With over 17,500 artworks, six studios and an art school, Oshodi Art Gallery in Ikorodu is increasingly becoming the home of arts in Nigeria with its strides in the arts industry. Efosa Taiwo reports.
Art, they say, is life. And just like the slogan of Oshodi Art Gallery reads “Making art come to life”, it is bringing the life of art to the people of Ikorodu, the people of Lagos state, and Nigeria, by extension.
Dr. Seyi Paul Oshodi, a professional artist and an entrepreneur, who runs the art gallery said though work has been on for over 15 years at the place, officially, the gallery was opened two and a half years ago.
“The gallery as you see it now has nothing less than 17500 artworks, and the gallery has all the studios of art: painting, sculpture, ceramic, textile, graphics and animation and photography. The gallery should be one of the leading galleries in Nigeria. And what differentiates us from others is that most of these works you see here are done here, and only a minority of them are bought. So, in terms of content, this gallery is richer than any gallery in Africa.”
A tour around the art gallery had this reporter’s eyes feeding on some iconic and instructive artworks made out of metal, wood and ceramic.
There were also some paintings depicting the African culture and most had price tags to them ranging from N100,000 to N500,000.
Iconic personalities like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Herbert Macaulay, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti among others could be seen in their artistic metal forms in the gallery.
We host festivals – Oshodi
Aside from being a gallery where people can walk in to get a feel of the historic and artful works there, it is also in the business of organizing and overseeing art festivals and festive celebrations both in Lagos State and Nigeria.
Dr. Oshodi said the gallery organizes the annual Ondo State Arts and Cultural Festival. He confirmed that it also plays host to schools in Lagos State every October 1st and the ]yearly May 27th Children celebration.
“We host secondary schools in Lagos and we call it “The Heroes”. They are our heroes. We have another one we call NACAF, Nigeria Children Arts and Cultural Festival and it holds every May 27th. Therein, we celebrate the kids, and give back to them.
“We are doing one currently, it is a Beauty Pageant TV Reality show. We call it Miss Arts Nigeria. Miss Arts Nigeria is a programme for Nigerian teenage girls, and it is a way of empowering them. If you look at the country, we have many vices. The girls don’t know what to do, they are hopeless, as a result of not being creative, and idle, so we are trying to bring them together, and retrain them to be self-reliant, in terms of giving them skills that they can do even without power.
“For example dance, is an aspect in theatre arts, we are teaching them textile, weaving, aso-oke, screen printing. In ceramics, how to make pots, and mugs, how to make industrial tiles. We are teaching them photography, how to take photos. We teach them how to make hair, basket, mat weaving, and script writing. These are what we are doing to make them self-reliant. Eventually, one person will emerge as queen, we are giving the queen a car and things that they will use to work like sewing machines, a potter wheel and so many items that can make them be self-reliant and make them set up SMEs. Because when you train a woman, you have trained a nation.”
Oshodi’s inspiring story
Seeing the illustrious artworks that lie in their opulence in the gallery, this reporter was curious to find out what life must have been like for Dr. Oshodi before the existence of the gallery.
And just like every success story has its scars, Oshodi had quite a number of them and they all started from when he was a boy and had his family got thrown out of their house because he was always drawing on the walls.
It didn’t stop there. When he needed his parents in his university days after he set out to study Fine Arts, they were not there for him because they never wanted him to study Fine Arts.
“Arts started as a gift. Even right from an early age when I was in primary school, I was being discouraged by my parents, society and people around me. In my early life, I grew up to be an artist, I was talented in it, and I believed it was a gift, so I decided within me then that I don’t want to lose this gift because gifts are not being given to everybody. Even in my primary school days, I could discover at the time that I was the only one doing drawings, and doing designs for my mate. So that time I knew I had a gift.
“Virtually everyone told me then, that you are talented, you are gifted, and I said, this gift I would not want to lose it. So within me, as a little boy, I was putting in effort despite that there were a lot of problems from my parents, I was beaten, we were disgraced from the home we were leaving because I was drawing something on the walls, but then, it was my interest. In my Secondary School, I was the best in Fine Arts all through. I was offered science, but I told them I don’t want to do science, but technical. I was doing woodwork, fine arts and technical drawings. And in my WAEC, my fine art was distinction.
“My parents never wanted me to study fine arts, they bought jamb form for me to study law, I went back to collect my own jamb form to apply for fine arts at Obafemi Awolowo University. So when I gained admission, I didn’t disclose to them that it was fine arts, I told them it was law. They allowed me to go there, and I came back after registration, and I told them it was not law, they were not happy with me at all. They said they will not pay my school fees and that I should go and pursue law. I didn’t answer them. I sponsored myself throughout the university, doing artwork, and rearing two goats we had in the house.
“I will sell the babies, prepare cassava and turn it into garri, and take it to a very far market and sell. But today, I can say thank God I read Fine Arts at Obafemi Awolowo University.”
I have learnt how to draw better being here – Students of Art School speak
The art gallery runs an art school where this reporter saw teenagers and youth engaged in drawings.
A tall, dark-skinned boy, putting on a black shirt on a denim identified himself as Sunday Emmanuel, a student of Government Technical College, Ikorodu. When asked about his experience in the art school, he said being trained by the tutors in the art school has taught him how best to use lines and forms to do quick sketch.
“My experience here has been nice. I have been learning so much about drawing, using lines and forms to do quick sketch and I have been fast in whatever I do. So from here, I have been learning a lot.”
Emmanuel’s classmate Aderoju Daniel who is 16 years old, said art has been a passion for him since he was younger, and being in the art school has taught him something new like computer designs and paintings.
“I have learnt how to draw better, paint and some computer designs. And even if I go back to school, I wish to come back here to learn more. It is a nice place. I am enjoying it,” Daniel said.
Okikilola is a student in the department of Arts and Design, Yaba College of Technology, and her experience at the centre has been an impactful one as she has come to learn some technical things in the world of art.
Bearings on Ikorodu
Dr. Oshodi assured us that in the coming years, Ikorodu will come to be known as an art hub.
He said that the trainings being given to youths and teenagers will yield significant results that will make them self-sufficient while marking Ikorodu as a hub of arts in the nearest future.
“We have students from Lagos State Polytechnic, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos State University, Delta State University, Government Technical College, they are all here learning how to draw, paints and other art works.
“So this training we are doing, in the next few years, you will come to see that Ikorodu will be an art place. All these people we are training, are going to be experts, doing one or two things for themselves in Ikorodu, and these people we are training will build other people, and Ikorodu will come to be an art place.
“Aside from that, we have programmes we are doing, we have so many people we invite here, the big, the small in the society, and we talk to them about arts, its significance and how they can use it for their livelihood.
“People are here learning, they don’t want to stay at home even despite the ASUU strike. They are here learning.”
‘Nigeria needs to start maximizing arts’
On what Nigeria can do to better the art industry, Dr. Oshodi lamented the underutilization of art in Nigeria, saying that if truly the nation wants to create wealth, then art is one area it needs to focus on as a nation.
He said the country has the resources to be one of the best art countries in the world, but it keeps wasting its resources.
“Our clays are one of the best in the world, and they are available everywhere. So why are we not utilizing them? Look at how people are chasing after industrial tiles, the tiles are made from clay, Nigeria has the highest depot of clay in the world and nobody is tapping it. The one we have in Nigeria is far better than the one they have in China, but China is turning it to wealth.”