Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya, one of Nigeria’s foremost modern artist, painter and sculptor, has been awarded the ‘Grand Master of Etching’ for his foresight in modern art.
The award was presented to him at a special 90th birthday celebration organised for him by organisers of the Artmiabo International Art Festival (AMIAF) on Wednesday in Lagos.
Miabo Enyadike, Founder/CEO of Artmiabo, based in South Africa, said that they decided to hold a festival in Lagos to celebrate Onobrakpeya for his great works and achievement.
“Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya turns 90 in August, but we want to be the first in Africa, because they have already started celebrating Professor Bruce in the U.S.
“The entire black history month in the U.S fell in the beginning of the year, where he was celebrated, a lot of universities celebrated Professor Bruce and he is just coming back from those celebrations.
“And I thought about it and I said, how outsiders can be celebrating our own, where here we haven’t. We should be celebrating Professor Bruce here in Nigeria. So, decided that we are holding a festival to celebrate him.
“We gave him the award of ‘Grand Master of Etching’, because that is what he’s known for around the world. That is where he has his artwork, in museums allover. He has his etch work everywhere,” she said.
The Artmiabo International Art Festival (AMIAF) will host 24 of the finest artists from Africa and Europe from April 29 to May 1, in Lagos.
The festival features works of artists including: Onobrakpeya, Adeola Balogun, John Onobrakpeya, Tamaraemi Larry, Olufunke Ojukwu, Segun Okewumi, Oladipupo Adesina, Yusuf Durodola, Muni King-Keazor, Adebisi, Miabo Enyadike and Yetunde Ojatula.
Enyadike said: “We are also supporting his ‘Harmattan Foundation’, this is a residency that people come from all over the world to attend, which is his village. And so we are supporting that with a grant.
“We need to put a focus on what his consistency means as an artist, Professor Bruce embodies that. He has been focused, he has represented Africa well, he has kept his calm, and all we hear about is, is his greatness.
“Maya Angelou, the great poet, wrote a poem on Professor Bruce, that is how big Professor Bruce is. So, we all aspire to be like Professor Bruce,” she said.
Also speaking, a veteran photographer, Muni King-Keazor, said she had known Onabrakpeya way back in the 60s.
”I have known of Professor Bruce virtually from my teenager years, back in the 60s, his name was frequently mentioned as one of the leading artist of the time, and he has just grown in reputation worldwide.
“And it is of a pride to us as a country that he remains a living legend and I am so happy to be here today with the Art Amiabo team, celebrating him.
“We are renowned as a country for not really celebrating people who make such great strides worldwide, we tend to overlook them until maybe they are dead and gone.
“But here he is today, alive in our midst and it is just a pride for me to be present while he is being celebrated.
“For him to be given recognition by Amiabo, I think it is an indication of how highly he is revered in our midst,” she said.
Onobrakpeya, born Aug. 30, 1932 is a Nigerian printmaker, painter and sculptor.
He has exhibited at the Tate Modern in London, the National Museum of African Art of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Malmö Konsthall in Malmö, Sweden.
The National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos, has an exhibit of colourful abstract canvases by Onobrakpeya and his works can be found at the Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian.
His first one-man exhibition was held in 1959 in Ughelli in the Niger Delta. Later, he exhibited in the U.S, Italy, Zimbabwe, Germany, Britain and Kenya among other countries.
Onobrakpeya is an important force in the renaissance in contemporary art in Nigeria. For many years he taught at St. Gregory’s College, Lagos.