Vanguard (Lagos)

28 October 2012

Nigeria: Stakeholders Condemn Destruction of Art Works in Public Spaces

The venue was the OYASAF conference centre and the event was an interactive forum on the current state of the visual arts in Nigeria. The forum which came up against the background of recent removal of art works mounted at strategic positions at the Murtala Mohamade International Airport, Ikeja , Lagos as a result of renovation works as well as the removal and destruction of art works and monument in some universities and other public spaces without the consent of the artist was put together by three stakeholders in the art industry.

Some of these stakeholders include; The Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation, OYASAF, Grillo Pavillon and Bruce Onabrakpeya Foundation. Also in attendance at the forum were, Dr Bruce Onabrakpeya, Rasheed Gbadamosi, Prince Yemisi Shyllon, Mrs Ronke Ashaye and Olu Amoda.

Speaking on the topic "The current state of the Visual arts in Nigeria", Prince Shyllon told the audience that the issue started since Tajudeen Sowole of the Guardian Newspaper broke the news about his observation about the destruction of art works at the Murtala Muhammed International airport by the authorities as a result of the ongoing renovation works at the place.

According to him, it was ever since then that the members of art community have observed with dismay that apart from the case of the MMA, that similar issues have been going on in many places in the country,thereby bringing to the fore the non recognition of the import of creativity by Nigerians and managers of the State.

He pointed out the case of the Vice Chancellor of a federal university who removed the art works in his office and dumped them in the store, the destruction of Yusuf Grillo's mosaic at the Adeniran Ogunsanya shopping complex in Surulere, the destruction of the art work at Warri round about and many others as cases in point.

Shyllon who is worried about the development stated that Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the art industry are not comfortable with the developments and therefore canvassed the need to make relevant authorities understand that the government are not the owners of the the works in question but the artists.

"What our country is doing to the conservation and preservation of art is not good. How can the country be crying for the return of looted works while they have no plans about how to preserve them. In the developed world, great artists are respected and treated well by the government. But here in Nigeria what we are seeing is the reverse. " He said.

Bruce Onabrakpeya who confessed that he went to the airport and saw Folarin's work but could not recognise it because of the level of damage done to the work said that the issue should not be limited to the MMA but also to all the works of art in other public spaces.

Worried by such a sad treatment meted on such a quintessential master piece the work, the famous print maker querried whether there is any statue that governs the use of art works and if there is such in Nigeria so that it can be invoked based on what is happening to the artworks and monuments.

Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi in his own contributions condemned the act of destroying art works, which he says tell story about how we value creative works. He also suggested the need to institutionalise art and let people know about its importance.

"I am staggered by the developments, we must change the story about peoples attitude towards art, we have to preserve the works for continuity so that future generations will benefit from them.", adding that,"'the preservation of art works should be introduced as a course in schools so as to stop the Philistines from destroying the cultural heritage because there are lessons embedded in them."

Chuka Nnabuife, the Secretary General of Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA,on his part said that what is going now is not only bad but distasteful to every body, he reiterated the fact that when a work is in public place does not mean that the owner has lost his patent right over it. He revealed that efforts have been made by SNA to make sure that the NATIONAL gallery of Art NGA bill on Art is passed into law but regretted that despite every moves the bill died after passing the first reading.

Other contributors harped on the need to update the cultural policy so that it will incorporate the protection of works and also urged government to fund the art industry.

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