Onobrakpeya says his father lived in Okeruvbu, a small town on the outskirts of Benin city, populated by Urhobo people. He would visit the town regularly and eventually did the etching ‘Okeruvbu’. The artwork was, in some way, a tribute to the town, his fond memories of his visits there and the inhabitants of the town.
By 1987 Sam Ovraiti was an art lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi. He’d graduated from Auchi in 1983, and in 1985 returned there as a lecturer. He was gregarious, friendly, mischievous — the sort of person who found something nice to say to everyone regardless of their station.
‘To be a man is not a day job.’ I always liked that sticker. I remember it from the buses zooming all over Lagos years ago. There were lots of stickers on those buses, like weird, mobile graffiti walls. That particular sticker stayed with me though. Probably because of the typo. Each time I read
I’ve been reading M. C. Atkinson’s book, ‘An African life – Tales of a colonial officer’. Atkinson was an English colonial administrative officer in Nigeria between 1939 and 1959. The book is a memoir of his time in Nigeria, working in various districts
Erudite. Articulate. Ben Osaghae liked words. He could express himself clearly in writing and in speech. A rare combination for an artist, in my experience. A rare thing for most people, come to think of it. Most people I know are good at either talking or writing – rarely both. Ben was an exception that way.
I met Uncle Sammy years ago when I set up my gallery. He’d come in, pick up an artwork or two and say to me ‘I’ll send you a cheque soon.’
My mother has never met the artist, Ablade Glover. She likes a few of his artworks on my wall but, I suspect, not enough to want to know too much about the man and his art. Yet, I’ve always thought that there’s a strong link between Glover and my mother. And every other African woman, actually.
Nsikak’s studio is a bit more cluttered than normal. Which is quite something because it usually is quite cluttered. Not in a terrible way though. In a mad tinkerer sort of way with artworks in various stages of creation all over the place, experiments and the instruments of these experiments strewn about and bits of things lying around waiting to be attached to the right multimedia work.
What do you say to a grieving widow? “I’m sorry about what happened”? or “What happened?” or “God will give you strength”? “Sorry” seems so lame.” God will give you strength.” I’m not that religious. I never quite know what to say. I just try to look grave and sympathetic. I probably end up looking panic-stricken.
He welcomed me with a smile. He was wearing a paint-spattered T-shirt and a pair of shorts; looking quite dishevelled in a ‘busy artist’ sort of way, yet remarkably dignified. His studio was littered with empty tubes of paint, like some sort of random installation. The table had packets of unopened paint tubes arranged quite neatly.
He started to turn his car in the middle of the road. Very slowly. We were holding up taxis on both sides of the road. I waited for the torrent of honks and abuse from the taxis. Nothing. They just waited patiently. This was Accra, I remembered.
The one thing I know about Sam Ovraiti is that I can’t seem to leave his studio in a hurry. I go there planning to spend thirty minutes,then I’m there for two hours. It’s not that he chains me to the door or anything remotely diabolical. It’s just that he talks. And talks. And talks. And he is really interesting.
‘What do you think he asked?’ as he unfurled the canvases.
There were two fairly large canvases.
We would occasionally have these talks; whenever he was experimenting with something new. I guess he liked to get a different viewpoint.
‘Being old is a terrible thing,’ he sighed.
Then he turned to me with a smile. ‘Yet nobody wants to die young, eh?’
‘I know,’ I replied.
He grunted as he tried to sign the artwork.
We didn’t really talk about the artworks I’d come for. We just talked about art. Nothing serious. Just chitchat.
‘It’ll still take a while,’ he said.‘We still need to get to that point where people know they can resell their artworks.
The western assumption that all cultures developed along the same stages ranging from primitive to civilized has been argued by African’s scholars to be untrue. This romantic idea was premised on Darwin’s theory of evolution
There’s a constant debate about whether art should be self-explanatory, able to speak to the viewer without comment or explanation from the artist or whether it should be a puzzle that the artist’s comments helps solve .
Dotting the alleys and the facades, from the rear of the westminster Abbey’s landscape, through the Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and all around London, one will find statues of great people who made Britain great.
Oshinowo doesn’t quite fit the stereotype of the mad artist. He is understated, reasonable, well-dressed, measured in style and speech and business-like.
The world keeps changing . Usually for the better . But change also blows away some good things. There’s not much we can do about that.