Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Morgan Nwanguma


‘My race against time’
– By Yetunde Oladeinde, Arts & Life, The Nation Newspaper

Art is beauty; it is the gem of life. Art fuels your power of perception and vision; and how wonderful it is to emulate God in the art of creativity. The artist connects with nature, the sublime terrains of the universe, and the community because he is the mirror of society. “He maybe a prophet sometimes crying and screaming in the wilderness for those who care to listen. He is a friend of the muse. What can be more exhilarating?” asked Morgan Nwanguma rhetorically as he takes Yetunde Oladeinde into his world

Tell us about some of your works.
I practice in various mediums and modes of expression, all culminating in making me a well rounded creative agent – a complete artist: My creative energies find expressions in the visual arts such as painting, graphics designing, etc. On the other hand, I am a poet and creative writer with a couple of unpublished books lying on the shelves for now.  As a painter my works are rendered in two major mediums – oil painting and watercolours. My watercolours are a celebration of spontaneous colours and ‘happy accidents’, in which you capture the fleeting moments, your patience is put to test while you take a breath of fresh air in visual poetry as I usually refer to my works in that whimsical medium of expression.  

Oil painting affords me the freedom to express hard and deep concepts. I am able to execute concepts on a larger scale and of course a more durable format such as the canvas. The oil medium no doubt is the king of painting or two dimensional medium of expression. But in all, my paintings and drawings in whatever medium, will cut across impressionistic, and semi-abstract expressions most of the time. Sometimes too I would also delve into the surreal when there is the urge to express some ethereal impulses. One of my favourite paintings in this mode is the one I titled ‘Time is against you’. It is a race against time, and we are all involved in it. Therefore whatever is there to be done must be done right now, because you lose this moment, it is gone forever.

What are some of the exhibitions and projects in which you have participated?
I have had the privilege of having my works shown in various parts of the country and a few times abroad. My works also are proudly adorning so many private homes in Nigeria. Some adorn the walls of corporate entities as well as galleries. In foreign lands I am proud also to say that my works are in private collections in places such as – USA, Russia, Spain, Kenya, Venezuela, Taiwan, U.K., and Germany. My most memorable exhibition so far is my third solo show at DIDI Museum, Victoria Island in 1999, titled ‘Lyrical Expressions’. I am also a curator, and so have handled quite a few curatorial projects for group shows. A good example of these is ‘The Pains, The Tears, The Regrets’ - an art exhibition on violence against women by (LRRDC), also in 1999, at the National Museum in Lagos.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Art as most of us know is creativity and beauty. But beyond that is an intrinsic and subliminal value that is embedded in art. Thus art and the practice of art is also seeking to connect mankind with the essence and meaning of life and existence; it seeks to entrench a sense of harmony and the attainment of inner peace. Art is able to heal us all and our entire society.
After all, the whole man-made world is art. The buildings all around us - architecture of course being a fine art; the motor cars and the likes; textiles and fashion wears, etc. Take a look at the landscapes and skylines created by man. And of course – nature, the art of God; they are all works born out of creative thoughts and imagination. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary of current English defines art thus: The creation or expression of what is beautiful, especially in visual form. Beauty and creativity have therapeutic essence which gives rise to mind and body equilibrium.

Serene Landscape

It is important to go into these details in understanding art in its entirety, in order to fully appreciate its usefulness and relevance in the act and process of attaining wellness. But in the first place, what is the function of art? Art being as old as man, has always therefore been functional, be it for its spiritual core value, social or domestic, etc. But embedded in all of these, is its untapped great and hidden power to heal. Now, let us take this from the perspective of colour application and colour psychology. Colour, be it in painting, design or sculpture, etc, is used to enhance or beautify a work of art apart from being a medium of expression.

For a better grasp of this artistic essence, we shall delimit this discourse to the analysis of painting and colour. Thus before any colour is applied or used at all, the artist as well as most ‘conscious’ persons would understand the fact that there exists warm and cool colours, as well as neutral colours. There are also combinations that will turn out to be hot or cold, violent, rioting, noisy, and even harmonious. Colour usage also can result in balance, heaviness or lightness of mood, as well as the depiction of temperament and character, etc. Sometimes we react to colours or certain pieces of art works without knowing it. We know quite alright that we are feeling something but not knowing what, or why.

We can actually feel heat or cold physically, or even an alteration in the state of mind, due to colours we see around us. Most people would for instance reject the idea of having their rooms painted red or black. If anybody does otherwise, you would want their head examined I suppose. One would want to ask why this is so? Why do most men refuse an all bright red outfit, for instance, unless of course they are engaged in professional entertainment or showbiz? But ladies will gleefully act on the contrary, and it is normal! In fact a baby was known to have cried out hysterically when placed in a room painted with a strong RED; while we also know an all black surrounding can as well evoke a sombre feeling.     

Monday, November 3, 2014

FESTAC and the Tragedy of a Mask

In the year 1977, at the height of Nigeria’s past glory, the entire (global) black race converged on the Nigerian soil in a global feast we called FESTAC ’77. It is rather very unfortunate however that a few unlearned minds, sometimes even highly placed, have come to link the nations recent misfortunes, (which actually are attributable to barefaced misrule and corruption), to that global fiesta that brought fame and recognition, and also development to the country.

FESTAC actually means the world Festival of Arts and Culture (being the second edition of the world black and African festival of its kind) in which all black people and people of African descent were fully represented, and Nigeria just excelled herself in that memorable carnival of awesome colours . The symbol of that great gathering was the carved mask image of the Queen-Mother, Idia, during the reign of the irrepressible Oba Ovomramwen of the great ancient Benin Kingdom. That great kingdom is today a part of modern Nigeria.

The original FESTAC mask

In the month of February 1897, the British conquering colonialists carried out a raid which has been popularly tagged the “Punitive measure” on the then reigning monarch and his kingdom. Oba Ovomramwen who was said to be recalcitrant towards the colonial rule had his empire sacked and he was subsequently deposed to Calabar. Many of his chiefs were killed in that coercive move, and the climax of it all was the looting carried out on the vast artistic treasures of Benin. The stolen works of art from the private collections of the royal house are said to number more than 3,000 pieces of treasured artefacts which were carted away to the United Kingdom by the British. 

Among the numerous treasures carted away stands out one particular piece – the carved mask of Queen Idia, the queen-mother herself. It is instructive to note that the FESTAC mask or symbol, which was employed during the festivities, was actually a replica of this stolen mask. As the British refused to return, donate or sell it back to the country, the Nigerian government of the day commissioned a skilled craftsman in the modern day Benin area (which is still famous for its rare quality traditional craftsmanship) to produce a copy of the original mask. And this was what was used at FESTAC ’77. As it stands therefore, the original mask that was stolen from the Benin treasures is sadly sitting in the British museum where many tourists world-wide, including Nigerians sometimes, come to pay to see this beautiful work of ancient Benin artistry among other works in the museum.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Issues in Modern and Contemporary Nigerian Art

In resolving the bugging issues relating to modern and contemporary Nigerian art, it is important however to note the differences as well as similarities between the terms - Modern art and Contemporary Art, and then look at them in the Nigerian context. Modern art includes artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era.

Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art. A tendency toward abstraction is characteristic of much of modern art. This movement actually begins with the heritage of painters like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, all of whom were essential for the development of modern art. But Contemporary art can be defined variously as art produced at this present point in time, or art produced since World War II. The definition of the word contemporary would support the first view, but museums of contemporary art commonly define their collections as consisting of art produced since World War II.

Ceramic sculpture by Ato Arinze

According to Dr. Dele Jegede, the erosion of the traditional base of Nigerian culture through contact with Europeans had set off a metamorphosis in patronage and artistic promotion. Western education interrupted the traditional apprenticeship system. Between the 1930s and 1960s, Christianity and a new social order contributed to the genesis of a new era in Nigerian arts. The Oshogbo and Oye Ekiti workshops were important watersheds, which led to a new patronage system, along with the emergence of galleries, new opportunities for exhibitions, and government-sponsored cultural festivals. 

All in Your Eyes