The travelling exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Osogbo Art opened to a warm reception in Lagos last Friday.
After showing in Osogbo, Abuja and the US, ‘Vision of the Last Quarter’, the art exhibition celebrating 50 years of Osogbo Art, opened at Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos on March 30.
Expectedly, the turnout at the show’s opening was impressive, especially as it was the first joint exhibition by the founding members of the Osogbo Art School in the city in over a decade.
But unlike the previous shows that featured six of the Osogbo Artists directly trained by German teacher and anthropologist, Ulli Beier and his wife, Georgina, only five were represented this time around. Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh, Rufus Ogundele, Adebisi Fabunmi and Taiwo Olaniyi Osuntoki (Twins Seven-Seven) all have works in the show ongoing till April 15 while Jacob Afolabi dropped out.
Commendably, works including ‘Aifolokun’ and ‘Royal Farmers Kingdom’ by Twins Seven-Seven, done in his trademark ink on woodcut affirmed the longevity of artworks. Though dead since 2011, the inimitable Twins Seven-Seven remains just that. His old works still fascinated all at the occasion. And it was the same for Ogundele whose paintings including ‘Mother of Two’ and ‘Resettlement’ were well appreciated.
In spite of their advancing years, Oyelami, Buraimoh, who marks his 75th birthday today and Fabunmi, are still making beautiful paintings, bead paintings/murals and textile paintings. All the 10 paintings by Oyelami were made this year while Buraimoh’s works ranged from 2008 – 2017. Some of Oyelami’s arresting works on display are ‘Folkloric Character II’ and ‘Affluent Abode’ while Buraimoh’s include ‘Motherly Care’, ‘July Friends’ and ‘Sisi Osun’.Impressed by the turnout of art patrons and lovers at the opening reception, both Buraimoh and Oyelami expressed happiness that the Osogbo artists were showing jointly in Lagos. They also expressed gratitude to Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Chair, Governing Board of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo who facilitated the exhibitions.
Buraimoh said, “I feel so happy that the exhibition is holding in Lagos because we talked to the Chairman [Oyinlola] and we thought that he wasn’t going to do it. Eventually, he sponsored Abuja, Osogbo, US, and Lagos which has been the climax. I feel very happy that the exhibition is happening and I shouldn’t fail to thank the management of Thought Pyramid.”
Oyelami, who recalled the group’s journey from 1963, disclosed that they put up with a lot of criticisms and insults when they started out under Beier but that more than 50 years later, they have become globally renowned and subject of academic research.
He said: “From very humble beginnings, we have become renowned. We have taught in universities and have remained authentic in our perspective. Though we are living in individual worlds, we are connected. We have left a legacy and that’s why we are here. After the Osogbo, Abuja and US shows, it is most fitting that we are here in Lagos. I’m very happy with the outcome; I’m happy meeting so many young artists here and we are grateful to Prince Oyinlola, the chief promoter.”
Some of the guests at the event commended the Osogbo artists, praising their contributions to the development of contemporary art in Nigeria. Robin Campbell, a management member of the Adunni Olorisha Trust, said: “There were two schools of art in Osogbo but the Ulli Beier driven school is extremely important. If you look at the history of contemporary art in Nigeria, the Osogbo School is outstanding. All you have to do is come here and understand why. Jimoh Buraimoh’s work, Muraina’s works, Bisi Fabunmi, all contemporary artists and I’m so proud to see them well displayed. They deserve to be given more recognition.”
Artists Mufu Onifade and Sam Ovraiti spoke in the same vein. Onifade confessed his respect for all the individuals that influenced the Osogbo Art School and admitted that his Araism Movement, took some of its influences from them. Ovraiti noted that though possessing different qualities, all the artists share the same source.
Speaking on the contributions of Osogbo Art, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola said it has “boosted the corpus of knowledge in the field of creative arts and validated the richness and vitality of Yoruba culture as part of the common heritage of mankind. So much so that Osogbo art has become a trademark comparable to any other art form anywhere in the world.”
The ex-Osun State Governor who was represented by Professor Siyan Oyeweso, Executive Director of the CBCIU, also hailed the artists, noting that: “the very high confidence reposed in these great artists is not only sustained but has been proved to be true and right. These men and women with humble backgrounds have become great cultural assets and remarkable reference points as part of Yoruba folklore and the Nigerian story.”
Oyinlola, who further noted that the exhibition was also a celebration of the fertile imagination of Beier, Susanne Wenger and Georgina Beier, expressed happiness that it was happening in Lagos.
According to him, “though Lagos, the Centre of Excellence and the first truly megacity in Nigeria and Osogbo, the burgeoning town transiting seamlessly into a city are different in their pomp and pageantry, the importance of the place of arts in the cultural life of both cities brings about a commonality of interest. It is for this reason that this exhibition has found a comfortable home in Lagos even though the masters of the art are from the rustic towns of Osogbo and environs. This shared heritage of aesthetics, innate beauty, colours and profound creativity has made the two places tourism destination as well as coveted heritage meccas.”