By Nkiru Ifeajuna
Lagos – A veteran sculptor, Obiora Anidi, says the National Gallery of Arts (NGA) in Lagos has been turned into an administrative office instead of a centre for the promotion of visual arts in the country.
Anidi told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Thursday that the gallery had stopped receiving visitors to the artefacts preserved in the centre.
NAN reports that the NGA, where visual arts of renowned artistes are preserved, is located within the National Theatre premises in Iganmu, Lagos.
A correspondent of NAN that visited the NGA observed that it was under lock and key and not opened to the public.
An official of the gallery who did not want her name mentioned in the press told NAN that the gallery had not been receiving visitors for years now.
The official refused to open the gallery for the correspondent to see how its interior looked like and what had become some of the artifacts kept there.
She, however, observed that the open space where visitors and tourists could have parked their vehicles during visits had been turned into a worshiping centre.
Anidi said that the gallery was not serving its primary purpose, having been turned into an administrative office.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria needs to redesign the NGA so that it can continue to showcase the indigenous artworks for global viewing and thus attract tourists and visitors.
“Indigenous art work has become an orphan both at home and in the global spaces,’’ he said.
The sculptor said that if the government could put up good spaces for arts, the private sector would support it to thrive.
“We need to develop enabling management frameworks or platforms; up-grade the physical infrastructure and legal framework for art practice and education, so that Nigeria art and artists can compete globally.
“We artists are already doing that but we need government’s push before we can get to where the other countries are,’’ he said.
The artist said that it was imperative that there should be national galleries where people could gather to see works of art.
“People need books, magazines and journals; how will they update their knowledge if they do not have access to them,” he said.
`Anidi, however, said that arts could not be compared to the movie industry where films could be shown to a large audience.
“The visual art is different from movie because visual artists cannot admit too many viewers into an exhibition hall at once.
“Nigeria needs an art fair like the Venice Biennale in Italy. That single event has helped to place Italy on the world map.
“Art Dubai has also made tourists to troop to Dubai, just as they attend the Global Art forum in London, Singapore and others.
“If we can get the kind of government’s support we require, we can get our art to a higher ground.
“Lack of such event with an international flavour has made it difficult for our artists to attract due patronage,’’ he said.
According to Anidi, the government should collaborate with other genres in the art sector as it has been doing with Nollywood.
“We are only hoping that they will give recognition to other arts so that we can be relevant in the nation and within the comity of nations,’’ he said.
Anidi studied Fine/Applied Arts and Sculpture from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in 1982 and holds a Masters and Doctorate degrees in Educational Technology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT), respectively.
He is the Chairman of the Board, Enugu State Council of Arts and Culture, and a member of the Local Organizing Committee of the annual “Life on My City Art Festival’’, Enugu.
He is also the Chief Lecturer at the Fine and Applied Art Department, Enugu State College of Education. He has provided an important platform for many young and emerging artists since 2007.
Anidi is a celebrated sculptor from the Uli tradition who has taken part in many local and international art exhibitions in Nigeria, the USA, Jamaica, Germany and Italy.
NAN also reports that his works are in numerous private and corporate art collections in Nigeria and abroad.