Ben Osaghae’s father was a pastor. There’s a theory about the sons of preachers. They either go down the path of debauchery or they become acutely sensitive to evil. Or, in some rare cases, oscillate between both ends.
Osaghae seemed to have landed in the camp of the reformers. His art grapples with the social issues of Nigeria – the lack of infrastructure, unemployment and social decay. Anyone dealing with the social issues in Nigeria will find more than enough material. It’s manifestly easy to find things to criticize. It’s how he expressed it that set Osaghae apart. His was not a rant. It was subtler, deeper and more heartfelt. An expression of world-weariness captured on canvas. When he painted about the burden of the extended family, for instance, it was more resignation than anger.
His colours are anything but resigned though. His Auchi roots are obvious in his choice of palette. The vibrant, unrestrained colours are clearly reminiscent of Auchi yet are expressed in his own peculiar way. He always had the idea that his art had to be an interaction between himself and his audience. Many things would be suggested, hinted out. The audience would explore, fill in the gaps, add to the conversation.
Osaghae graduated from The Federal Polytechnic, Auchi in 1986. He would go on to lecture there along with Duke Asidere, Sam Ovraiti and Emmanuel Ekpeni. This was maybe the most creative time in Auchi history. Osaghae‘s art played a part in defining this style.
Osaghae’s art offer a strong dose of the difficulties in today’s Nigeria. But it’s medicine that comes sugar-coated with his blend of lines, suggestions, colours and cues. It’s a sermon just like his father’s, only from a different pulpit.