Wednesday, 24 August 2016

'First trial' over destruction of cultural value begins at International Criminal Court

Remember the destruction of UNESCO World Heritage site at Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012 during the insurgency? Yes, that desttruction, which claimed historical monuments and buildings of religious significance, including nine mausoleums and a mosque is being revisted as a war crime at International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

BandarinTimbuktu, Mali, PIC C/O UNESCO.

 Specifically, the suspected destroyer, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi was yesterday, Tuesday, charged for alleged war crimes and the destruction of heritage sites. The case marked a first time at an international tribunal court involving a trial for the destruction of historic monuments and buildings.
   UNESCO, in a statement, argues that the trial is a strong message on the determination of the international community to ensure that this type of crime is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, not only in Mali but everywhere in the World. The guilty plea and the apologies of the defendant can also open a door for reconciliation and truth for the Malian people.
 The trial marks a new step in the full recognition of deliberate destruction of heritage as war crimes, after decades of efforts by UNESCO and by the international community, notably since the destruction of the Old City of Dubrovnik in Croatia and of the Old Bridge of Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which strengthened the legal basis and global awareness that no such crime should remain unpunished.
  This is also a decisive step in recognizing that the protection of culture is a major peace and security issue, inseparable from the protection of human lives, for which UNESCO has advocated and worked with the Security Council of the United Nations over recent years. Attacks against cultural heritage are on the frontline of conflicts today, in a strategy of cultural cleansing where individuals are killed and persecuted on religious and cultural grounds, and cultural institutions are destroyed, including monuments, schools, places of knowledge and media professionals, in an attempt to eradicate free thinking and weaken social cohesion over the very long term. This tactic of war calls for an appropriate legal and judicial response, and we have a responsibility to create a pattern of accountability for such crimes.
UNESCO has immediately raised the alarm after the destruction of the first Mausoleum in 2012 and brought it to the attention of the Court. UNESCO remains fully mobilized in the comprehensive and fair analysis of this specific case and will spare no effort to support the work of the ICC and prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in full respect of its mandate and competence.
  UNESCO renews also its full support to the people and government of Mali, and in particular to the local communities of Timbuktu, who have shown immense courage and determination to rebuild their Heritage, with the support of the international community. UNESCO remains committed to respond to the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage by all appropriate means, in court and on the ground, to preserve cultural diversity and human rights as the lasting foundation of peace.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

American Experience For Nigeria’s Harmattan Workshop

By Tajudeen Sowole

AS contemporary contents keep collapsing barriers across cultures, the informal art skill acquisition space appears to be falling in line, just as building community interest is also taking priority.
Founder, Harmattan Workshop, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya; Director, Haystack Mountain School of Craft, Paul Sacaridiz; and Harmattan Director, Mr. Sam Ovraiti at Haystack Summer 2016 conference

Stressing these factors, for example, was a recent venture of master printmaker, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya, who took his 18-years experience of organising local art workshops to a conference in the U.S. The event themed ‘Craft Thinking: Ideas on Making, Materials, and Creative Process,’ was held at Haystak’s Summer Conference 2016, a convergence of professionals for exchange of ideas.
Onobrakpeya, founder of Nigeria's oldest informal art gathering, Harmattan Workshop, is currently back home and steering the 18th edition's second section, which holds at Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. The workshop is a reference point in informal art education, within Nigeria and abroad.
 On his return from Haystack Mountain Summer Conference, in Maine, U.S, with the director of Harmattan Workshop, Sam Ovraiti, the octogenarian disclosed the mission of their visit and shared his experience. The 2016 edition of Haystack Summer Conference, he recalled, was not the first time for him, having experienced it in 1975. In fact, Haystack, Dr. Onobrakpeya explained, added to the factors that inspired his founding of Harmattan Workshop.
 The goals of revisiting Haystack, he stated, were "to get more ideas about informal art education as well as to boost the prospects of Harmattan Workshop." Informal gatherings, across cultures, are not without some issues to contend with. For Haystack, "apprenticeship and internship," as well as the incursion of "digital technology into art" according to the master printmaker, were two crucial areas focused by the workshop.     
  If anyone was still in doubt of the blurring lines between art and craft, courtesy of contemporary contents, Haystack appeared to have confirmed such. Mr. Ovraiti, who has been directing activities at Harmattan Workshop since 2011 could not hide his excitement about what he described as merging of art and craft. "For example, painting and sculpture were no longer the traditional way; lot of exciting changes." He noted that the resource persons at the Haystack event "are artists who came to share the craft in their art," particularly enphasising the state of craft currently and in the future.
  More importantly, the gains of the Haystack experience for Ovraiti, is the community value that informal art and craft education brings. Hoping that such value would be stressed at subsequent Harmatran workshop, Ovraiti added, "We need to use our art and craft more for our community than before."
 The community factor, according to Dr. Onobrakpeya, is not exactly new to Harmattan Workshop. He stressed that since the event started almost 20 years ago, the people of Agbarha-Otor have been beneficiaries, particularly in mentorship and apprenticeship.
  "Dr. Bruce has always been preaching the relevance of art in affecting the community," Ovraiti added, but with the Haystack experience, the emphasis, he stated, should be stepped up to include "using art and craft to solve problems."
  Beyond art and craft, Haystack, Onobrakpeya has used the yearly summer gathering tolift the place into a national heritage site in the U.S. "Whether the event holds or not, Haystack is recognised by the U.S. government as a heritage."
  More importantly, Onobrakpeya is hoping that the recognition given to Haystack by including it in the academic programme of some select universities and colleges would be done in Nigeria with Harmattan workshop. He, however, recalled that there was a time Harmattan Workshop used to have similar understanding with some schools in Nigeria. 
  The 2016 Haystack Summer Conference featured professionals from a variety of creative disciplines in art, design, architecture, and writing. It focused on thinking through craft and how creative processes, audiences, and materials informed the works that were made. Excerpt on Haystack's website: Craft is a place where innovation and tradition, skill and intuition, exist together. Whether making a mobile oven for baking bread, rethinking a museum collection, programming machines that can print objects, or choosing to work in vernacular tradition, the very definition and scope of craft is constantly shifting.
  "The conference is intimate in scale and allows ample time for informal conversations with presenters and attendees. Conference presenters give talks and either lead discussion groups or studio based workshops that provide a way of exploring ideas through materials. The workshops and discussions are repeated so that attendees can take part in multiple activities. Registration for these is done each day of the conference and no previous experience is required."

For The Wishing Tree, Art, Technology Meet At Osogbo

Brazilian artist, Prof Paulo Cesar Teles-organised international Art and Multimedia workshop made its Nigeria debut in Osogbo, State of Osun.  The international workshop titled The Wishing Tree, held for four days at the Blue and White Hotel, Oke Onitea, Osogbo.
The Wishing Tree made with recycle mateials.
Coordinated by art instructor Olaniyi Sunday Olaniran and sponsored by Kingdom Kids International Schools and Excellent Schools, all in Osogbo, the workshop ended with a grand finale program and the formation of The Wishing Tree.
According to Olaniran, enthusiasm of the participating children increased daily, during the workshop as they were actively engaged in the distinct experience of the workshop.  "The children built a tree from cheap and discarded products, which were recycled materials available in their local environment," Olaniran stated shortly after workshop. "Pupils and students of both schools wrote and made drawings to express their future wishes."
  Participating students, the coordinator added "amazingly discovered that discarded and recycled materials from the environment, used to produce different things like The Wishing Tree was made by wishes that came true." Some of the drawings prepared by the children, he explained, were submitted, scanned, projected and became interactive to the body movements through ultrasonic sensors placed on the tree.
  Before coming to Nigeria, The Wishing Tree international workshop has previously been held in Brazil, Portugal, Greece, Germany, New Zealand, with Nigeria being the 6th country to take part of it. Teles is moving the workshop to Japan as the next country to visit. “His ultimate objective is to build The Wishing Forest with all other built tree together.”
 Teles explained his vision: My joy in life is to see the multimedia wishes of children all over the world fulfilled in the future. He also said, technology is accessible to everyone and at everywhere and can be harnessed to express art
 The Director of Studies, Solomon Oladapo of Excellent Schools expressed his joy and excitement at the project, which gave children the opportunity to participate in something international like the The Wishing Tree workshop. He added that participating in such a rare event is a great opportunity for his school to prove the commitment to quality learning.
Director of Academics at Kingdom Kids International Schools, Mrs Ifeoluwa Olowoye expressed her overwhelming excitement and satisfaction about the program. She stated that rare art exhibition is in line with the goal of kingdom Kids International Schools, which is to raise future leaders through quality learning in education and character. 
  The self-taught professional visual artist and cartoonist who is also the main host and the facilitator of the event,  Olaniran was lauded for his initiatives that made the Art and Multimedia event a great success. Olaniran was impressed by the large number of children that participated in the project. He said: I will remain committed to promoting arts and cultural values in manners that positively affect lives of participants, the art community and also give great representation of the country to the international community.
  Teles is a Professor in the University of Campinas Brazil.  He graduated in Radio and TV Social communication, Masters in Multimedia, PhD in Communication and Semotics and Post PhD in Educational Communication.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Ebola film, '93 Days', 'The Wedding Party' premiere at Toronto Film Festival

The much-awaited biopic about the dreaded Ebola, 93 Days and another film The Wedding Party have been announced as among works for screening at 2016 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Canada, scheduled for next month.  
Scene from The Wedding Party
Produced by Bolanle Austen-Peters, Dotun Olakurin, Pemon Rami and Steve Gukas...93 Days ...the Ebola movie starring Danny Glover, Bimbo Akintola, Keppy, Gideon Okeke, Tim Reid, Bimbo Manuel makes its world premiere in Toronto ahead of the Lagos, Nigeria cinema release on September 16, 2016.
  The Wedding Party, a Elfike Film Collective "will premiere as Spotlight City to City programme" at the festival.  The premiere is scheduled for Thursday, September 8, 2016 at the historic Elgin Theatre. In its 41st edition, the TIFF runs from the 8th to 18th of September, 2016.
   After a controversial take off, 93 Days, the Ebola movie, directed by Steve Gukas was finally shown at a preview in Lagos few weeks ago.

  Loosely based on the heroic efforts of those behind the halting of the Ebola spread in Nigeria, 93Days, according to the  producers, honours "our gone but never forgotten heroes; we appreciate the living selfless fighters too!"

  Directed by Kemi Adetiba, The Wedding Day, a romcom, stars Richard Mofe-Damijo, Sola Sobowale, Alibaba, Iretiola Doyle, Banky W, and Adesua Etomi. Some of the stars of the film are expected to attend the premiere.

  “We are pleased to welcome The Wedding Party by award-winning filmmaker Kemi Adetiba to the Festival, and are proud to present it to a global audience,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. Adetiba has delivered an exciting character-driven film on a grand scale, while putting her own unique spin on a familiar genre.”

  According to Executive Producer, Mo Abudu “This will be the second time an EbonyLife movie is selected to screen at an international film festival of great repute. TIFF’s selection of ‘The Wedding Party’ is a true honour. I can’t think of a better place, or a better global audience for the film’s festival Premiere.”

  Written by playwright Tosin Otudeko and Adetiba, ‘The Wedding Party’ has been described as an "initiative designed to raise the bar in African storytelling through unrivalled technical achievement in filmmaking and creative media arts. Elfike Film Collective is a collaboration of Africa’s leading powerhouses - EbonyLife Films, FilmOne Distribution, Inkblot Productions and Koga Studios.

 Set in Lagos, Nigeria, The Wedding Party is the story of Dunni Coker (Adesua Etomi), a 24 year old art gallery owner and only daughter of her parents about to marry the love of her life, IT entrepreneur Dozie (Banky W). The couple took a vow of chastity and is looking forward to a ground-breaking first night together as a married couple.

  Alibaba and Sola Sobowale play the role of Dunni’s parents while Iretiola Doyle and Richard Mofe-Damijo play Dozie’s parents. Other notable names in the stellar cast include Zainab Balogun, AY, Beverly Naya, Emma OhMyGod, Lepacious Bose, Somkele Idhalama, Daniella Brown, Ikechukwu Onunaku, Ayo Makun, Enyinna Nwigwe, Kunle Idowu, Sambasa Nzeribe, Hafiz Oyetoro amongst others.

   The Lagos International Premiere of ‘The Wedding Party’ holds at The Landmark Centre in November 2016.

Kenyan digital Artist, Chao, Appeals To 'Save The Railway'

Nairobi, Kenya artist, Tayiana Chao makes an appeal with her gadgets in a photography exhibition titled Save The Railway, which opens at The Shifteye Gallery on Friday August 19, 2016. 

One of the archival pictures from Save The Railway
According to the gallery, the exhibition derives its contents from a project about documenting and campaigning for the preservation of Kenya’s antique railway stations, in the wake of their deplorable state and the impending demolition of some.

 Started in 2013, the project involved visiting more than 70 railway stations along the historic Kenya - Uganda railway lines famously known as The Lunatic Express. 
  Shifteye stated that the exhibition showcases railway stations, which mostly lie between Mombasa and Kisumu. It also brings to life memories curated from hundreds of people around the world while paying homage to the millions of lives that were influenced by the railway.
  Chao is described as "a digital curator and heritage enthusiast" based in Nairobi, Kenya.   A historian and computer scientist by profession, she mainly uses technology to preserve heritage and culture for present and future generations. She also runs a popular history blog at which explores various aspects of Kenya’s history, memories and culture.
  The exhibition Save The Railway is her  first major project which she started in 2013.  By documenting Kenya’s antique railway stations, she hopes to preserve  the enchanting and daring narrative of a railway that gave birth to a nation. More about The Lunatic Express.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

On Canvas, 'Africa 4 Her' Projects Value, Empowerment

 Faces of art as therapy, skill acquisition and community development as well as civic responsibility take the space when about 60 female artists across young and adult ages showcase their works.

Founder of Tender Arts Nigeria Kunle Adewale with participants at #Africa 4 Her

Collapsing gender barrier and addressing female participation deficit in visual arts, is the fulcrum on which the art exhibition is rested, organisers, Tender Arts Nigeria stated ahead of the opening. With three years experience in promoting creativity at the grassroots level, Tender Arts Nigeria, led by artist and educationist, Kunle Adewale appears to have found a wider scope with #Africa 4 Her, being the theme of the exhibition, which holds from Saturday 20- Monday 22, 2016 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island.
   "#Africa 4 Her is about bridging the gender gap; breaking down barriers that affect women in visual arts," Adewale told select guests during a preview at Terra Kulture. "The project is aimed at making girls better individuals and prepare them for entrepreneurship." The project, which Adewale said was eight weeks old involved 100 girls and women from as little as six to 35 years old.

  As much as the issues of girl child empowerment and gender imbalance have become a common prey in not-for-profit ventures, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria, there seems to be an ongoing silent proliferation, particularly when most of them are repetitive in focus. For #Africa 4 Her, the themes in some of the paintings seen during preview suggest that the project is also aimed at instilling the right value into young children apart from art skill and entrepreneurship.
  Every child, for example, grow up with certain role models, some of whom shape his or her upbringing and perhaps the future too. For #Africa 4 Her, the participants, according to Adewale were guided on examples of who a role model should be for young girls. Specifically, the participants were told to avoid some celebrities whose public profiles represent immoralities, Adewale disclosed.    

"Nudity" which some celebrities are known for, he said, was avoided; it's not African value." 
  Some of the works include portraits of celebrities such as American TV talk show star, Oprah Winfrey; wife of U.S president, Michelle Obama, among others. Beyond the exhibition of the artists' works, a mentorship programme is also ahead. Opportunity to show their works yearly under the #Africa 4 Her show is available for "25 shortlisted artists for mentoring."
Portrait of Oprah Winfrey by Dele Lawal
Medium: Mixed Media On canvas.
Uche Valerie and Sylvia Uzzorh are among the exhibiting artists. The #Africa 4 Her workshop "gave me opportunity to meet creative people of different age groups that expanded my view of art," Valerie, a trained artist at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, recalled. A radiographer, and self-taught artist, Uzzorh disclosed that  "art has been therapeutic for me."
  Excerpt from Adewale's bio: Adewale has impacted over 5000 beneficiaries through his art programs over a period of three years. He has facilitated Therapeutic Art Projects for Children and Young Adults in Nigeria, among them include Children Living with Cancer Foundation, Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria, and Children with Down syndrome Foundation.

 Through his Tender Arts Nigeria foundation, Adewale has made numerous impacts across Nigeria and Africa. He pioneered Arts in Medicine Africa and the First Art Therapy Center in West Africa. Through Arts in Medicine program in Nigeria, Kunle helped and is still helping people living with Sickle Cell anemia in Nigeria to get their minds off pain and feelings of being sick. Through Arts he takes their mind off depression and anxiety, strengthens their personal, social identity so they can have a sense of fulfillment and hope for the future. Over 150 persons living chronic illness have been recorded to have benefited from his Art Therapy Program at Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria. 

After Bone-Collage, Archie-Abia Goes 'Graven' Painting

By Tajudeen Sowole
FOR over two decades, Godwin Archie-Abia ruled as a bone-collage artist whose period in waste recycling shot him into mainstream Lagos art environment. But a new period in the artist's career is now unfolding. He now paints in embossed canvas.
Tomatoes For Sell by Godwin Archie-Abia
At Win Arc Gallery, a moderate space off Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos, some of Archie-Abia's paintings, which were on display, revisit the old themes of market, streetscapes and general focus on societal sceneries. Basically, the themes have not changed from his bone-collage period; the difference is the medium.

However, sustaining a certain level of relief technique in slight embossment is applied, which he described as ‘graven’ painting. Recall that the strength of his bone-collage lies in the embossed texture of the contents. One of the works titled Tomatoes For Sell, for example, derives much of its textured contents from the engraved objects, particularly those in the foreground such as the baskets. And if building depth into canvas of populated figures defines creative contents, Archie-Abia displays that much in Tomatoes For Sell, a painting that blurs the line between modern and contemporary art.

A thought in dignity of labour is expressed by the artist in another piece titled Work Pays, which explains the growing trade in small efforts by individuals.  Interestingly, the painting appears like a scene from tour destination: a  grocery lady under bright colour umbrella, captured in an environment that looks like sunny scene all combined to make attractive piece.  

Having established his art in the unique medium of bone-collage for such a long period, it's rather curious that Artchie-Abia, just of recent, switched over to painting.

"There was no electricity to keep powering the machine I used in cutting the bone material," he explained his frustration that led to painting. "Even after I bought electricity generating set, then came petrol scarcity, so I have to diversify to other medium."

Being a "focused person," his perception of art, he disclosed, led him into spiritual realm, from which painting and metal medium was revealed. However, he has equally been active in the sculptural genres. Among his works are outdoor and embellishment projects. For example, such commissioned works include a design for First Delightsome House & Suite, Ikorodu and a sculptural work for a company in Abuja. 

In commission jobs, most artists are pulled either way of professional or personal sentiments. For Archie-Abia, "the motive for my choice of art depends on the customer." 

His idea of concept, he stated, depends so much on how imagination drives the process of art making.
 Graduated in History and International Relations at Lagos State University (LASU), Archie-Abia, by "divine",  is a self-taught artist. "I have never attended arts class in the physical sense." But, he believes that in the spiritual realm  "I had several classes in the dreams."

Revisiting his journey into art, he shared his experience as a young, talented pupil in school. "From handwork class in primary school level, creating art and crafts, I later started with bone-collage medium driving it to the highest level where I used cow horn to achieve portrait picture."

Most artists are driven by a particular inspiration, from which, most often, such reflects in the work produced.  For Archie-Abia, spiritual realm has always been the inspiration. "The Holy Spirit is my inspirational figure." He however appreciated the efforts of every master whose work, directly or otherwise has imparted on his art.
Godwin Archie-Abia

Archie-Abia is among few artists in Nigeria who have been consistent in full-time studio practice. He is perhaps, in a position to assess the art environment's performance. "The industry is doing well in Nigeria but we need to do more in the art contents, materials and lots more. And the need for an in depth knowledge of the work to be acquired as well as development of participatory interest in art like exhibitions, auctions workshops and seminars where works of artists are sold exhibited and discussed.” Nigeria art is moving forward with a few private individuals promoting & investing in arts." 

Within a short period of shifting into painting, admiration, he boasted, has been on the increase. "The richness and uniqueness of the medium have attracted my collectors." He noted that unlike bone-collage, which was confined to board surface, his new medium "is both canvas and board." He hoped that in the next few months a solo exhibition would be organised to officially unveil his new medium to both his regular and new collectors.

  About graven painting: "The material has to be glued to either board or canvas panel to create a relief format. First, I sketched, provide the materials, engrave the materials before you glue to either board or canvas panel to create a super relief effect. Then you prime the materials on the panel, allow to dry then you start applying colours to it. At the end of the day, you are out with a super and unique work."

Archie-Abia is a strong advocate of art as a vital aspect of any developmental growth. He insisted that Nigerian artists should be part of the economic and technological development of the country.
 “No serious economy will want to undermine the importance of creative industries, which visual art plays a vital role. In developing economy like Nigeria, where total dependencies on a mono-product has exposed the country’s economic strength to unsettled instability, all hands must be on deck to evolve a supporting and alternative economic platform for the country to lean on for survival.”

 Archie-Abia doubles as an artist and gallery owner. Such combination is not exactly new among artists. Currently, the gallery is hosting children in its Summer Art Class.

 “I set up the studio away from the Gallery. I visit the Gallery three times a week, but spend more time in the studio because of the commissioned works.” Separating gallery and studio, he explained, makes the former run effectively. “I set up Winarc to solve the challenge of artists not having where to showcase their works.” Winarc gallery is in Ikeja, while the studios is at Peace Estate, Baruwa, Lagos State. 

 Archie-Abia has shown works at Antick Gallery (1995), Archbishop Vinning Memorial, 1996, Didi Museum Art Centre, 1996 and Nimbus Art Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos.