Nigeria’s Bruce Onobrakpeya to hold solo art exhibition in Lagos

The exhibition will hold for two weeks and ends on December 14.

All is set for the solo art exhibition of Bruce Onobrakpeya, one of Africa’s most respected and, arguably, Nigeria’s greatest experimental artist.

The exhibition, made up of over 60 works which reflect over five decades of Prof. Onobrakpeya’s outstanding career, would begin at Temple Muse, Lagos, from December 2.

Works consisting of metal foil pieces, prints, serigraphs, plastocasts, sculptures and paintings would be showcased in the two week long exhibition which runs till December 14.

“I’m inspired by an urge to want to see the next step. As a printmaker, I’m like a scientist – always inventing. That’s the thing that pushes my art,” said Onobrakpeya, 81, during a media chat last Friday.

In the works to be showcased, there are serigraphs from his famous ‘Sunshine Period’ of the 1960s – 1970s, and paintings and etchings that feature images from his ‘Dance to Enchanting Songs’ series. There are also small pendants the size of mobile phones that reflect images and symbols drawn from his ‘Esirogbo’ and migratory media techniques.

Other works to be exhibited include Leopard in the Cornfield, Have you Heard? Totems of the Delta, Ibiokpo, Isorogun, Rape of the Land, Good Governance, amongst others.

“Nigeria is in the throes of change; it requires a type of art, call it modern, that will reflect its on-going effort to achieve meaningful development and cultural identity,” Onobrakpeya, fondly called Onobraks, added.

A founding member of the famous Zaria Rebels – an art movement started with the likes of Uche Okeke, Demas Nwoko, Yusuf Grillo, and others – during his studies at the Nigerian College of Science, Art and Technology, Zaria; Onobrakpeya has always rebelled against copying Western art forms.

In 1999, Onobrakpeya founded the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation whose famous Harmattan Workshop Series, a summer artists’ retreat, has trained and inspired a generation of artists.

“When artists meet in the Harmattan Workshop, they exchange ideas and skills and that helps them develop,” the octogenarian said.

“Over the years, we’ve had so many people come from Nigeria and abroad to work on printmaking, stone carving, textiles, jewel making, metal sculpture, and mixed media work.

“But above all, we look at an art form that is dying and then we try to resurrect it. Like 2-3 years ago, we resurrected black smithery. We brought an expert from New York who worked with our artisans and artists from Awka – Nigeria’s ancestral centre of ancient black smith traditions,” Onobrakpeya said.

In 2007, Onobrakpeya’s work was the highest selling art piece in the Art House Contemporary auction, Nigeria’s leading auction house. His metal foil panel sold for N9.2 million, a local record at the time.

“We see Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya’s legacy as a quintessential symbol of Nigeria’s rich heritage and culture,” said Ifie Sekibo, Managing Director of Heritage Bank, the sponsor of the upcoming exhibition, alongside Ruinart, the world’s oldest Champagne house known to support global art events.

Born on August 30, 1932, in Agbahra-Ottor, Delta State to an Urhobo carver; Onobrakpeya started out as a teacher.

Since 1966, his artistic experiments has led him to create new techniques and ways of manipulating materials such as his unique bronze lino relief work, plastocast reliefs, and his signature metal foil deep etchings.

“My father is difficult to catch because he’s always experimenting on the experiment,” said Ejiro, his son, who is an art consultant.

“His mind is very restless and it will be difficult to hold it down in one medium,” he added.

Avinash Wadhwani, Director of Temple Muse, said that it was a huge honour to host “a living legend.”

“His art typifies what is truly magnificent and unique about Nigerian modern art,” Wadhwani said.

Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, the exhibition’s Curator who produced the film Red Hot Nigerian Creativity, which featured Onobrakpeya in his studio, described him as the “best of Nigeria.”

“Curating this show has been a true adventure, and every time I go to his studio, I am amazed by increasing numbers of new works which show an artist who is reaching the pinnacle of his career at past 80 years of age,” said Mbanefo-Obiago.



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