At Traces of Time, Parry Osayande, Victor Uwaifo, Capt Hosa, others call for better promotion of Benin Culture
By Francis Odupute
The second edition of “Traces of Time”, a group art exhibition and platform that promotes up-coming visual artists alongside more established artists cum art masters opened penultimate weekend at the Crowne Art Gallery in Benin City, with eminent personalities calling for proper promotion and appreciation of the cultural heritage of the Benin people.
Benin musical maestro and master sculptor, Professor (Sir) Victor Uwaifo, in an interview with newsmen at the exhibition lectured that “…this is the second edition, “Traces of Time”, and it’s really traces of time because the works speak for themselves. Some of the works are very special because there is a combination of the past and the present, synchronized to give a kind of artistic appeal. The aesthetics –very unique; and the paintings, too, different approaches in oil on canvass; but the most important thing I discovered is the originality, they’re not copying from anybody; you know, it comes out from the artist, the artist is in touch with his second being…it’s also in music, too. You must have an image in mind or a concept; you now bring it to life, give it breathe and then a spirit; if care is not taken you give it a soul. That’s why when you hear a piece of music, it hits you…nobody has touched you but there is that connection between the work of art itself and the viewer.
“So if you’re able to give the viewer aesthetics and all the qualities that you have in mind to bring them live, when it touches the viewer then you have made an impact; that is when the work is successful. But there are some works, they’re just like a passing note and nothing more… the real stuff is in the overall production, because there are some other ingredients…you can see a whole work, but what has gone into it? Just like what makes a good soup, it is the final soup you see, you don’t see those other small, small ingredients inside. That is the way painting, sculpture, music, you know, art in general… they’re all unique. Art cuts across many fields – music is in tandem with [visual] art, [visual] art is in tandem with poetry, [and poetry is in tandem with] philosophy, and so on. So if you can express your thoughts or feelings, there will be a common thread running through all the expressions.”
On the work that stands out for him at the exhibition, Prof. Uwaifo pointed at a metal sculpture of a Benin female bust decked with a head gear, saying “The works here today are very special in the sense that they are original – no one looks like the other. They all have their own peculiarities. For example, look at this metal work here; it reminds me of Okuku worn by Benin people. Over the years, today it has become very popular. During wedding ceremonies you find girls dressed in their traditional head gears with various beads. I was wondering which one came first, whether the Okuku of Benin or the head gear of the British guards –you know they also had this kind of gear, probably they borrowed it from us. It’s very impressive, so are other works here. The paintings are unique and they are divers in style and scope. They give you the impression that you are in a different world. You know an artist communicates with his work; he expresses himself in three-dimensional forms, in two-dimensional forms, and most of the times he wants to give the impression that the work has life…give it flesh, spirit and soul. But human beings move, human beings are made of flesh and bones and spirit. But the art works, especially sculptures, are made of dead materials. But the artist would express the dead materials in living terms, as if there’s life in it. To that extent the artist would have succeeded to give the impression that an artwork has life, until you touch it and find out it is a dead material, it’s immobile. So, the same thing in music; music comes, it hits you, you express yourself – there’s some soul in it and it gets you dancing or gets you thinking. So it’s in tandem with art – art in music, poetry, philosophy – art in general as one family and that family is creativity.
For Captain Hosa Okumbor, “…you know I’m a Benin man, and I love my paintings; I love my people; I love my culture. My culture is an inner drive for me. Culture is your beginning, culture is your being, and culture is yourself. If you lose it you lose everything about yourself. So my own passion is I must tie it to my culture to be able to realize my inner fulfillment; and that is what drives me. I’m a lover of culture, I’m a lover of Benin culture and Benin heritage which is the foremost heritage and the only heritage known to have survived all these years, through times, and it’s not something that the Benin man should play with. I believe we that are fortunate to have that lineage must also see how we can add value to the culture.
Speaking earlier on the exhibition, former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP), Parry Osayande, told journalists that the exhibition was “…most impressive. You know artists are…they were all born ahead of our times; they’re far ahead. So that most of their works are subject to interpretation by experts – people like Ben Enwonwu of Nigeria, Victor Uwaifo, Ben Osawe, Emokpae, were artists who did poetics that people are still interpreting to the ordinary persons. They were born ahead of our times, and they predict the history of photography. You see what they have done? It’s very beautify and most of the time their works are subject to interpretation, by experts. What they have put up is most depictive; it’s giving us reflections about our past, and penetrating into the future. That’s why it’s called “Traces of Time”. My only lamentation is that these great works they have put up have not been given sufficient publicity. It should have attracted a lot of people because it’s reflecting the true us, telling us who are, what we were, and what we’re going to be- it’s the penetration into the future, extracting all our behaviours from the past, to the present and then to the future.”
Also speaking, veteran journalist, Tony Abolo, observed that the life and wealth of the Benin people is in their art and culture, hence the need for more innovations and creative synergy among major stakeholders to amplify in a global context the economic potentials inherent in Benin art as a national income earner and powerful tool for efficacious national image laundry.
Seven artists participated in the 2nd edition of “Traces of Time” group art exhibition, including master painter and art teacher, El Dragg Okwoju of the University of Benin (UNIBEN); Ibrahim Afegbua; Sophia Omon Igbinovia; Adebimpe Owoyemi; Osagie Osazuwa; and Bob Aiwerioba.
According to Prince Omoregbe Erediauwa, owner of Crowne Art Gallery inside Hexagon, in Benin City, “Traces of Time is a platform we use to promote up-coming visual artists with popular artists”.