal training initiative for artists in his home town Agbara Ottor in Delta State.

The ongoing exhibition showcases 34 important artworks highlighting Onobrapkeya’s rich artistic career spanning over 50 years, along with over 200 paintings, sculptures, ceramics and mixed media works created by 124 Nigerian and international artists who have attended the Harmattan workshops since 1998.

A tour of the floors shows that there are greater creativity and ideas as the works speak for themselves which according to Onobrapkeya “is a state of the art, a dream that every artists will like to have that is to show in a place like this. It is as if this is a palace and the works are put here.”

The exhibition according to the curator, Sandra Obiago, is one of the most difficult exhibition she has put together. It was well arranged, works were put where they should go and the categorisation was done in such a way to meet the taste of the viewers.

Obiago who stated that everything have been put in place to make sure that the four months life of the exhibition is a very rich one said that it will also feature a talk programme on different aspects of art including, the legal aspect, curating, investing in art, Art for education and art market.

The ground floor tagged The long road to Agbarah Ottor series, features landscapes and other works that depict what the artists saw on their way to the town for the workshop. The first floor captures the works of the master trainer, Bruce Onobrakpeya himself. Here, some of the best works of the master printmaker adorn the spaces.

Second floor tagged Our Culture, Our wealth, sculpture gallery and video screening room features Africans way of life, dance, eat, festivals etc. Finally, the last floor tagged Friendship and Connectivity/Experimentations and Self Discovery, features works that depicts the way the participants connected during the workshop and how they came from different places and discovered themselves.

Commenting on the global firm’s interest in Nigerian Art, Head of the Africa practice Hogan Lovells and Board member of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Andrew Skipper said: “Hogan Lovells has great respect for Africa and the Art of Africa. We support African culture for its uniqueness, beauty, and transformational quality. Professor Bruce is an inspiring artist and teacher whose works we are in awe of and who is changing the lives of the dis-empowered people across Nigeria who he trains.”

Skipper further noted: “Nigeria is one of the key markets we operate in and when you understand the culture of people, it is easier to do business with them.”
The President of the Lagos Court of Arbitration, Yemi Candide-Johnson who spoke earlier during the press conference, expressed the Lagos Court of Arbitration’s willingness to continue supporting Art & Culture in Nigeria, noting that the LCA opens its doors to art lovers to showcase art work, while challenging other corporates to do same.

Commending Hogan Lovells sponsorship of the initiative, he said “Sponsorships like this shouldn’t be a one time initiative. It is important to find sponsors who are in it for the long term and Hogan Lovells is filling a huge vacuum in this regard by lending their support to this initiative.”

Responding, Onobrakpeya said “The Harmattan workshop is an alternative source of art education. The artists have the freedom to express themselves without being bogged down by academic settings or expectations and are actually able to develop themselves. People in the rural areas also get access to learning that they would not normally have, and we are discovering people who are able to use their art to tell stories.”

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