ONE YEAR AFTER, ENCOMIUM FOR RENOWNED ARTIST, ARCHIBONG
THE death of Archibong last year, after a brief illness, was a shock to the artists' community. Through his art, he also emerged as a businessman and died as CEO of many companies.
One of such companies is BHS International, the concessionaires of Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS). The proposed city centre project for the complex, according to Archibong was to include regular art activities with the outlook of little Hollywood, little Las Vegas etc. he also hoped that the TBS would have assorted restaurants, nightclubs, huge shopping arena, with about 2,000 shops, a kind of world trade centre for the first time in Africa is here in Nigeria.
Speaking at one of the several events organised for the remembrance, the guest speaker, Chief Joe Musa, noted that 'Fred was a force to reckon with; his work expounds creatively.' Musa, the embattle Director-General of National Gallery of Art (NGA) described Archibong as a 'troubled artist'. He noted that the controversial artist carried a sort of restlessness into some of his figurative sculptural works. 'Troubled' in the sense that the artist was recorded to have demanded his city size Basketball Player to 'rise up and walk'.' The D-G argued that Archibong was in constant quest to conquer and unravel new vistas. 'He exuded poignancy, remains illumined; his mind like clockwork continues distilling theories and spatial challenges.'
Tracing some of the deceased's work, Musa noted that his Market Scene in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja remains the largest wall mural to date in Nigeria.
On Archibong's business outside art, Musa went further to emphasise the importance of artists in every country. He also talked on the challenges faced by artists, especially Nigerian artists. According to him, 'we now have the opportunity to get the best from our limited resources by being smarter in planning, financing and executing more infrastructure projects in line with what BHS international is doing. It is necessary to keep Archibong's vision alive.
'Society's apathy towards change itself is a major factor. Only a society that relegates its artists to the background will remain underdeveloped.'
Archibong,during his lifetime, was quoted as stressing the importance of artists in development. He argued: 'No country in the world developed without their artists and creative minds, artists create the concept; they are the creative vehicles that help the growth of their countries. Leonardo Da Vinci saw a riding horse and designed the first car. Other creative minds, the Wright brothers, designed the first plane; Nostradamus, the man who saw tomorrow, a sculptor, predicted many events that had come to pass, same with the man who designed the first telephone. They are part of the reason why their countries have developed. No wonder Abdulrushin in his book, In the Light of Truth, emphatically stated that when all other professions may have fizzled out, only the artists will remain, as the carrier of 'truth'.
Meanwhile, the head of the new management of BHS, Otunba Olu Adenodi assured that the improvement of amenities at TBS and improved relationship between tenants and the company would be sustained. Indeed, recent visit to the complex, showed new dawn for the occupants as regular water supply, electricity, cleaner environments, among others noticed during a recent visit to the complex.
Adenodi a solicitor and investment attorney stressed that though the master plan of the project remains the priority of BHS, a stronger relationship with the tenants in maintenance of the complex is also important.
He stated that, 'gradually we are providing the necessary amenities for the tenants as there are now regular supply of waters, adequate maintenance as well as electricity.'
In fact he assured that in the next few weeks there would be no need for tenants littering the walkway with electricity generating sets. The central generator, Adenodi assured, will be working regularly as alternative source of electricity.
About a year ago, the then Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Honourable Humphrey Abba - after a joint meeting of BHS and tenants which the minister presided - had directed that all activities, including attachments and generating sets on the walkways be removed.
Meanwhile the management has frowned at an unauthorized directives, which was given to the tenants, to stop paying tenancy to BHS.
We are projecting a 24-hour, seven days, year in year out influx of international visitors, about 20-25 million tourists within a spate of few years after completion, of investors, visiting TBS City Centre as they do to Dubai, Paris, Cape Town, among other attractive destinations around the world.
'This is our projection.In additional to the economic value of making the Square attractive to both local and international visitors through the various events, the exercise preserving the square to remind us and generations to come of that historic event of 1960 is very paramount in the plan of BHS for the complex.'
On taking over of the edifice last year, we promised that art gallery, theatre, museums and music as well as movie studios will be part of the new look of the complex. A city centre of this nature with art and culture outlook along side other businesses in the same complex would turn Lagos into the next attraction in tourism and business travels in the world of hospitality.
Archbong took dominance from the 80's to the 90's in the area of public art.
A sculptor who was adept in mixed media, steel, metal, concrete, and fibreglass, the artist has done works measuring 100 feet at the entrance of Abuja, FCT; two dimensional fiber glass murals, multicolour beads collage and a cast aluminium at the Central Bank of Nigeria; various artistic embellishment at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, Abuja; some external sculptures as well as further embellishments at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Present day Nigerians artists are beginning to receive greater recognition from government. From stand up comedians to actors and musicians, many local, state and federal agencies are being manned by artists. This is a welcome development.
Fred Okon Archibong who hailed from Obutong(Old Town) of Calabar, Cross River State of Nigeria is indeed a shinning example of productivity and an individual who has rejected the ceiling society placed on his profession as an artist. No nation that continues to relegate this group of prophetic visionaries to the back stage can achieve its full potentials.