The middle and low class in the society who probably think they are experiencing the worse hit by the present day recession might be getting it wrong. AGATHA EMEADI writes that the downturn has taken a toll on virtually all aspects of the profession and economy especially the arts industry.
Encountering Roland Udinyiwe Ogiamen recently, is almost like encountering Arts itself. If Ogiamen whose place in the history of Nigerian Art was assured years ago because when he picks a wood, a voice tells him how to carve a beautiful piece (Arts work) would complain about the on-going recession in their industry, it then gives reasons for concern with a mind-set that it’s just a wood play.
Ogiamen is a veteran and a celebrity in the industry with individual capacity for concentration, fearless view point, anticipates choice and action are qualities that made him a warrior in his chosen profession.
Cast the first stone on the position and presence of the Arts industry and you would hear; “Well Recession and Pentecostalism has taken a toll on Arts and Artists. Art works are not like food, clothes and ordinary pieces one can buy with little money; neither are they cheap commodities for all and sundry. They are not meant for poor people because Arts collectors would have satisfied the basic needs of life before picking up an art item. In order words Art collectors are rich men and women who like and could afford them. Arts works are found in homes of wealthy individuals and organizations.
According to Ogiamen whose works embrace classic forms and dynamic composition, he says gone are the days when wood carvers reigned. “October last year, I had an exhibition at Quintessence Gallery, in Park View, Ikoyi, Lagos, but could not sell 10% of what I exhibited. Since 1973, I have had no fewer than forty (40) exhibitions, groups and solos; both at home and abroad with
commissions and collections spread across prominent Nigerians, Non Nigerians, Institutions and Corporate bodiesboth in Nigeria and Overseas where I recorded 100% sell. The reason for the low turnout and purchase during last year’s exhibition was due to recession with fingers pointing at exchange rates.
With over 54 years as a celebrated self-employed wood carver, Ogiamen’s frowns at the manner the new found Pentecostal churches demonizes the creative carved works of Artists; while the Orthodox Churches sing their praise. “Pentecostal doctrine continues to preach against carved images, but Ogiamen has made exploits with his carved images in Churches. Some of his commissions include Carved Door of St. Leo Catholic Church Ikeja, Awujale Palace, Ijebu Ode, (Carved Doors) and Giant Bronze Mace for the Federal Court of Appeal, Lagos. Other carved Doors include “Life of Christ” for Plymouth United Church, Detroit, USA,St. Luke’s Anglican Church Oru, and Ogbogbo both in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State among several others.
Against the doctrine of the Pentecostal Churches, the Septuagenarian continues to practice wood carving, travels around the world to supply, exhibit and handle commissions.
HisArtistic exploit has gone into three stages where he practised apprenticeship under the supervision of his late MasterEmokpaeErhabor which gave him a wider horizon of contemporary art. Later he developed his own ideas that were abstract and semi-abstract, though inspired by the spirit world but adds that “I did not invite or worship the spirit, it just visited and inspires me from time to time”.
Mingling traditional Benin Arts and spiritualism gives room for confusion. Ogiamen again painted a beautiful picture of how a couple’s faith in the work of Arts paved way for a sought pregnancy. Once believe and perception goes a long way to his or her physical determination.“A couple drove into my Gallery at Unity Road, Ikeja then and bought a piece of Art work I titled ‘Fertility.. It was a carved wood of a pregnant woman who was also carrying a baby. The couple bought it and took it home; after six months, the husband, a medical Doctor came to me and requested that I should make a six feet size of the same work which I did and they paid. Within a short time the couple invited me for a naming ceremony and told their guests that the moment they brought in my Art work, the wife conceived. Same manner when people react negatively to works of Art especially carved woods and associate it with demons and evil, all thesethe Artist call perception of the mind.