close

Arts

AfricaAfrica AsiaArtsCulture & Tourism

ARTS: ‘The past glory is returning’: Ibadan’s nascent artistic revival

Oluwole Omofemi is just one of many rising artistic stars in Nigeria’s third-largest city

Less than a year ago, a painting by Oluwole Omofemi hung, unguarded, at the side entrance to the grey concrete building where he maintains his two-room studio.

Just steps above one of Ibadan’s busiest thoroughfares, the young woman in the portrait had a confident stance, her face framed by a halo-like afro. She hung exposed yet unbothered by hundreds of passersby.

Earlier this year, Omofemi removed the painting for safe keeping in his personal collection after similar works from his Metamorphosis series were sold for more than 100,000 euros ($96,000) in auctions at Phillips and Christie’s. In March 2022, Invader, a painting that had an estimated value of $10,000 to $15,000, sold for $189,000.

Like the painting, until recently Omofemi, 34, has been hiding in plain sight in one of Ibadan’s most active commercial centres, where he established his current studio space in 2018.

“I want to be very quiet,” Omofemi told Al Jazeera. “I want to live a normal life that an average citizen [would] live.”

He recalls a moment at a party when people were discussing Nigerian artists and the subject shifted to him.

“People were saying, ‘There’s this one guy in Ibadan. This guy has been making this, has been doing that,’ and I was just there, quiet,” he said. “A lot of these collectors don’t even know me.”
Butterly Kiss, 2021 courtesy of Oluwole Omofemi
Butterly Kiss, 2021 [Courtesy of Oluwole Omofemi]

But Omofemi’s hopes of staying under the radar are dwindling.

In April, the third solo show of his career opened at Out of Africa Gallery in Barcelona, with all 10 paintings sold and a waiting list of 75 potential buyers.

Now, collectors send emissaries to find Omofemi’s Ibadan studio, hoping to entice him to sell his works directly.

In May, Tatler magazine commissioned Omofemi to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for its July issue, which celebrated her platinum jubilee, bringing his profile to new heights. It may be the last painting made of her before her death in early September.

Oluwole Omofemi [Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera]
Omofemi, 34, has been in his current Ibadan studio since 2018 [Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera]

Omofemi’s rise is bringing more attention to his hometown of Ibadan – Nigeria’s third largest city by population, with more than 6 million people, located some 140km (85 miles) northeast of Lagos.

While Ibadan came to be eclipsed by Lagos as Nigeria’s cultural powerhouse, its legacy as an incubator for many of Nigeria’s most celebrated artists and intellectuals long precedes Omofemi, and he is just one of the many artists sparking a nascent creative revival in the city.

‘Dreams beyond money’

Founded in Ibadan in 1961, the Mbari Club, with its gallery space, library, and performance venue, was not only the artistic centre of the city but of Nigeria as a whole. Members included visual artist Bruce Onobrakpeya and young writers Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. Now giants of Nigerian modern art, Uche Okeke and Demas Nwoko were both active members.

In the 1960s, Ibadan was Nigeria’s most populous city and an international destination. Malcolm X lectured at the University of Ibadan in 1964. Visual artists, including Somali modernist Ibrahim El-Salahi and the widely-acclaimed American painter Jacob Lawrence, traveled to participate in the creative exchanges at the Mbari Club.

When drummer and visual artist Tunde Odunlade moved from Ife to Ibadan in 1973, the city was still “a melting pot where the development of contemporary art [in] Nigeria took off … there was no artist from Nigeria that would not pass through Ibadan – musical, visual, dance”.

But, over almost 50 years in the city, Odunlade witnessed the shift of the country’s artistic centre from Ibadan to Lagos.

“Lagos became the commercial hub of the country, and it was easy for art to flow there,” Odunlade said.   

Tunde Odunlade [Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera]
‘Lagos became the commercial hub of the country, and it was easy for art to flow there,’ Tunde Odunlade said [Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera]

However, Odunlade and others have sought to revive Ibadan’s artistic scene in recent years.

As a well-established visual artist in his own right, he founded Tunde Odunlade Arts and Culture Connexions in Ibadan’s Bodija district in December 2020. The gallery space features a wide range of works, having displayed the works of more than 80 artists since opening.

Equally notable is that it provides a welcoming and accessible location for young cultural practitioners interested in reviving Ibadan’s artistic energy to stage events, meetings and workshops.

“The past glory of Ibadan is now returning, and I’m glad that I’m part of the whole story,” Odunlade asserts.

“I’m not surprised about what is happening in Ibadan today, especially with Oluwole Omofemi. I’m not surprised because he lives in an environment where there’s peace, where your inspiration will not just disappear because of hullabaloo around you.”

Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera
Luxury handbag designer Femi Olayebi says, ‘Ibadan affords you the ability to be creative’ [Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera]

About 25 minutes’ drive away from Odunlade’s centre, luxury handbag designer Femi Olayebi’s administrative headquarters and factory occupy two full storeys in an unmarked building in central Ibadan.

During her 30-year career, Olayebi has been selected for a merchandising mentorship programme at Saks 5th Avenue, completed a fellowship at MIT, and founded the Lagos Leather Fair, all while successfully scaling up the business she founded from her home into a team of dozens of employees.

At different points in her career, Olayebi recalls wondering, “If I were in Lagos, would I have succeeded faster? Would I have succeeded earlier? At the beginning, I thought ‘yes’, but now I’m wiser, and I know that the answer is an absolute no.”

Olayebi feels “the stress of Lagos doesn’t exist in Ibadan. Ibadan affords you the ability to be creative because you’re not sitting in traffic for hours on end … And then there’s also the fact that, in Lagos, to have [the] kind of space that I have, would have cost me an absolute fortune.”

Like Olayebi, painter Modupeola Fadugba has had many successes in her career. The former Smithsonian Fellow and recent New York Emmy winner in the category of DEI Long Form Content for her short documentary, Dreams from the Deep End, has made a conscious choice to base her practice in Ibadan.

“I’ve always been someone that doesn’t quite like to be in the centre,” she explains. “But I can have access to it if and when I’m ready.”

Fadugba chose to settle in Ibadan. “It is quiet, so I can think and have a lot more space.”

Modupeola Fadugba [Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera]
Modupeola Fadugba explains her reason for choosing Ibadan as ‘it is quiet, so I can think and have a lot more space’ [Oluwafemi Amogunla/Al Jazeera]

Omofemi also credits Ibadan as being integral to his development.

“I’m very sensitive to the things around me, both the visible and spiritual –  very, very sensitive, and I get my inspiration from everything I see.”

While Omofemi has been influenced by Ibadan, it has been the challenges that it has presented that have propelled him to international stardom.

Omofemi’s current studio is less than 10 minutes by motorcycle from the roadside kiosk where he used to sell commissioned portraits for the equivalent of $10 to $30, a living that he was comfortable with at the time.

In Him I Trust, Oluwole Omofemi
In Him I Trust, 2021 [Courtesy of Oluwole Omofemi
]
All of that was disrupted in 2017 when the Oyo State Government launched a city-wide campaign against street vending, forcing him from the location where he had sold his work since secondary school.

Ibadan-based painter and gallery owner Tope Fatunmbi had been encouraging Omofemi’s career since secondary school, while respected painter Ebenezer Akinola also served as an important mentor.

Although Omofemi was initially certain that his art career was over, Akinola began to introduce him and his work to established galleries.

“He took me to Lagos, and he introduced my painting to [Alexis] Gallery, and the gallery was so excited to work with me.”

He exhibited at Lagos mainstays, including Terra Kulture and Thought Pyramid, but it was Signature Gallery that saw his work as viable in the international market. They launched the opening of their London gallery with a solo show of Omofemi’s work in March 2020. The 12 large-scale portraits sold out.

Today, the intensified spotlight on his work has led to multiple offers from the world’s top auction houses to broker the sale of The Queen along with bidding wars for exclusive auction rights to his other works.

Back in Ibadan, with up to 10 young apprentices in his studio at any given time, Omofemi remains dedicated to nurturing the next generation of the city’s artistic talents.

“My thoughts, my dreams [are] beyond just having money,” he asserts.

“I spent most of my life here … I have always wanted to give back to my immediate environment in my community. I don’t want to be an artist without impact. I want to be an artist with a footprint in people’s lives.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
read more
AfricaArtsCulture & TourismEvents

CULTURE & TOURISM: South Africa throws mega party as new Zulu king crowned

South Africa’s new Zulu King was formally declared the head of the country’s most influential traditional monarchy at a colorful ceremony presided over by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday.

Ramaphosa was to hand over the giant framed certificate to formally recognize the 48-year-old new ruler Misuzulu Zulu before tens of thousands of people in colourful regalia gathered at a huge soccer stadium in the coastal city of Durban.

“Our king, is indeed officially the King of the Zulu nation and the only king of the Zulu nation,” said Ramaphosa to loud applause from those gathered to fete the new ruler.

Saturday’s official coronation of the ruler of the country’s richest monarchy comes after a year of bitter feuding over the royal succession that has spilled into the courts.

Misuzulu Zulu ascended the throne once held by his late father, Goodwill Zwelithini, who died in March 2021 – after more than 50 years on the throne.

The crowning which followed a traditional coronation ceremony in August is the first South Africa has witnessed in more than half a century.

Amabutho, Zulu King regiments, clad in traditional dress and carrying shields and sticks, are seen at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, Oct. 29, 2022. (AFP Photo)

“This historic moment only comes once in a lifetime, many of us will never see this historic moment again,” said Ramaphosa.

Although the title of king does not bestow executive power, the monarchs wield great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population of 60 million people.

Amabutho, or royal regiments, clad in traditional skirts, faux leopard skin tops, and carrying shields and sticks chanted songs of praise for their king.

Singing and blowing whistles as they slowly glided around the pitch, women wore broad-brimmed Zulu hats and traditional wraps.

Young girls in equally brightly colored pleated skirts and beads excitedly danced and ululated in the 85,000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium – which was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament.

‘Great day for’ Zulus

Londolo Zungu, 49, in traditional Zulu attire was among the women at the party. “We are very happy, more than happy, we are supporting the king 100%,” she told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Khaya Ndwandwe, a Zulu historian, said at the stadium that recognition of the new king by the government as “the real king of the Zulu people” means “now the king will be more than protected.”

“It’s a great day for the Zulu nation. It’s a day of great joy for the Zulu people, for everybody,” said Ndwandwe.

The ceremony was given rolling live coverage on all of South Africa’s largest television stations and media outlets.

A long gray feather stuck out from the king’s hair, while a bunch of black feathers was arranged on the back of his head as he sat on a throne covered in leopard skin.

Head of the Anglican church in South Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba dabbed holy oil on the king’s hands, face and head as crowds looked on.

“As you embark upon your reign as king of the nation that is recognized internationally as one of the greatest in Africa, I believe you are being called to step up and emulate the highest traditions of your ancestors,” said Makgoba.

Among the delegates was King Mswati III of Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Eswatini, who was also an uncle to the new Zulu king.

Two of South Africa’s ex-presidents, Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, were also present.

Zulu kings are descendants of King Shaka, the 19th-century leader still revered for having united a large swathe of the country as the Zulu nation, which fought bloody battles against the British colonisers.

King Zwelithini died after more than 50 years in charge, leaving six wives and at least 28 children.

Misuzulu is the first son of Zwelithini’s third wife, who he designated as regent in his will.

The queen however died suddenly a month after Zwelithini, leaving a will naming Misuzulu as the next king – a development that did not go down well with other family members.

The new monarch’s first name means “strengthening the Zulus” but his path to the crown has not been smooth.

 

read more
AfricaArtsEntertainmentEventsFashionLifestyle

Thando Ntuli unveils new collection, revives family history at South African Fashion Week

Thando Ntuli, a young designer who just unveiled her new collection at South African Fashion Week, hopes her clothes will convey a sense of home.

Models present creations by MUNKUS during the second day of the South African Fashion Week (SAFW), at the Mall of Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 21, 2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The 25-year-old, who grew up in the township of Soweto, took inspiration from the dresses and skirts she used to borrow from her mother and grandmother in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I just want this sense of home to be given, or transferred to the people wearing the brand,” said Ntuli, whose brand is called “Munkus” after a term of endearment that her family uses for her.

The designer dedicated her Autumn/Winter 2023 collection to her mother and explored the different roles women play in society.

“I looked into the five personas that my mum represents: she’s basically a giver, a nurturer, a lover, a fighter, and a leader,” Ntuli told Reuters.

This multitude of roles is reflected in different silhouettes and colours the designer used in her collection, which includes a dress with an image of Ntuli’s mother printed on the front.

*|REUTERS

read more
AfricaAfrica AsiaArts

Optimism as art project set up for people with HIV

An art project in the South African village of Hamburg, created by people affected by HIV, is now being exhibited in Johannesburg more than 15 years after it was completed.

The Keiskamma art project gathered together over 130 women to weave a story of their pain and loss – but also of hope for the future after being affected by HIV/AIDS in the early 2000s when it hit South Africa.

Nozeti Makhubalo is one of the artists involved in the giant tapestry. She detailed some of the hardships she faced to feed her family after her husband could no longer provide for them and how working on the artwork was a healing experience for her.

“But when you reach the studio, we’ve got tables where we are sitting together then we share that. So, we support each other, we share whatever burden you have. Then when you go home, you’re just happy as ever.”

The project also established a musical academy in the village where the youth can learn how to sing and play instruments.

Eunice Mangwane became involved in the art project to help spread awareness of HIV/Aids together with health workers who were unfamiliar with the Xhosa language spoken in the Eastern Cape.

Read Also: https://africandevmag.net/2022/03/10/announcement-agrobiz-to-hold-virtual-event-on-womens-economic-thumbprint/

She says: “It was not long, and another one came and so on and so on until I had five patients in my house. And with the five that I had in my house, the two died in the house and the three are still living until now.

“And only then, when the community saw the progress of this guy, because I used to put him on a wheelbarrow when I’m taking him to the clinic.

“It’s only when they saw the progress of this gentleman that they would come”

The 4×7 multi-panel tapestry debuted at the Anglican Cathedral in Grahamstown, South Africa, in July 2005.

Since then, it has traveled to England, Canada, and the United States.

Founder of the Keiskamma Art Project, Carol Hofmeyr, says: “Many people say COVID brought people together, they wanted to help people around them; they wanted to support their neighbours.

“But HIV was not like that. People didn’t want them in their houses and so the act of making embroidery together is also a thing of pulling people together to support each other.”

About 14 percent of South Africa’s population lives with HIV, making it the country with the highest prevalence of the virus.

The exhibition of the Keiskamma altarpiece and other tapestries will remain on display at Constitution Hill until 24 March 2023.

read more
AfricaArtsEntertainment

Most anticipated movie’s title ‘ANIKULAPO’ is on Netflix

The movie’s title has been revealed as Anikulapo and is referred to as ‘Death & Life, The Rebirth of Identity.

A blog post on KAP’s website emphasizes origin and culture. According to the director, “we are witnessing in our days, the appreciation and rebirth of the almost dying Yoruba culture, we are experiencing the rise of hope for the heritage that was once thought to be lost.”

Story

A mystical folklore drama is revolving around the life of a zealous young man seeking greener pasture in the great Oyo Kingdom. Unfolding events & his illicit affair with the king’s wife leads to his untimely death & encounter with a mystical bird believed to give & take life.”

Setting

Six years in the making, the unknown story is set in the 17th-century Oyo Empire. The filmmaker describes Anikulapo as ” Game of Thrones recreated in Nigeria but with a better representation of our culture”.

Via Kunle Afolayan Production

The Cast

 As we await exact details of this historical story, Anikulapo, we see that Afolayan is bringing together a number of familiar Yoruba Nollywood stars, some of whom have given us a snippet through their social platforms into what they have been up to in what might be an entire Yoruba-language movie. The untitled movie will star Sola Sobowale (King of Boys), Hakeem K. Kazeem, Fathia Balogun, Kunle Remi (A Naija Christmas), Bimbo Ademoye (Gone), Kareem Adepoju aka Babawande, Taiwo Hassan, Adebayo Salami, Moji Olayiwola, Queen Adedoja Adeyemi (Miss Oyo State 20/21 winner) and many others who are yet to be revealed.
More cast members of Anikulapo have been revealed: Dele Odule, Toyin Afolayan, Sunday Omobolanle, Aisha Lawal, Ibironke Ojo-Anthony, Adewale Elesho Adeoye, Ariyike Owolagba, Moji Afolayan, Jinadu Ewele, Ifayemi Elebuibon, Olayiwola Razaq, Ropo Ewenla, Mr. Macaroni and Ikorodu Bois.

read more
AfricaArtsCulture & TourismEventsNews

Culture & Tourism: Buhari lauds Ooni’s peace initiatives as Brazilians, Caribbeans storm Ile-Ife for Olojo Festival 2022

President Muhammadu Buhari has applauded the peace initiative of the Arole Oduduwa & Ooni of Ife, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, describing him as a major stakeholder responsible for the peace and tranquility currently being enjoyed in Nigeria.
Represented by the Minister of Interior and former governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, President Buhari made the commendation on Saturday before the mammoth crowd that gathered at the Ile Oodua Palace of Ife to celebrate the annual Olojo festival in the ancient city with the African foremost monarch, people of the kingdom and the Oduduwa race worldwide advising that Nigerians should be sensitive to their security and not leave everything for security agents.
“We are collectively responsible for the provision of security. The government will do its own while the people should also support the security agencies. We should report any suspicious move or person in our environment to the security agents.
“I appreciate Ooni’s effort in ending insecurity in Nigeria. Collectively, we will end insecurity in Nigeria.”
On the annual festival, the President recalled that Olojo and other festivals in Yoruba land in the olden days are used to showcase harvest and productivity in the agricultural sector and not just for fun or merriment.
“Olojo festival was an event in the olden days to showcase farm produce, profits made in farming, and agriculture at large.
“It will gladden my heart if Nigerians could restore the old glory of farming; this Olojo festival too should also bring back the old days of showcasing farm produce, hard work, and good character.
“The festival should not be for merriment alone. Merriment should come after work. There should not be merriment without work. Working is the antidote to poverty.” Aregbesola said.
In his statement signed by Director, Media & Public Affairs, Otunba Moses Olafare. It was noted that Ooni Ogunwusi who doubles as Co-chairman of, the National Council of Traditional Rulers of (NCTRN) reflected on the economic and security state of the nation with a vow to remain steadfast and committed to preserving the Oduduwa legacy of festivals like Olojo to inspire the economic and security solutions for Nigeria and Africa using cultural tourism as veritable tools.
“Anchoring the mantle of the Olojo Festival is the ideal fit for mending our nation’s brokenness. When we turn on the news, read the newspaper, or look at our social media feeds, we see brokenness. We are a broken people in a broken country. We are under broken political systems, governance, education, healthcare, security, religion, etc. Through the lenses of our existence, we don’t have to look far to see brokenness which is reflected in our interactions, conversations, sense of recognition, and support for our young people.
“Olojo dispenses the rich nuances of the past as well as the unforgettable contributions of our forefathers to our existence and greatness.
“At this historic intersection, our traditions and heritage have given birth to modernity and will continue to lighten our paths from the darkness. I’m steadfastly committed to preserving, inspiring, and distinctively igniting a desire for the sustenance of their age-old meaning as they continue to serve as our precious treasures.” Ooni said.
In the same vein, Osun State Governor, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola, congratulated descendants of Oduduwa for witnessing the prominent festival, commending the Ooni for preserving the prestigious Yoruba culture.
Represented by his Deputy, Benedict Adegboyega Alabi, the Governor said, “As a government, we remain committed to our electioneering promises and we won’t renege on our pledge to make life better for all.”
Similarly, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Jamaica and the Caribbean, Ambassador (Mrs.) Maureen Tamuno, stated that a lot of people in the diaspora particularly in the Caribbean have traced their roots back to Nigeria and festivals like Olojo will be instrumental to reuniting them with their kinsmen.
The event which was witnessed by numerous traditional rulers, chiefs, business tycoons, political office holders, international tourists, and observers from countries like Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, and America, had the Ooni who was flanked by his beautiful queen, Olori Mariam Ajibola Ogunwusi and members of the royal (Giesi) family at the centre of the crowd.
Olojo festival connotes a strong indication of God’s creation and the day of the first dawn on earth, it is celebrated annually in Ile-Ife by all descendants of Oduduwa globally.
read more
Culture & Tourism

Culture & Tourism: The scared Osun river becoming increasingly toxic

Yeyerisa Abimbola has dedicated most of her 58 years on Earth to the Osun, a waterway in deeply religious Nigeria named for the river goddess of fertility. As the deity’s chief priestess, she leads other women known as servants of Osun in daily worship and sacrificial offerings along the riverbank.

But with each passing day, she worries more and more about the river. Once sparkling and clear and home to a variety of fish, today it runs mucky and brown as reported by AP

“The problem we face now are those that mine by the river,” Abimbola said. “As you can see, the water has changed color.”

The river, which flows through the dense forest of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove — designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 — is revered for its cultural and religious significance among the Yoruba-speaking people predominant in southwestern Nigeria, where Osun is widely worshipped.

But it’s under constant threat from pollution from waste disposal and other human activity — especially the dozens of illegal gold miners across Osun state whose runoff is filling the sacred river with toxic metals. Amid lax enforcement of environmental laws in the region, there are also some who use the river as a dumping ground, further contributing to its contamination.

Devotees of the Osun River goddess pray in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Devotees of the Osun River goddess pray in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.

The servants of Osun, made up of women mostly between the ages of 30 and 60, live in a line of one-room apartments along the side of the Osogbo palace, the royal house of the Osogbo monarch about 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) north of the grove and river.

They leave behind everything from their secular lives, including marriages, to serve both the goddess and the king. They have little interaction with outsiders, allowing them to devote themselves fully to the goddess, whom they worship daily at a shrine tucked deep inside the grove.

Often seen in flowing white gowns symbolizing the purity the river represents, the women carry out various tasks for the goddess from dawn to dusk, from overseeing sacrificial offerings, mostly live animals and drinks, to carrying out cultural activities in the Osun’s waters. Some say the goddess heals them of afflictions when they drink or bathe in the river; others say she can provide wealth or fertility.

Devotees of the Osun River goddess prepare to perform sacrifices for a woman draped in a white cloth in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Devotees of the Osun River goddess prepare to perform sacrifices for a woman draped in a white cloth in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Devotees of the Osun River goddess prepare to perform sacrifices for a woman draped in a white cloth in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.

One servant of Osun, who goes by the name Oluwatosin, said the river brought her a child when she was having difficulties with childbirth. Now the mother of two children, she intends to remain forever devoted to the river and the goddess.

“It is my belief, and Osun answers my prayers,” Oluwatosin said.

The river also serves as an important “pilgrimage point” for Yoruba people in Nigeria, said Ayo Adams, a Yoruba scholar — especially during the Osun-Osogbo festival, a colorful annual celebration that draws thousands of Osun worshippers and tourists “to celebrate the essence of the Yoruba race.” Some attendees say it offers the chance for a personal encounter with the goddess.

But this year, as the two-week August festival neared, palace authorities announced they had been forced to take the unusual step of telling people to stop drinking the water.

Osunyemi Ifarinu Ifabode, the Osun River chief priest, speaks during an interview in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.
Osunyemi Ifarinu Ifabode, the Osun River chief priest, speaks during an interview in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.

“We have written to the state government, the museum on the activities of the illegal miners and for them to take actions to stop them,” said Osunyemi Ifarinu Ifabode, the Osun chief priest.

Osun state is home to some of Nigeria’s largest gold deposits, and miners in search of gold and other minerals — many of them operating illegally — are scattered across swampy areas in remote villages where there is scant law enforcement presence. While community leaders in Osogbo have been able to keep miners out of the immediate area, they’re essentially free to operate with impunity upstream and to the north.

Men take a break at an illegal mining site in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 31, 2022.
Men take a break at an illegal mining site in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 31, 2022.

The miners take water from the river to use in exploration and exploitation, and the runoff flows back into it and other waterways, polluting the drinking water sources of thousands of people.

“It is more or less like 50% of the water bodies in Osun state, so the major water bodies here have been polluted,” said Anthony Adejuwon, head Urban Alert, a nonprofit leading advocacy efforts to protect the Osun River.

Urban Alert conducted a series of tests on the Osun in 2021 and found it to be “heavily contaminated.” The report, which was shared with The Associated Press, found lead and mercury levels in the water at the grove that were, respectively, 1,000% and 2,000% above what’s permissible under the Nigerian Industrial Standard. Urban Alert attributes it to many years of mining activity, some of it within 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the river.

Despite the drinking ban issued by the palace, during a recent visit AP witnessed residents trooping to the river daily to fill up gallon containers for domestic use.

The Osun River flows through the forest of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.
The Osun River flows through the forest of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022.

Dr. Emmanuel Folami, a physician based in Osogbo, the state capital, said drinking the toxic water or otherwise using it for purposes that risk human exposure is a “big health concern” that could cause lead poisoning.

In March, the Osun state government announced the arrest of “several individuals for illicit mining, seizures and site closures,” and promised it was studying the level of pollution of the river and ways to address it.

But activists question the sincerity and commitment behind such efforts: “If we cannot see the state government taking action within its own jurisdiction as a (mining) license holder, what are we going to say about the other people?” said Adejuwon of Urban Alert, which is running a social media campaign with the hashtag #SaveOsunRiver.

Priestess Yeyerisa Abimbola speaks during an interview at the sacred Osun River in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.
Priestess Yeyerisa Abimbola speaks during an interview at the sacred Osun River in Osogbo, Nigeria, on May 29, 2022.

Abimbola, a servant of Osun since she was just 17 years old, said the goddess is tolerant and giving. She thanks Osun for her blessings — a home, children, good health.

“Every good thing that God does for people, Osun does the same,” she said.

Yet she and others warn that even Osun has her limits.

 

Fishermen cast a net near a dam that sources the sacred Osun River in Esa-Odo, Nigeria, on May 28, 2022.
Fishermen cast a net near a dam that sources the sacred Osun River in Esa-Odo, Nigeria, on May 28, 2022.

There may be problems if the river remains contaminated and Osun “gets angry or is not properly appeased,” said Abiodun Fasoyin, a village chief in Esa-Odo, where much of the mining takes place, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Osogbo.

“The riverbank will overflow and sweep people away when it is angry,” Abimbola said. “Don’t do whatever she doesn’t want.”

 

read more
AfricaArtsEntertainmentInterviewsLifestyle

ENTERTAINMENT: Lack of funds is killing actors in the movie industry- Martini

Martins Omosigho Ogbebor is a fast-rising actor who has got a lot to offer in the movie industry.

Since 2016 when he joined the industry, he has been putting on foot ahead of the others gradually and he has been working hard to make sure he’s part of the new breed of actors who are changing the narrative of Nollywood movies.

In this interview with ADEWALE ADENRLE, the fast-rising actor Martini shares his experience and challenges in the movie industry and how eager to work with living legends.

Below are excerpts:

Can you tell us briefly about yourself, your family, and your educational background?

I am Martins Omosigho Ogbebor, popularly known as Martini. I was born on the 8th of May in Benin City but grew up in Lafiaji, Lagos State. I am the first child with two siblings. I graduated from the University of Benin (Ekenwan campus), Edo State where I obtained a Degree in studied fine and applied art. I later joined the Itele D-icon school of performing art and graduated with a certificate.

How did you begin your acting career?

I started my career professionally in 2016 as a trainee and in 2017, I was introduced to the ” D-icon school of performing arts, owned by Ibrahim Yekini Bakare a.k.a ITELE, by one of my big sisters, Bimbo Oshin. Where I was awarded Theatre Art Certificate in November 2019. I met Bimbo Oshin through her elder sister MUMMY OGUNYE, who handed me over to sis Bimbo Oshin and she advised me to join the school of art then since then my Acting Career.

Martini on the movie set

What are the challenges faced when you started acting?

The only challenge I have is finances, leaving a paid job for acting. It has not been so easy but I still thank Almighty God that has been using my Boss “Itele” for me all along. Financial assistance is killing all actors in the industry, the Government is not supporting too and Pirates are not helping as well because we hardly see our profit.

Who are some of your contemporaries in your industry?

I’ll say Rilwan Ologolo (BENZEMA), Olotu Yusuf (OLOTU), Akeem Adeyemi(SUGAR BOY) Kiki Bakare, Feranmi Oyalowo, Babatunde Aderinoye just to mention a few.

How many movies have you produced?

Two movies at the moment OLOGBOJO and ASOGBA ( the gardener). But presently working on another project, so my fans should be expecting another great movie from me. Y’all should watch for my next production.

Do you have any favourite actors whom you would love to act alongside? Yes sure,

I’ll love to work with Zubbi Micheal, Ramsey Noah, Gabriel Afolayan, Osas Ighodaro, and other great icons. Though have worked with big shots in the industry but still wish to work with the likes of Richard Mofe Damijo, Kemi Adetiba, Funke Akindele, Dakore Akande, Joke Silva, and a lot more. I will love to work with these people because their acting inspires me, when I see them acting, I can see other professional acting skills in them.

Which particular Yoruba movie brought you to the limelight, and which is the defining movie?

‘WURA MI’ brought me out, produced and directed by ITELE D’icon. The magnificent role in the movie earned the attention of many producers and directors. WURA MI is an intriguing movie where a child decided to marry his mother as a wife simply because of the love he had for his mother and the promise the mother made for his husband before his demise. I played the role of the husband (Bode) a man who loves his wife but dies when his wife was pregnant.

How do you take negative stories and comments?

Critics is very important to growth. Negative critics make me double up, I don’t let negative comments bring me down because people will surely talk even when you are doing the right thing, I am not perfect and I go with the positive ones and it makes me work harder.

If one pays too much attention to noise, one would put oneself in trouble.

What do you do next?

Like I said earlier if one pays too much attention to noise, one would put oneself in trouble. I ignore the ones that are not useful to me because if you pay attention to it, it’s gonna bring you down. People will surely talk but for me No Negative vibes

Martins Omosigho Ogbebor a.k.a Martini

When did you get your first shot at a financial breakthrough?

I’m yet to get that financial breakthrough though, still praying for more grace upon my career so as to get to the peak but I still thank God that I’m not where i used to be. Hallelujah!!!

Poor subtitling of Yoruba movies has been recurring; do you think it can be nipped in the bud?

The subtitle is very important in both Yoruba and English movies. However, the mistake is inevitable though, I’m not indulging them, and I can only beg the part of production that handle it to please pay attention to details.

What do you like about African Culture?

African culture is rich in cultural values. Edo, for instance, has the most beautiful traditional wedding attire, I like our language. I also love Yoruba food, dance, traditional festivals, and many more.

Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?

The most amazing memory is when I emerged the 1st runner-up in Glo Rock and Rule in 2011 in Benin City. Because I remember I was not even expecting it. Someone back then in school forced me to go for it. And he noticed I was reluctant to go get a form that was free. He told me “MARTINI, go get the form, I believe in you”. I now thought about it that someone else believes in me and I don’t believe in myself. So I went to get the form. And the rest was history.

What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue your profession?

Advice to those who are coming into the industry, firstly, they have to be sure they are really passionate about it, and focused, they have to go to either a film academy or University to study it because fundamental knowledge about the industry is very important. Again, they should remember persistency and consistency wins the race here.

No competition but be determined to win and bring others up. Lastly, they should put every in the hands of God.

Thank you for sharing with African Development Magazine (ADM)

Thank you.

read more
Africa

After70 years, Pioneering art collection returns to Zimbabwe

For the first time in 70 years, a collection of paintings is back in its home country: Zimbabwe.

The display at the National Gallery in Harare features paintings done in the 1940s and 1950s by young Black students.

They were studying at Cyrene Mission School, the first to teach art to Black students in what was then white minority-ruled Rhodesia.

For the first time in his life, Gift Livingstone Sango is seeing a painting by his father depicting Jesus as a Black man.

“This art is brought back home is what we want, so that when we are long gone, he is already gone, he’s already gone. What about my son, he doesn’t even have a son or a child, what about his children? What about the other artists who are coming from Mzilikazi Art Centre or all the art centers we know, from Mbare to Mabvuku. We are saying they must learn what happens when education was very very little. Look at the paintings and how bright they are, they are as bright as they were done 80 years ago,” says Sango.

Sango’s father went on to become an accomplished taxidermist working for the National Museum in Bulawayo, the second largest city in the country.

“The story must be brought back home, the heritage must be brought back home. That is really our story. We are hearing these sentiments that the government is saying they must be brought back. This will dry our tears,” says Sango.

A photograph of Sango’s father, Livingstone, as a young boy hangs next to the painting.

Overall, the paintings vividly depict tales of African folklore as well as Bible stories in an arresting intersection of African tradition, history and Christianity introduced by Western settlers.

And the artworks quickly won admirers, including Britain’s King George VI, who visited the school in 1947.

A collection of the work created at Cyrene school between 1940 and 1947 was sent overseas to be shown in London, Paris, and New York.

Many paintings were sold and helped to fund the school.

Later the paintings were stored in the basement of St. Michael’s and All Angels Church in London and over time they were forgotten.

“This is a collection of lost Zimbabwean artworks from the 1940s from an Anglican Mission School in Cyrene, called the Cyrene Mission School,” says Lisa Masterson, curator and director of art exhibition.

“It was opened and started by a visionary art teacher called Canon Ned Patterson. It is basically the first school in Zimbabwe (then colonial Rhodesia) to offer art as a compulsory subject to young Black students in the 1940s and Ned Patterson was a true believer that art could unite people. And that no matter what people saw in an artwork, it didn’t matter what color you were, or where you came from or what tribe you were from, art was a unifying factor.”

The artworks were rediscovered by a Zimbabwean who recognized the name Cyrene on the boxes when the church was being deconsecrated, according to a press release by the organizers of the exhibition.

He brought the paintings to the attention of others who realized they’d stumbled across a treasure trove of art.

“The Stars are Bright” exhibition has returned the paintings to the country, where many Zimbabweans will see them for the first time.

Photographs of some of the artists as young boys are displayed alongside the paintings.

“It’s a completion of my history as a Damasane to know the stories that my grandfather would tell through painting, through his artworks,” says Nomashekawazi Damasane, granddaughter of one of the artists.

“It’s also very important for me as an artist, as a creative, to know that our artwork is coming back home because it allows for people to know that it did not just start now. People started doing art way back. So it’s really important and I’m very pleased and grateful that this artwork is coming back where it belongs, to the people that it belongs to, and we the third and fourth generation of these amazing artists can actually see what our forefathers did before we were born.”

Many students from Cyrene school went on to become artists, teachers and professionals, despite the restrictions of white-minority-ruled Rhodesia.

In 2020, “The Stars Are Bright” exhibition showcased the works at the Theatre Courtyard Gallery in London.

Now, the full exhibit has come back home to acclaim.

Coming amid growing calls for the repatriation of African art to the continent, some say the Cyrene paintings should return to Zimbabwe permanently.

The organisers say they are negotiating with the Curtain Foundation, owners of the collection, for the permanent repatriation of the works.

The exhibition will be on until late October.

***AP***

read more
AfricaArtsCulture & TourismNews

Arts & Culture: Horniman Museum to return Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

The Horniman Museum and Gardens in southeast London said that it would transfer a collection of 72 items to the Nigerian government.

The decision comes after Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments formally asked for the artifacts to be returned earlier this year and following a consultation with community members, artists, and schoolchildren in Nigeria and the U.K., the museum said.

“The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,” Eve Salomon, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “The Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step, and we look forward to working with the NCMM to secure longer-term care for these precious artifacts.”

The Horniman’s collection is a small part of the 3,000 to 5,000 artifacts taken from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 when British soldiers attacked and occupied Benin City as Britain expanded its political and commercial influence in West Africa.

The British Museum alone holds more than 900 objects from Benin, and National Museums Scotland has another 74. Others were distributed to museums around the world.

The artifacts include plaques, animal and human figures, and items of royal regalia made from brass and bronze by artists working for the royal court of Benin.

Countries including Nigeria, Egypt and Greece, as well indigenous peoples from North America to Australia, are increasingly demanding the return of artifacts and human remains.

Nigeria and Germany recently signed a deal for the return of hundreds of Benin Bronzes. That followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision last year to sign over 26 pieces known as the Abomey Treasures, priceless artworks of the 19th century Dahomey kingdom in present-day Benin, a small country that sits just west of Nigeria.

read more