By Henry Akubuiro
‘Gloomy’ was the word used by some of the guests to describe the recently held art exhibition by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in commemoration of the World Art Day (WAD) 2021. This event took place on April 15, 2021, at The Den Hotel, Wuse 2, Abuja.
While some may see this as a negative review of the nicely executed exhibition by the organisation, others perhaps may consider that it was reflective of a job well done. For instance, the representative of UN Women at the event, Miss Angela Muruli, commended the NGA for pointing out some of the injustices that women suffer in society. She also stressed the importance of empowering women because of their ability to significantly increase whatever is given to them.
The theme of this year’s celebration was “Visual Art: A Tool for Addressing Social Ills.” NGA showcased carefully curated paintings that were in line with this theme. So, if this writer were to choose a word with which to describe the pieces on display, it would be “Emotional,” which captured the ills going on in society.
This year, the NGA not only showcased works by professional artists but also included an art competition for secondary schools in Abuja to add some spice to the event. The first prize winner was Chidera F. Ugwu-Ojobe from Loyola Jesuits College, Abuja, for the work entitled Scared of My Future. The second prize went to David Ogundele from Community Secondary School, Asokoro for the work, Raise a Hand, while the third position went to Winter Michelle also from Loyola Jesuits College, Abuja, for Stolen Reflection.
One of the most emotional pieces on display was that by the first prize winner of the competition whose painting reflected perhaps what millions of youths in the country were thinking and feeling. It was an image of a little girl thinking about the violence that is going on all around the world — an image of fear.
Explaining the criteria for choosing the winning works, curator of the event, Mr Tony Azodoh, said one of the criteria used was the impact of the artwork on the viewer. Each and every work had a strong emotional impact on this viewer.
A couple of the displayed works by the professionals that caught the attention at the exhibition were: Hope for the Children by Facile Stanley and Chronicles of Despair by Eneji Peter. Hope for the Children is a painting of two worn out looking children with a yellow jerry can perhaps looking for water – a basic necessity; while Chronicles of Despair is a painting reflecting a poor girl in tears with a torn paper face mask on.
Speaking about the good work the artists had done and the theme of the exhibition, renowned Abuja based artist, Nduwhite Ahanonu, stressed that the job of the artist was to shine the light in a dark world.
If artists continue to bring illumination in dark places by using their art as voices, perhaps society would be forced to yield and put in more effort towards making the world a better place.
The coordinator of the exhibition, Adamu T. Ibrahim, NGA’s Director of Admin and Staff Development, commended participants for the hard work they put in in bringing the theme to life. He stated that it was important for everyone to be mindful of the kind of contributions they make to society.
The World Art Day is an international celebration of fine art, which was started on April 15, 2012 by the International Association of Art (IAA/AIAP), an NGO partner of UNESCO. This year is the third time the NGA has marked the international event.