Shyllon tasks Nigerian artists on collective identity

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Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon. Photo/ Conceptual Fine Arts

Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon has tasked the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) to up its game so as to remain relevant in the new national narrative. Shyllon, who is the founder of Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF), gave the charge recently at the SNA Lagos chapter week.

With ‘Artistic Embellishment of Public Space in Lagos: Myths and Realities’ as theme, the event, which held at the Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, saw Shyllon condemning the poor response of artists to issues of space embellishment.

Shyllon pointed out that artists were not doing enough in the area of embellishment of public place.

“Those that managed to go to Europe or America with their cameras, take photograph of public places and come back fulfilled, but don’t “change the attitude of Nigerians towards the use of art.

About five months ago, I chaired a conference and I told the people that architectural pieces without art, is useless; art gives value to any space.

Art enhances space, it also creates story in people who cannot think.

If you want to help the critical minds of Nigerians, I think we should, in ways possible, encourage them to get closer to art, because when you stand before a piece of art, the communication flows between you and the art itself.”

He continued, “one of the problems we have as a country is that we have leaders who are not that exposed.

Since independence, we have had people that were forced to become leaders, which they did not set out to be.

If you look at the level of our public life and the leadership of the country, one major thing that is lacking is the critical mind.

There is lack of critical thinking in our leaders and one thing art does to you is that it enhance your critical mind.”

He said, “it’s difficult to have a collection of artists. It’s like expecting the collection of mathematicians.

They are very difficult to manage, so, which is why I think SNA has a lot of work to do to package the Lagos chapter which provides bulk of the market of art in Nigeria.

If you do some empirical analysis, you would observe that Lagos market provides more than 70 per cent of the art market in Nigeria.

If we want to grow the Nigeria art market, this is where we must start.

“We must start to look at those things that that the Lagos chapter can do to encourage artists to want to belong. Professional bodies don’t like paying subscriptions.

I belong to a number of professional bodies and I know how they force us to pay our subscriptions.

Even as a lawyer, I cannot stamp any document without paying my yearly due, also for the engineering profession. You have to devise a way to make artist want to belong to SNA.

“We have to give value to our collective identity. Many of us believe in developing our individual identity, forsaking the collective.

The average Nigerian feels he’s important as long as he has property in Dubai, well-known in England, forgetting that the moment you show the green passport, your value is measured in collective value not individual.”

He added, “SNA needs to sit and think of how to make artists feel they are benefiting from SME personally with a view to ensuring their collective identity is intact.”

Calling on the body to be united for the growth of the sector, Shyllon, who is widely acknowledged to own the most balanced contemporary art collection in the country, with over 7,000 artworks of sculpture, painting and other media, as well as over 55,000 photographic shots of Nigeria’s fast disappearing cultural festivals, said, “SNA Lagos chapter, in particular, needs to do something in making themselves collectively relevant, important, as to make the commissioner or whoever deems it necessary to call you, to ask for your input in whatever they want to do.

I can tell if any state government or even the federal government step on the toes of the chartered accountant, they will pay dearly for their action so, it should also be with artists.”