From left: Dr. Mondiu Sarumi-Oluwa; J.K. Randle; Seni Jawando (exhibiting artist); General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (Retd), former Minister of Communication; Prince Shamsudeen Ope, past President, Eko Club; and Hon. Tajudeen Agoro, President, Eko Club, all at the art exhibition of paintings, drawing and fabric of Seni Jawando at Eko Hotels and Suites recently in Lagos.
By Chris Onuoha
When friends, relatives, old school mates and associates including government officials of a Nigerian renowned artist, Seni Jawando converged at Eko Hotels, Lagos recently for his solo art exhibition tagged: “Reflection 3” one thing noticeable is the divulged awe and respect all have for him.
Olaseni Jawando (MFR), popularly known as Seni Jawando is a visual artist whose exhibition of over 40 pieces of paintings, collage and mixed media works, held spectators spellbound with a superlative rendition of creative masterpieces. The bodies of work done in different media include prints on textile, mixed media paintings in oil on canvass, and drawings presented as both old and new works. He also works in other media that include sculpture, paints, woodwork, murals and fabrics.
Originally wanting to study architecture, Seni eventually went into the fine arts, starting from Yaba College of Technology in the early 70s and finishing his studies with degrees from Norfolk State and Old Dominion Universities in Norfolk, Virginia. He was also a track star in his younger days at Ahmadiyya College, Agege, Lagos winning gold for Lagos at several competitions. He also prevailed as a teacher while practicing as a studio artist, and had several exhibitions at home and overseas.
This particular exhibition according to him is a celebration of success story in the art practice. Any wonder the convergence of the eminent personalities and Lagos Socialites tell more about the personality of the artist and his works.
Bashorun J.K Randle(FCA), in his opinion at the exhibition stated, “Jawando’s imagination is superlative. He is a great artist. I was very impressed with a particular work that depicts ‘Idumota’ area in Lagos as of the old: the chaos, the confusion and the trauma of being trapped in that scene was captured beautifully. Exactly what he captured is what we are still battling with today, forty years after. Another work also showcased the housing problem in Lagos which is still on. Some of his works are powerful social commentary. He obviously knows what he is talking about.
Randle, commenting about art in general said, “Art does not exist in vacuum, because there are so many tentacles I would like to mention. What makes an artist outstanding is his uniqueness. He sees what ordinary eyes don’t see and would capture it in quest of something very excellent that will grab your attention. That’s what Jawando stands for. But unfortunately, artists need the right environment to survive because so many have wobbled and fumbled and sometimes ended in penury. We have a huge task in our hands to support them.”
Bashorun Randle also advised young artists to aspire for excellence and also look beyond that into a reasonable means of livelihood with their artwork. According to him, some works are hugely sold for millions of dollars in the global market, and there is no reason our own local artists should not be beneficiary of such international success.
Retd. Major Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju former General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3rd Armored Division of Nigerian Army and former Minister of Communication has this to say about Jawando: “Seni Jawando happens to be a colleague. We met about 60 years ago as young boys at Ahmadiyyah College, Agege in form 1. We had a good time together, but then, he showed signs of a creative artist from school. I am not surprised that he has done all these, looking at his artworks today that cut across so many boundaries: cultural, social, international and others.
“When you look at his background too, he has done exhibition in almost four continents together. The quality of his artworks is quite impressive, excellent and it is something I would recommend for people to keep in their residents. If you look here, you find how creative the works are with lots of seriousness put into it. I am so impressed with the nature and the texture of the artworks. They are very rare and it represents our culture, our heritage.
Expressing his views about art practice in Nigeria, Olanrewaju said, “Let me be frank with you. May be in the past, nobody reckoned with these kind of works but I think, today, it calls for global recognition. It is something the younger ones can adapt and make a living out of. I would advice and recommend that the younger artists should take art practice serious because there is bliss at the end of the tunnel.”
For Prof Alade Akintonwa, a retired professor of toxicology, University of Lagos and President of the Ahmidayya College Agege Old boys’ Association, the 1965 set which Jawando belong to said, “I am also here because he is a childhood friend. It is really tremendous, and for people who appreciate art, these are some art pieces yearning for possession. That is why you see a lot of dignitaries in Lagos who came to socialize and reconnect with the artist.
He said that Jawando’s artworks are a reflection of what goes on in Lagos in the 50s and 60s. “We are proud of him and we want people to appreciate and support art. Art and tourism is the main key that holds economy all over the world. Most of the works are very expensive and you cannot put value on them. Some are over 20 years and some are just recent paintings. This is what he should leave behind as a legacy for the next generation of artists.” He said,
Tajudeen Agoro, President, Eko Club, Lagos said, “The first thing I would say is this; I respects his wonderful level of ingenuity in his own field. I have known him for over forty years. He is my cousin and we share the same name. The finishing of his works has this uniqueness. He has been consistent in his ideas and they way he executes his artworks. Seni is over 70 years in age and still exhibits the strength of a young person in art. I respect that as well. He is someone that tries to navigate the upcoming artists to follow the trend positively and not be in a hurry for money. To me, making brand name is the key.
Otunba Segun Jawando, brother to the artist said, “I am fully aware and a witness to his artistic strength and also familiar with the works exhibited here today. My words are straight to the public, to try and appreciate the works of art. He is my junior brother, very serious with his jobs and had a lot of experiences in the art practice.
Retd. Capt. Ibrahim Oloko also noted; “I am quite impressed with what is going on here. This is out of the ordinary, because normally, you don’t get large collection of art in one place at a time by a person. Like the artist himself said, ‘we need government assistance to really encourage the upcoming ones. Exhibition like this doesn’t really come cheap. It is not enough for an artist to work and dump. He needs to be appreciated and an exhibition is actually important for every artist to be appreciated, while Muhammed Muritala Bashir, and close associate of Seni said, “The works here are quite impressive. You really need to appreciate art. These works are unique. Jawando is an in-law to me but outside that, he is a very unique person. He has this rare gift and it is not about age. In fact, the older you go, the better you become. He is a gentleman. I also know him as sports specialist.
Another art enthusiast, Abdul Ganiu Olajide who took a critical glance at a particular work titled “Stock on Ways” said, “Gone are the days in Nigeria when we use to have vehicles like this. It is historical to me having gone series of stages in life and I am happy to connect to my old world through his arts can see various Volkswagen cars including a beetle car that I bought N1,500 back then in the 80s. Going down the memory lane, this is supposed to be a valuable art.”
Seni Jawando has this to say when asked about his inspiration and strength, “Now you know when we are younger, you know where the energy goes, when you become older and then reading, it becomes spiritual and deep. Spiritual is the root of everything and when you get to the root, your perception changes for the better. You cannot really compare time, maybe life is different, but now the belief of 20n years ago is not the belief of now. We have shifted. There is no retirement for an artist. It is a lifetime search. I will continue to paint until the paint and brush drops,” Seni concludes.