When Peju Layiwola, Professor of Art History and Head, Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, clocked 50, a party for her milestone golden jubilee drew a gathering that was a mix of the literati and the glitterati whose dominant common denomination was art.
Hence guests ranged from artists to art activists and from art enthusiasts to students of arts. This is understandable against the background that the occasion was a two-in-one celebration. As she turned 50, her community service organization, Women and Youth Art Foundation (Wy Art) also turned 13 years.
That accounted for the unusually mingling of socialites, academics and professionals at the 14 Bank Olemoh Close, Surulere, address of the event in Lagos.
Art titan, Prof Bruce Onabrakpeya intoned: “Nigeria right now is going through a renaissance; women like her are at the top of this renaissance. The Nigerian art education and culture sector is developing; she is part of that group that has made this possible through her works.”
Prof. Peju, who was instrumental to the take-off of Onabrakpeya’s Harmattan Workshop 20 years ago, received kudos from the Nigerian leading artist.
“Peju has combined teaching in the academy and informal sector together. She has brought people outside the tertiary institutions to develop the arts. Her workshop is very important because it touches the grassroots and participants have been able to make a livelihood for themselves after they have been trained.”
Kelvin Craft, a cultural attaché with the United States Consulate in Lagos, also spoke glowingly, concisely: “The embassy is happy with what she is doing in promoting arts in Nigeria. This is a worthy cause. We are happy to support it because of its economic empowerment, community art and human development to the benefit of the society.”
WyArt training workshops––started in 1994, incorporated as a non-profit organisation in 2007 and relocated from Ibadan, Oyo State to Lagos in 2016––aims to alleviate poverty by providing economic empowerment to children, youths and women via the visual arts platform.
Renowned across Nigeria for quantitative teaching in art-inclined vocational skills, the foundation was the first to produce educational DVDs in Nigeria on goldsmithing, tie and dye, millinery, beadwork and general crafts.
Guests at the occasion – including Professor Duro Oni, former Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics, University of Lagos– were entertained by Konkere Beats, a band led by Dr. Tunji Sotimirin, the occasion’s Master of Ceremony.