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Obi Of Onitsha Opens Exhibition, Calls For Review Of Policies On Arts & Culture

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 23, (THEWILL) - The Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Nnaemeka Achebe, has reiterated the need for an urgent review of the National Policy on Arts and Culture in order to enhance the development of the industry.

Achebe, an established patron of the arts, made this call while declaring open ‘Ambivalence’, an endotelic exhibition of sculptures, paintings and installations by renowned artist, Emmah Mbanefo, on Friday, April 20, 2012, at Nimbus Art Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos State.

“I wish to reiterate the need for a greater focus on our arts and culture in order to give these the pride of place that they deserve,” said Achebe. “In this regard, there is an urgent need for the review of our National Policy on Arts and Culture and its implementation with a view to achieving greater relevance and sustainability; such that our art and culture will become key development resources.

The policy should provide for massive investments by the government and its agencies; as well as the organised private sector, communities and wealthy individuals. The purpose would be to entrench and popularize arts and culture in our educational institutions as well as build relevant institutions and facilities such as museums, galleries, theatres, etc, that will bring our arts and culture to the level of the common man. After all, art should not only be appreciated by the elite for its aesthetic potentials but should also be seen as a major defining element of a people’s identity.”

‘Ambivalence’, scheduled to run until May 6, is a historic first solo for Emmah Mbanefo, whose works in over three decades of practice enjoy prominence in public and private collections.

Describing the theme of the exhibition, Mbanefo, said: “Ambivalence is premised on the understanding that in all things there is a foundation, one which is predetermined and beyond control. However, that singular foundation is challenged, pushed and pulled as we fight to define ourselves. Ambivalence is the search for the good, the spirit of humanity. In exploring ambivalence, the work explores, and sifts through humanity, interrogating emotions – strong feelings.

The collection of which is simply ambivalent, made up of both the positive and the negative. Yet, when one looks deeply enough therein lies a foundation of goodness, in the individual spirit and in humanity as a whole, goodness that is defined by humanity’s balance, association and place in accordance with the laws of nature. It is the quest to see this goodness, to bring out this goodness in day-to-day life that the works of ‘Ambivalence’ explore.”

Bruce Onobrakpeya, the internationally renowned printmaker, painter and sculptor, in a testimonial of Mbanefo, hailed his mastery in depicting the rich cultural heritage of the Igbo race in his unique works.

“Exhibitions and the catalogues that document them are building blocks for moulding the personality of the artist,” he said. “They also constitute important materials for writing the history of a people. Being called upon, therefore, to introduce Emmah Ifeanyi Mbanefo’s solo art exhibition, ‘Ambivalence’, I have a feeling of witnessing, as well as contributing, to the writing of our art history. I feel deeply honoured by the invitation.

In Mbanefo’s works I see the leitmotif of the mask and the masquerade, which in the Igbo cosmos, particularly the Onitsha Igbo, are the manifestations of the spirit of the world. The departed ancestors return to the world as masquerades during festivals to interact with the living ones. This is the theme perfected by the pioneer artist and foremost Nigerian sculptor and painter, Ben Enwonwu, in his Ogolo series.”

Emmah Mbanefo was born 1960 in Jos, Plateau State. He studied Fine Arts at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, majoring in sculpture and textiles. Over the years, Mbanefo has developed a reputation for producing bold and imaginative works. During this period, he has had close working contact with such masters as Ben Enwonwu, Ben Osawe, Okpu Eze and Bruce Onobrakpeya.