Abayomi Barber’s Birthday: Where Tourism Connects Art, Culture

BEVERLY HILLS, June 06, (THEWILL) – A large number of actors in the Nigerian tourism and arts sector recently assembled outside the compound of National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Onikan Lagos to celebrate multi-skilled Fine Artist, Mr. Abayomi Barber who was 92.

There was a group exhibition of 24 sculptural works, 44 paintings in different medium ranging from charcoal on canvas, acrylic on canvas, bronze etchings, on paper, tyre and metal works.

Also, the celebration witnessed the presentation of a 305-page special exhibition brochure; “Abayomi Barber: An Artist Born and Made” published by the National Gallery of Art, (NGA) Abuja.

Abayomi Barber

The exhibiting artists include Muri Adejimi, Olumuyiwa Spencer, Adebisi Alade, Olubunmi Lasaki, Archibald Etikenrentse, Adebayo Akinwole, Femi Adewolara, Ato Arinze, Olatunde Barber and Conrad Decker. The exhibition, which will run for two weeks was curated by Dr. Simon Ikpakronyi.

Surprisingly, the dual-purpose event was designed by NGA to honour Barber, a sculptor and an accomplished saxophonist, whose life has been dedicated to the development of talents, refinement of skills and imparting of knowledge to younger people across generations for close to half a century.

Little wonder it attracted the corps d’ elite of the Nigerian art sector including Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, represented by General Manger National Theatre, Professor Sunday Ododo, Founder OYASAF Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, Nike Okundaye, Professor S. Adetoro, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo, Timothy Adebanjo Fasuyi, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, Jerome Elaiho and representatives of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and National Films and Videos Censors Board. The event was chaired by the chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism. Rocha’s Okorocha.

The event kicked-off shortly before midday when guests began turning up in colourful attires. Director-General NGA, Mr. Ebeten William Ivara disclosed that his administration has resolved to make NGA a revenue generating agency that will make artists gainfully engaged. He added that he will soon inaugurate a joint committee of NGA and the Society of Nigerian Artists to harmonise the Establishment Act with a view to re-presenting it to National Assembly for repeal and re-enactment. He urged Nigerian artists to be part of this new vision for the betterment of visual art and artists.

“We actually held a stakeholders’ meeting in December to chart a way forward for visual arts in Nigeria. A major take away from that meeting was the resolve to make NGA revenue generating and fine artists gainfully engaged. I want to announce that my next assignment in Lagos will be to inaugurate a joint committee of NGA and the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) to harmonise our Establishment Act with a view to re-presenting it to the National Assembly for Repeal and Re-enactment. I enjoin you all to be part of this new vision for the betterment of visual arts and the practitioners,” he noted.

However, Ivara lamented the inability of NGA to secure a national edifice befitting a gallery that will facilitate the promotion of modern Nigerian art to the globe. He assured that efforts are ongoing to overcome this challenge which, he said, has been hindering the optimal performance of the gallery since inception.

Founder OYASAF, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon who declared the exhibition open urged management of NGA to look beyond holding exhibitions and arrange residency for artists in order to expose and enrich their practice.

“It is not enough to host art exhibitions. Organising of art residency by NGA will go a long way to empower the Nigerian artists, many of who are in dire need of opportunities to be exposed. Artists need to be trained and learn from the masters such as the legendary Abayomi Barber, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo and lots more. OYASAF have held residencies for over 30 Nigerian and non-Nigerian artists. The NGA is more empowered to do it. And it is more meaningful for NGA to run such programme,” he said.

Shyllon also drew the attention of NGA to the disappearing collections of some late collectors, saying such collections are being auctioned to foreign buyers. He said NGA owes Nigerians the responsibility of ensuring that collectors don’t die and their works disappear because when such collections disappear, the greatness of such artists we are celebrating will disappear with them.

“We are here celebrating a living legend, but we must also live our life meaningfully. To live a meaningful life is to live for others. What are we doing for others? Let’s commit ourselves to live a meaningful life,” Shyllon added.

Speaking on the artistic legacy of Barber, renowned Media and Creative Arts Consultant Mr. Ben Tomoloju described the nonagenarian as a member of the league of great Nigerian artists who garnered fame in the international realm in the fifties and sixties like Ben Enwonwu and Bruce Onobrakpeya.

On the categories of Barber’s disciples, Tomoloju said: “In a certain light the productivity and distinction of these legatees tell of another dimension to the life of Abayomi Barber; that of an art educationist. Although at the early stage of his employment at the University of Lagos, he firmly resisted the offer of becoming a lecturer, the inevitability of the complete profile of a master came into play later in his life. In a near-axiomatic sense, a master will always be a teacher. This is the glorious attribute of Barber, the doyen whom we are celebrating today, whose life has been dedicated to the development of talents, refinement of skills and imparting of knowledge to younger people across generations for about 50 years.”