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Prof. Ozioma’s Sabbatical: Blessing to NGA, Enugu

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PROF. Ozioma Onuzulike, professor of Ceramics Art and African Art History is currently undergoing his sabbatical leave at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), Enugu. He is from Fine and Applied Art Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

The cerebrate and articulate professor could have chosen abroad for his sabbatical leave but he chose NGA and he was posted to Enugu station of the agency. According to him, his decision to choose NGA was God’s design. Undoubtedly, his presence in NGA Enugu has turned out to be a blessing to the management and staff of the station.

Although hitherto, his assumption of duty at the establishment, NGA Enugu Station, has been regarded as the best station amongst others throughout the federation, the pioneer Head of Station (HoS)/Curator, Mr. James Irabor, who is now on transfer to Federal Capital Territory (FCT) station set good standard. The current Hos/Curator, Mrs. Pat Nkwocha followed suit with introduction of some programmes that have endeared the NGA, Enugu to so many people, particularly artists, art teachers, art collectors and art patrons who troop to the gallery from time to time. Mrs. Nkwocha, an artist with the good assistance of her heads of department has taken the station to the next level of course, with encouragement of staff and management of NGA at the national headquarters, NGA Enugu has lived up to its expectation.

However, there has been tremendous increase in number of programmes executed by NGA, Enugu, since the arrival of Prof. Ozioma Onuzulike. The professor of ceramic, a dynamic young man, in collaboration with management of NGA Enugu, conducted some exciting and interesting programmes like art appreciation workshops, art exhibition and art criticism workshop. Others are art films Enugu, art talks Enugu, children art workshop, art talk Enugu granted proposal writing workshop, children art workshop and children day art competition and exhibition. These programmes, no doubt, attracted so many people, particularly artists, both upcoming and highly established ones in private and public sectors and children from various schools, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. In fact, the establishment of NGA Enugu is a blessing to artists, informed by a greater number of them in Enugu and its environs. These programmes afforded many of them opportunities to exhibit their artworks without paying money for exhibition half; hence, there is a well established gallery in the premises.

On art appreciation workshop, the focus was mainly on the basic elements and principles of art/design. The method employed was hands-on using sample works taken from the gallery. Certainly, there was interactive forum on the four levels of art appreciation – description, analysis, interpretation and judgment) using knowledge drawn from previous sessions on the elements and principles of art/design. It is interesting to note that the members of staff of NGA Enugu were fully involved. Virtually every staffer picked an artwork, particularly, visual artwork and successfully talked about the work using the basic elements and principle.

Nonetheless, the exercise appeared tasking, particularly to many staff who are not artists by profession but with dexterity in his teaching everyone learnt art appreciation well. Any staff can take visitors to the gallery round and explain the artworks adorned in the gallery satisfactorily. It would be recalled  that one of the staff noted ab initio that he was a novice as far as art appreciation was concerned. Now, the staff can explain any art work very well to people and he owes this to the skill impacted on him by Prof. Ozioma.

There had been various exhibitions staged in the gallery of NGA, Enugu. The most exciting of all was the one entitled: “Igwebuike”, a group show of sculptures and installations in honour of EI Anatsui (an artist and Emeritus professor of sculpture at UNN. It was part of celebration of his 75 years birthday. The artists who exhibited their works were: Chijioke Onuora, Head of Department, Fine and Applied Art, UNN, Eva Obodo, Sabastine Ugwoke, Amuche Ngwu, Livinus Ngwu, Uche Onyishi and Sunday Odoh, all sculpture staff at UNN.

In order to consolidate on art appreciation, Prof. Ozioma Onuzulike organized a workshop on art criticism. According to him, one of the best art critics on art is Sir Chuka Nnabuife. Nnabuife, currently is the Managing Director of National Light Newspaper, owned by Anambra State Government. The workshop was open to both staff of NGA and the general public. The population that trooped to the workshop was large. It actually made members of staff to understand the what, why and how of art criticism. Art critics, the professor observed, were highly needed in the world and many artists seek services of some of the art critics like the caliber of Nnabuife to critic their works. This, he noted would attract art collectors and art patrons of high repute whenever an artist is exhibiting.

The NGA Enugu also engaged in emerging platform known as art film Enugu. This was educative and exciting. There was critical dialogue among art practitioners, art enthusiasts, mass media practitioners and generall public who attended the forum. It focused on the art and design world through the stimulating lenses of text, image and sound. The forum also had interactive session that followed each film screened. The first film was titled: “Fold, Curmble, Crush: The Art of EI Anatsui” a documentary on the life and work of Anatsui, said to be shot over a thereby ear period in venice; Nsukka and the United states of America (USA).

The activities also witnessed art talks conducted for pupils and students by some well-known artists from Enugu and Abakiliki and another used to celebrate one of the finest artist, who has contributed immensely to art development in Nigeria, Obiora Anidi Ph.d. The talks on Anidi, Chairman, Enugu State Art and Culture and Director of Art, Enugu State College of Education (Technical) were given by Dr. Chijoke Onuora and Mr. Odinakachi Okoroafor. Anidi, member of Aka circle of Exhibiting Artists had his works discussed. Odinakachi, promising upcoming artist who is currently rounding off on his Masters programme in Fine and Applied Art, UNN, provided perspective on the post modernist tendencies in the works of Anidi. Highlight of the programme was reading of collection of short stories – “In the line of duty”, by Dr. Kingsley Ene-Orji. The art historian, artist and writer thrilled the entire audience who clapped profoundly in admiration of the rich and exciting stories.

The upshot of this is the need to sponsor most of these programmes. Though they are entertaining, educative, informative and helpful, they need money to get them excuted. Hence, the desirous need to learn how to write proposals for grants. Thus, Prof. Ozioma engaged and lectured members of staff and some other artists on the skill of grant proposal writing. The workshop was educative. This was designed to avail participants the opportunity to learn basic grant proposal conceptualization and writing. Now, artists, art administrators, staff of NGA, Enugu, can write competitive grants application for their projects. Some sources of grants were also mentioned at the workshop.

Every staff of NGA Enugu is desirous to be engaged in more workshops on art in the coming months. Obviously, Prof. Ozioma Onuzulike’s sabbatical leave in NGA Enugu is a blessing of sort to the management and staff.

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