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Nigeria, Egypt’s intimacy with art

Taking place at the Palace of Art, Cairo and the Mohammed Said Museum, Alexandria, 88 works from the nation’s national collection and works from independent…

Taking place at the Palace of Art, Cairo and the Mohammed Said Museum, Alexandria, 88 works from the nation’s national collection and works from independent artists from across Nigeria were showcased alongside 30 pieces from their Egyptian counterparts. These works representated all art forms including mixed media and video.

It was an assembly of intellectuality and creativity expressed as the artists explained the concepts and intricacies of their works. There were works inspired by the environmental state, others by politics, traditional life, love, motherhood/womanhood, and some others simply reflected the beauty of nature in their landscape paintings. With each one giving depth and thought- provoking analysis, they portrayed in-depth truths as the artists narrated their stories using materials like waste fabrics, paper, perforated clothing and paints splashed in different media as best conveyed the artist’s message.

A major part of the event was a workshop where artists from both countries studio worked in order for artists from the other side to have a first hand encounter with their work techniques as well as educate each other on current art trends practised in both countries.

There was also a paper presentation by Dr. Krydz Ikwuemesi, a senior lecturer in the Department of Fine Art, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the NIVATOUR curator.

He discussed topics from the ‘Rise and Development of Nigerian Modernism’, ‘Thematic Vision’ to the ‘Economics and Sociology of Art’. Also on the discussion panel were Egypt’s renowned art specialist, Dr. Reda Abdel Salam and Dr. Mohammed Kamal who served as critics for the forum.

The Expo was declared open at 8.30pm local time in Cairo, by the Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Mal. Abubakar Ahmad Tijani. Present too were the Senate and House of Representatives chairpersons on Tourism and Culture, Sen. Gasol and  Hon. KGB Ogwuagu.

The exhibition was spread across the three floors of the Palace of Art building with the ground floor also accommodating participants and guests of the paper presentation as the artists’ workshop held in a specially created space on the first floor.

The Nigerian delegation was led by the Acting Director-General of the NGA, Mr. Abdullahi Muku, sponsors of the Nigerian artists, Jacob Jari, Pamela Egware, Dansalem Nyah, Chris Afubua and Folu Folorunsho, to the expo. No less than three works of each artist was on display alongside works from the national collection of artists like Ben Enwounwu, Ladi Kwali, and Kunle Filani, amongst others on the different floors as each one proudly explained the context in which these works were created to the curious minds of the Egyptian public. For some, this was a first time encounter with the art of North Africa or of even being in that part of the globe. It was the same for their Egyptian counterparts who were having such an encounter with Nigerian artists and their works for the first time.

Artists from both sides confessed benefitting from the interactions. It made them more knowledgeable of the concept and motivations behind each others’ works and how much it reflected each of their societies. Encouraging remarks were made as each piece was appreciated for its peculiarity, unique style and quality.        

Muku who described NIVATOUR as one of the vehicles which the NGA is using to propagate to the world, the rich culture which past generations have handed to us, stated that “the world has seen and heard of Nigerian art in different measures. This time, we want them to have a personal encounter and interaction with the art and the artists behind the creativity. We want them to have an insight into our style and techniques and develop intimate relationships with them.”

The Cairo bit of the exhibition ended on August 3; as a different set of artists arrived in Alexandria on the same day to begin the second phase which was declared open by the Charge d’Affaires of the Nigerian Mission in Egypt, Mr. Sam Madu Okonkwo, along with one of Egypt’s foremost artists, Mr. Esmat Dawstashy. Just as with the Cairo edition, a new set of visitors were treated to an equally exciting tour of the art works on display as only Nigerian works were showcased this time around.

With visitors increasing on a daily basis and the passing of appreciable remarks on the works, Mrs. Ngozi Adamu-Ibrahim, project champion of NIVATOUR, expressed satisfaction over the successful outing in spite of the challenges. “We couldn’t clear the works until the exhibition day due to Egypt’s requirements. I am happy we surmounted these but disappointed that only Nigerian works were displayed in Alexandria because the Art sector was unable to find  enough large space to accommodate the pieces as they had in Cairo. With the help of Mr. Okonkwo and the out-going Egyptian ambassador to Nigeria, Sherif Naguib, we were able to overcome a lot of challenges.”

Although no sales of works were allowed, artists were able to make contacts and acquaintances with their Egyptian counterparts.


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