By Damiete Braide
Award winning cartoonist, Albert Ohams, whose last exhibition was in 2008, is set to hold his solo exhibition with the title, 35 Strokes of a Master Cartoonist in Lagos, to mark his 35 years in the beautiful vocation of art and painting. A graduate of Fine and Applied Arts from Yaba College of Technology, Ohams is the Cartoon Editor of Daily Sun and has carved a niche for him in the industry. In this interview, Ohams speaks on his journey into the arts, his upcoming exhibition, and gives advice to parents regarding their children and fine art.
Tell us your journey into Fine Art?
I started drawing as a child. When I was a kid, I used to draw on anything that came my way (paper, walls, slate, etc). I saw the beauty of art right from when I knew my left from my right, even in primary school. I would draw my teachers’ motorcycle, draw the headmaster’s car and parade it round the whole school for people to see. Although I was good in other subjects but I picked interest in art. Incidentally, I didn’t find it easy with my father initially because he wasn’t happy but when he saw that I was bent on what I love doing, he had no choice but to support me.
When I was in secondary school, I saw drawings on cartoons in various newspapers. I would cut them out to keep. I remember I read the cartoons of Jossy Ajiboye, Dele Jegede, Kenny Adamson and they all inspired me and I said that one day in future, my name would be published in national newspapers as a cartoonist.
When I left secondary school with distinction in Fine Art, my father wanted me to proceed to the university to study any other course apart from Art but I stood my ground that I loved the course, and that I wanted my name to be published in newspaper. The first job that I got as a cartoonist was a weekly newspaper, Eagle newspaper in Aba, owned by Dr. K.O Mbadiwe. I had a stint with them and later got another job in Nation newspaper, Aba. When my father saw my determination and passion for cartoons, he agreed that this was what I had chosen to become in life. I gained admission into Yaba College of Technology because there were job opportunities in Lagos. When I travelled to Lagos, my first job was with Vanguard newspaper. Later, I moved on to Guardian Express. After I completed my Ordinary National Diploma, I got another job with Wale Adenuga’s Ikebe Super. Later, I went back to Prime People as a Cartoon Editor. The profession has made me to work with various newspaper houses. Now my father is happy with me that my name and picture have been used in the newspapers and it has taken me this far.
In the industry, who are your role models?
My role models are Kenny Adamson, Jossy Ajoboye, Terry Jegede, Bayo Odunlami, Bayo Gbenro and they are popular with their cartoons. They have inspired me a lot with their tremendous works. In painting, my role models are Kolade Oshinowo and Sam Ovariti. They are talented and have inspired a lot of artists to become studio artists.
Tell us some of the places where you have exhibited your works?
My first exhibition was in 1995, The Glimpses, at the Nigerian Embassy in Tel Aviv, Isreal. It was organised by Ambassdor Ayo Olukanmi. My last exhibition was in 2008 and this year, I will hold my next exhibition. Due to demand as a cartoonist, it is very difficult to combine drawing cartoons with paintings. I have to be committed to get the best in order for me to get good results. I go through newspapers, listen to news to be able to get the best. I visualise my works and make my audience happy with my works.
My current exhibition, Albert Ohams: 35-Year Strokes of a Master Cartoonist, will take place at Four Points By Sheraton Hotel, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos between August 29-31. During the exhibition, 50 works of art which centre on societal, political and economic issues will be showcased in different styles and humourous imaginations. Guests expected to grace the exhibition include the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, Prince Eze Madumere, former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Ambassador Ayo Olukanmi, the Director General of National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Manufacturing and Agriculture (NACCIMA), among others.
What has kept you going all these years?
It is consistency and style that has kept me going all these years. I thought that I would have retired but God has always given me new ideas that each time I produce a cartoon, people love and appreciate me. They do tell me that my works get better each day, and that makes me happy and fulfilled.
What is your advice to young artists?
My advice to them is that they should work hard, be diligent and consistent. Rome was not built in day. Likewise, they should create a style and be consistent in their works. They should not look for shortcuts to make it in life, rather they should be focused. Young artistes should know that art is not like football, where they retire before they get to be 40 years. Rather, they should continue with their works even when they have passed 40 years and they can make it in life. Also, I urge them not to copy any artist, but they should find their own style and let people know them through their works and not through other people’s works which would not help them.
Do you have any regrets being an artist?
I don’t have any regret being an artist. I may not have made it now but I now that I have a future that is bright, for me to make it. What is important to me is, where will my name be when I am gone? Will people still remember Albert Ohams, a cartoonist who created humour when he was alive? I want people to have a good memory of me through my works when I am no longer alive.
Tell us about your training centre?
I have a training centre called Brush Cartoon and Animation Centre, where young children and adults who show interest are taught the rudiments of drawing and painting. I advise parents not to force their children to study any particular course.
Rather, the children should decide what they want to study in school. If parents observe that their children have talents in arts or any other profession, they should encourage them.