There are opinions surrounding the recent unveiling of the statue of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo,especially on the semblance of Awolowo.
”Usually, when you want to commission such jobs, there are professional artists in academics and there are professionals practising outside academics who should be contacted. But professionals are not patronised and once you are not a politician or you don’t have a godfather who will talk to those in power on your behalf, the government will not look at your side. That is one of the problems we have as a nation.
Let me say that there are styles in the arts – we have naturalism, idealism and the abstract. All these can be used to represent an icon like Awolowo but we have to define it. If you want to use naturalism, it has to be Awolowo. The representation has to be Awolowo. But if you are using idealistic style, Awolowo has a peculiar cap and glasses and those can be used to represent him without his face. That is symbolic. But if you want to represent an icon naturally and it doesn’t exactly look like the person, it will attract criticisms.
That is why Nigerians are criticising the new Awo statue. The artist wanted to represent Awolowo naturally, but he didn’t get the image right. But symbolically, Awolowo is still Awolowo whether it resembles him or not. There are some features especially the glasses and the cap that will tell you that this is Awolowo.
Art is not photograph; it is an impression. The statue could be the artist’s own style. If the government actually wanted to depict Awolowo and needed his photographic representation, we have professionals that will do it more than photographs, but they will not consult such people. We, artists, have been complaining about that.
Look at the Arugba statue in Osogbo; can you compare it with Sadam Hussein’s statue? Look at how gigantic Sadam Hussein’s statue was, but here the fence around the Arugba statue is higher than Arugba despite that Arugba is a significant cultural icon in Osogbo. How can the fence be higher than what you are trying to show?
Concerning the Awolowo’s statute, people will criticise because they wanted a naturalistic art which the artists didn’t get right. If you want to look at it symbolically, the statue is still Awolowo, but if you want to look at it from a professional point of view, that thing is not Awolowo, it could be Awolowo’s brother. • Jide Makinde (An Associate Professor of Fine Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife).
The essence of immortalising the former Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, has actually been expressed. Some people’s reservation about the graphical embellishment of the structure of the statue, to me, does not diminish the actual intention of immortalising the sage.
I believe that there should not be any hue and cry about whether it is the expression of the sage or not. But the point that should be made has already been made. Nobody will see that statue and say it is somebody else other than Awolowo. The essence of what those involved in arts and sculpture do is to seek a semblance of the image they are trying to project rather than the finesse and precision that some of us that do not have that type of eye usually look for.
As far as I am concerned, the structure there has been well conceived and it has done a lot of justice to the very great legacies of Awolowo. I differ from those who may criticise it. Let us give credit to those who conceived the idea.
Awolowo among Yoruba stands for fountain. I can see him as the fountain of several things that are good. There is hardly anybody in Yoruba land who belongs to the older generation that would not trace his being educated to Awolowo educational policies. There is no way you can talk about any sustainable economic legacy in the South-West today that you will not talk of Awolowo having a hand in it. •Mr. Tope Adaramola (Arts enthusiast/chairman, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Ogun State chapter)
Every piece of art, including sculpture, is often judged by the characteristics of beauty, skill, inherent meaning, uniqueness and the purpose it intends. Every statue displayed as sculpture is a powerful artwork, not just for its beauty or the talent needed for its creation, but because it can cause emotion, make political statements or challenge preconceived ideas.
Of course, not all works of art are intended to be so thought-provoking. Recently, the statue of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was unveiled by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State. The leadership of the state may say the statue depicts its support for restructuring and devolution of powers.
It is surprising that an epigraph of the work was not made as concise as a poem to emphasise Awolowo’s series of firsts like his policy of free education for all in the Western Region and his establishment of the first television station in Africa.
While applauding the artistic dexterity and creative confidence of the sculptor in balancing the 20 feet statue, I must express my dissatisfaction in simple terms that the work has failed to tell a story of Awolowo by possibly providing a fresh perspective or conversion which may remind the present generation of Awolowo’s policies especially in the area of education.
Art today is an allegory and metaphor as it uses symbolic imagery to deal with more intangible human issues, and as such, Nigerians impression of Awolowo is beyond the large inscription of name, round lenses and a cap.
The statue should have appeared as a visually appealing creation with artistic emotion that opened up a whole new realm of enjoyment for public appreciation. Mind you, we are presenting Chief Obafemi Awolowo as a man of superior politics, who ought to be standing like most world-acclaimed leaders. Obviously, the intent of the statue is probably not very clear. •Eddie Akadu (Dealer in arts and crafts)
Today (Wednesday), I went to see the statue myself. It is not well thought through; it is ill-judged. The executor seems to think that if you have something that looks gigantic, that job is done. No. It is about the profundity of the thought that goes into executing this project. I would really like to know the level of consultation the Lagos State Government did before putting up the statue.
If you are talking of a figure like Awolowo, you are talking of one of the most potent icons and leaders of this nation. When we come to the South-West, Awolowo, in modern history, is the most significant Yoruba person in our reckoning. So, you cannot mess about with his iconic image. You have to take consideration of so many views.
If I were a member of the Awolowo’s family, there were many times I would feel that the immense contributions of this great man were being ignored. So, if somebody gets up and says we are going to put up a statue for him, I will feel gratified, but that does not mean that the artwork is befitting. It was so insulting that when they (the government) wanted to unveil it, they issued a press release, saying it would be a befitting sculpture.
The Lagos State Government bungled it and the whole thing was ill-conceived. If you are going to erect a monument to Awolowo, think it through; consult widely. You should take the view of artists, art critics, the family, and so on. But I don’t think that happened. They should not think that because the statue is 20 feet, it is befitting.
It is good that artists are getting engaged, but engage them well. Choose the location well; let the concept be befitting. That thing there is not befitting. • Molara Wood (Art critic and writer)
Former United States President, Abraham Lincoln, was seated in his statue. Even from the Bible, Moses’ statue in Rome is in a sitting position. The statue of Oba Akenzua II, which I did at the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre in Benin, is in a sitting position.
As long as it is monumental and gigantic, there is no hard and fast rule about the statue standing. It is even more dignifying to sit because it shows royalty. The person represented in a statue can wear anything as long as he was not a king. If he was a king, he would be in his regalia to show him as a traditional ruler.
There was a time when he was a practising lawyer, wearing suits and wigs. What is important is that he is immortalised and that it (statue) stands the test of time. I think it is alright as long as it looks like him, represents him, and gives the feeling that makes people to remember him. •Sir Victor Uwaifo (Benin-based sculptor and musician)