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Sunday, 15 September 2013 00:00 AVI Academic

The Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Edo State Chapter may have a last woken up, and has held its first ever national conference and exhibition, with a clarion call to Artists in Edo State particularly, and Nigeria in general, to become serious with their business so that the society will in turn take them serious. Could this be a new dawn for the visual arts community in Edo State?

In a lengthy but pensive welcome address during the event opening last weekend at the SunBeach  Resort in Benin City, venue of the event,  Mr Simeon Ijoye, the immediate past dean of the School of Art and Design, Auchi Polytechnic, and founding chair of the SNA Edo State chapter, noted that the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) as the umbrella body of Art practice in Nigeria has been in existence as far back as 1963, but regretted that “ SNA, for the first time in Edo state, is doing something; I stand to be challenged by anybody.”

The Edo State SNA chair said that was the first of its kind by SNA in Edo State and that the founding executive members were eager to leave positive footprints in the sands of time; “so that it will go down in the annals of history that this exco was here!…that at this juncture this very exco took over and went ahead, by the grace of God, to articulate an occasion of this nature, ably piloted by our young yet ebullient and visionary S.A. to the Edo State Governor on Arts and Culture”.

 Mr. Ijoye emphasized that the mission of the leadership of the SNA Edo State was “to leave a foundation strong enough to be built upon by the emerging younger generation. No matter what we met on ground, no matter what acrimony may have existed in the scheme of things among the exco in previous time, this exco is committed to making a difference. We want to set up a foundation then everybody who is eager and enthusiastic will now follow.”

Recounting how much encouragement the Adams Aliu Shiomhole-led government of Edo State had so far given to the body, the SNA chair said the Edo State government had approved a secretariat for the SNA Edo State, at the Oba Akenzua ii Cultural Center in Benin City, and that “as we are talking now we have a secretariat… Government is with a promise that there is nothing they will do henceforth concerning Art that they will not call the SNA to a round table. There are so many things lined up now for which they will be consulting us… because I took time, in my characteristic way, to tell them in my own little eloquence , of the indispensability of Art and artists in the scheme of things- particularly in Edo State that is known to the home of Art.

“…any state that makes noise and boasts about Art today, I will ask them ‘Where were you in 1897?’ If you know what that date symbolizes for old Bendel you will know what we are talking about; Edo is the home of Art. Oronsaye once said: ‘we may not have oil, we may not have gas but we have Art, culture and tourism’….it was late Solomon Irien Wangboje that said ‘the last place anybody  will not forget to go if art is to be mentioned, whether collecting or conniving, is Edo State’. All these are statements of truth.  So, ladies and gentlemen, this is Edo State SNA today trying to make a veritable point aimed at exhuming, as it were, that which hitherto had been moribund, that which hitherto had been submerged under political rubrics or whatever you want to call it- so we are struggling, archeologically, to exhume them, dust them up and represent them to the world in a way they will understand. So whatever we are doing now, we are out to make a statement - we are out to make them know that the right people have woken up and they want to take their rightful place in the scheme of things and in the entire gamut of world Art history”, Ijoye averred.

Addressing the participants at the occasion, the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole, ably represented by his Special Adviser on Arts, Culture and Tourism, Comrade Orobosa Omo-Ojo, Jp, tasked the SNA Edo State to prove its mettle in the state in the context of delivering on their mandate for the development of the culture and visual arts sub-sector in Edo. He reiterated the desire of the Edo State government to make Art, culture and tourism the major income earner for Edo State, hence the continued call to all stakeholders to compliment government’s efforts and play their roles as government was committed to providing the enabling grounds for all art and culture practitioners in Edo state to thrive in their business for the overall mileage of Edo State and Edo people.

Over fifty artists from across the State and parts of the country, participated in the first SNA Edo State art exhibition as well as the paper presentations, some of whom were Asir M. Mohammad of Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education, Kano, (who is also the vice president of the SNA, Kano chapter);Aliyu Bunkure Tahir, Dadi Asabe Halima, Abdullahi Bala Dlkudu, Osiboye Oluwaseun Opeyen, and Komo Joshua pani, all of the Federal College of Education (Tech.), Bichi, Kano. Other participants included Benjamin Okpevbo of the National Museum Benin City, Francis Umendu Odupute of the Nigerian Observer, Simeom Ijoye of Auchi Poly and all exco members of the SNA Edo State among very many other participants.

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