L-R: Sam Ovraiti and Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya during the press preview of Harmattan Workshop Exhibition at Alexis Galleries, Lagos.

…featuring Bruce Onobrakpeya, Tola Wewe, Sam Ovraiti, others

By Osa Amadi, Art Editor

The popular Harmattan Workshop Exhibition under the auspices of Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF) opened Saturday, December 14 at the Alexis Galleries,Victoria Island, Lagos, and is expected to run till Friday, December 20, 2019.

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This exhibition presents a rare opportunity for governments, corporate organizations and rich individuals to buy masterfully crafted artworks and in the process support the legendary Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation, for the great legacy Bruce has bequeathed society and our world of art.

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The Harmattan Workshop Exhibition, which traditionally showcases the artworks created at the yearly Harmattan Workshop which takes place at least twice at Agbarha-Otor in Delta State, is being hosted this year by Alexis Galleries after being hosted at other venues such as the Pan-African University, the Lagos Court of Arbitration and other places.

The show is presenting about 34 works created by Bruce Onobrakpeya, Tola Wewe, Sam Ovraiti,Moses Unokwah, AderinsoyeAladegbongbe, Ajibo Chukwu, Andrew Onobrakpeya, Azeez Alawode, Barrett Akpokabayen, Bisi Ajayi, Bode Olaniran, Dele Oluseye, Ejiofor Ogochukwu, Gab Awusa, Godson Etokapan, HalimatHamzat, IdioEmiefiele, Joy Philip, Lasisi Dare, LCA, MarcellinaAkpojofor, MukailaAyoade, OdiriOrhorhoro, Yves Midahuen, Ofoye Idowu, OjoOlaniyi, Oluwole Orowole, Rasaki Adeniyi, SalubiOnakufe, ShakiruBadmus, Sola Adeleye, UfuomaOnobrakpeya and Yinka Ogunneye.

Speaking to the media during a press preview of the exhibition last week, the Master Artist and Chairman of the Harmattan Workshop, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya said: “The Harmattan Workshop is a forum where artists come together and practice and exchange ideas. It is located in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. But we have an annex here in Lagos where most of the artists that facilitate the Agbarha-Otor Workshop stays.

“Several times in the year, particularly in February an August, we go to Agbarha-Otor to hold the workshop in which people come from all over the country and the West African Region – Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana, etc. We’ve also had people come from America, Canada, Belgium, London. And once in a while, the products of the workshop are put together and exhibited. Such exhibitions had taken place at the then Pan-African University, the 10th anniversary of Delta State celebration, Lagos Court of Arbitration, etc. Now, this exhibition is one following that trend.

“Usually, it’s not every year that we have this exhibition. So, this year we are very thankful to Alexis Galleries for hosting us. The works you are seeing here are few samples. Sometimes we have up to 60 or 70 people attending the workshop, and if you put their products together it amounts to a massive collection. So, this is just a small sample.

Professor Onobrakpeya emphasized the Harmattan Workshop’s and BOF’s gratitude to Alexis Galleries: “Talking about Alexis Galleries, we want to use this opportunity to thank the gallery owner. This is the third time I am coming to Alexis and I have been very much impressed with what she does to promote the artists. If the artwork is produced and you don’t have anyone to curate and market it, then the work cannot move forward and no one will see them. In that regard, we thank the Alexis Galleries so much for keeping this place open for us to showcase our works.

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Professor Bruce Onobrakpeyaalso shed light on the future of the Harmattan Workshop, and of the BOF. “The Harmattan Workshop is under the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, and as a foundation, it is an entity in itself. It has a life of its own. And what we are doing now is to make sure that it grows and grows into the future. No individual inherits a foundation. If the directors and other people running it now say they are no longer interested in BOF, the idea, the lands, the buildings and all BOF has been doing will be carried to another organization that will continue the work. So, it’s something that is there for life.

“The Agbarha-Otor place has been a grooming ground for people who have the spirit of philanthropy and they have set up workshops where they train people. That is something we are happy about. The Harmattan Workshop, or any other workshop for that matter, is meant to develop an area. So, the Harmattan Workshop has helped to develop the Central Urhobo District. We are hoping that what we are doing in Agbarha-Otor will help make it a world heritage site. We are now thinking about the overall economy that tourism and things like that bring to the people. When people visit a place, that is tourism. People have gone there to shoot films, do musical performances; and churches and other smaller groups also go to the space to picnic and do other things.

“And also, because the Harmattan Workshop is there, the outlook of the young people has changed. The rush to town and doing of all kind of things like breaking pipelines is now out of it because they now have something positive there to occupy them. The workshop in Osogbo also did same to Osogbo. Because of what we are doing there at Agbarha-Otor, the place is now recognized as an educational center, a cultural center, and a tourism center.”

Speaking also, renowned artist, Sam Ovraiti who  is also the director of the Harmattan Workshop, said it is important to mention that the Harmattan Workshop is arranged by a Non-Governmental Organisation, which is Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation (BOF); and that the project needs financial assistance from corporate organizations who have opportunities to come and see the works and buy them because these works are not priced at regular prices but at very good prices. “We want these works to go out, and whoever is collecting them is collecting them to assist the cause of the growth of the Harmattan Workshop. It is an opportunity for them to contribute to the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, the Harmattan Workshops and the Arts.”

A statement from Alexis said “Alexis Galleries in nine years has engaged in the presentation and dissemination of contemporary and modern art in the media of painting, drawing, mixed media and sculpture, which is the reason we are showing these works created from the Harmattan Workshop at Agbarha-Otor, Delta State…..The Workshophas succeeded in bringing together people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, academic standing and practical experiences to share ideas.

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The exhibition is supported by Pepsi, Tiger, Indomie, Mikano, Delta Airline, Cool World, UPS, Cobranet, Cool FM, Wazobia FM/TV, Art Café and The Homestores Limited.

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