By Chris Onuoha
Many today would like to remember their late parents in different ways including memorial parties, thanksgiving services and media advertorial publications, but how many would aspire to leave a legacy of events that may be documented as a study material? That was exactly what the creative and innovative minds of the families of Rev. John Thomas Noserime did when they embarked on a posthumous exhibition of their father’s works and others called The early visual manifest: from Zaria to London to honour a man whose artistic impact in Nigeria must not go uncelebrated.
The Pan Atlantic University foyer, Lekki-Epe way in Aja, Lagos, was the venue and arrays of works on display was an indication of evolving romance between the young and the old contemporaries charting a cause in the Nigerian art scene.
Pa. Rev. John Noserime Thomas was among the early artists that put Nigeria in the contemporary art map. He was an astute Art Teacher in the 60s to 70s from the formidable Zaria brigade that formed the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA). His first son, Rukeme Noserime, who inspired this posthumous art fair, was passionate to reveal what Pa John Thomas stood for in the eyes of the family and the entire art community in Nigeria and diaspora:
“My father is purely in the educational sector. He was among the graduates of Zaria who were the first set of graduate artists we have in this country that include Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onobrakpeya among others. While Grillo was in Yaba College of technology, Dr. Kolade Oshinowo in Kings College and Prof. Bruce in St. Gregory’s College, my father came down from London to Iganmode Grammar School. By 1964, he moved down to Igbobi College and was there for so many years as a teacher. Ever since, he has been in the educational sector. This exhibition is not about money value, rather it is about scholarly attainment, documentation and heritage.
“He did not do painting, rather he studied commercial art which is now graphics art. For that, he was not really exhibiting. But he did a couple of exhibitions with Yusuf Grillo then in the 1960s and when he was in Kwara State, he was the one that brought up Society of Nigerian Artists SNA, Kwara State chapter. He was the President and secretary General of the association for so many years. He had quite a number of exhibitions then. Now that he is late, I was able to stumble into some of his works. And I said to myself, this man should be known nationally and globally. We cannot just allow him to die like that.”
“More also, when I looked back to how himself and my mother suffered to train us, nine children, eight boys and one girl, at times I cry. My mother gave me this royal bangle I am putting on my hand. Anytime I want to remember them, I put it on. I said to myself, whatever sacrifice it will take to immortalise them, I will do.
“Now, I did a little exhibition about them in 2006 in the Yabatech Gallery and it was well attended. But during that process, a book publication on their behalf was not successful because of computer faulty error. However, I said I must forge on with that project because some of my father’s works especially his sketches were already dilapidating and wearing out, so I had to scan them because I just need something to document him in life. Some of these materials we intend to send to his former schools, most especially, University of London where he studied, Smithsonian Institute and another art Institute in France where he also studied, so that he would be documented globally.