By JAPHET ALAKAM- INTERVIEW
Frank Momoh, is the president of Frot Group, an energy and construction company based in Lekki, Lagos and founder and Chairman of FROT Foundation. The Edo State born philanthropist and art collector has been providing sponsorship and other support for Nigerian sports and arts. This year alone, he has sponsored three exhibitions in Lagos. Sunday Arts caught up with him during the closing ceremony of Insanity, which he sponsored at Omenka Gallery and he bared his mind on a lot of issues. Excerpts.
Tell us about Frot Foundation
I am the founder and chairman of Frot Foundation. Our foundation is focused on four cardinal areas. Which are water, education, sports and arts.
Frot Foundation tends to be there when help is needed. But, our major focus like I said is what I mentioned earlier. Primary education, in providing infrastructures and providing the right learning environment for primary schools because I believe that is the foundation of education. Infrastructures like tables and chairs, learning materials and a conducive environment. Outside these four cardinal areas I have enumerated, Frot Foundation has been very vocal and very supportive in helping the health sector. We are a partner with Noah’s Ark foundation for sickle cell.
Also, a partner for cancer awareness in Nigeria. We have sponsored several events, promoting awareness for sickle cell and providing funds and monthly drugs. Noah’s Ark is fully responsible for that . But, for cancer awareness Nigeria, our aim is to continue to educate the Nigerian public as we realised that our women are dieing by large numbers daily. And we also realised that the major reason is ignorance. They don’t even know what to look for. Outside that we have a passion for providing a hand in any work of life that needs help. Personal medical attention to people, and we sponsor that, we are also strategic partner with the Lagos state motherless baby home, Lekki. Right now, we are working heavily on providing ten boreholes for the IDPs in the North East. And our slogan is very simple,”Every little counts.” So, every little we can , we always be there.
What motivated Frot Foundation to sponsor arts
The idea of sponsoring artsor my interest comes from my collecting habit of arts. I have always appreciated arts and I can tell you that am one of the major collectors of African arts in Nigeria and also the patron of arts. Arts for me is life. I feel complete when am in any art environment. Am also a very big ambassador of creativity, anything that has to do with skills and talents, I support them heavily. For me arts is something I have grown to appreciate and love.
At what point did this connection start?
I do not come from an art family. The passion and love for arts started because of my love for creativity. That point I cut the bud where I see a very good work of art and I can’t go to sleep without thinking about it actually started about ten years ago. Somewhere in England, I want into a gallery and the attendant was very vast and understood arts. He talked me into arts and made me to understand the different benefits of arts. So since then, I have grown to love it and research on it. I go to exhibitions and auctions even when I don’t have money. I go to exhibitions, go to view and auctions to listen. And then, the energy arts enthusiasts exhume will compel you to fall in love with it.
Insanity is just part of it. It is an offshoot of our resolve to encourage arts in Nigeria and beyond the shores of Nigeria. From what I understand and seen in the art and culture sector in Nigeria. There is a huge gap between the masters and the young ones. So, I kept asking myself, when are we going to fill this gap. By the time these masters are getting too old to paint. What are we going to appreciate, who is going to remind us of our heritage. Who is going to remind us of our purpose in life? Which is appreciating creativity.
So, I decided that youth development is always the key to any vacuum. Like in sports, we focus on youths development and in arts too. Insanity actually started from a programme we did called Artist connect where we invited artists all over Nigeria. About 250 attended and they came with their works, it was a fantastic event as exchanged ideas and we did a shortlisting of about 20 artists and streamlined it to 12. The whole idea of doing that was to focus on a small group and use it as a pilot programme and create a platform that talented youths can leverage on and have hope and grow among themselves in the arts world. Insanity came for the purpose of the platform and exposing young artists to the world.
Is this the first exhibition you are sponsoring?
This is our third exhibition this year. The man I respected so much, I call him Daddy, Kolade Oshinowo. His solo exhibition at TerraKulture was partly sponsored by Frot Foundation. Then, the people I called the 12 disciples, the Olakus, the Odogwus, Nwokolos, Babatundes etc. ,they had a group exhibition called “ Infinite treasure.” That was 100% sponsored by Frot Foundation before Insanity.
What are the criteria used?
Value creation. Like I said, I respect and value these people a lot. They have done well for the arts industry, done well in encouraging the young ones. Like Insanity for example, most of these artists I mentioned came on the opening day to encourage the one young ones. For us, it is like partnership with these outstanding artists.
Your take on lack of support for arts by private sectors?
I am not going to use the phrase, lack of support because we have a lot of companies in the private sector that actually support arts. But the support is poor and it is about value system. It depends on the value these companies place on arts. I can tell you that it could have been better. I know a lot of companies that support arts heavily. They sponsor exhibitions and attach their names to exhibitions and auctions . That is encouraging. But, like I said, I expect a lot more from the private sector. But, again, it is gradually increasing. Even the appreciation of arts is gradually increasing. Youths and people under 50 are beginning to love arts.
Next for Frot Foundation?
We can only get bigger . Like I said Insanity was created as a platform for future events like this. So, right now, we now have Insanity as a platform. We have a lot of young talented Nigerians, Africans who saw Insanity and said to themselves, “ I can even do better. Thank God there is a platform I can showcase my talents and my work,” so, there is going to be Insanity 2017, 2018 . Now, it is a platform that every young talented artists will be looking forward to showcase what they can do.
Does their works show the quality of talents we have?
Absolutely, if Frank Momoh can recognise this one. Imagine the young ones that have not be discovered yet. Like I always say, for example in Sports, Hussein Bolt is not the fastest man on earth, he is the fastest man discovered. So, I believe we have a lot more people who are even better than these ten young men that have exhibited now.
My bigger goal in this whole art scenario is to see private museums springing out. That will be open to the public for them to see how deep and rich our cultural heritage is .
Interest in other arts?
Of course we have interest. Like I said, anywhere help is needed, as little as much as we can we always lend a hand. Because, we believe in our mantra which says , “ Every little thing count.” We want to say , it does not matter the amount, it is about the principle behind it. So, for performing arts, we have a hand in that. So, this is visual arts, and we will sponsor other arts as long as it promotes our cultural heritage.