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Art Of Friendship: Building Bridges Across Continents

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One could sense in the air deal forming, relationships starting and endless debates about which art is better. It was the fourth edition of Art of Friendship Exhibition and a good way to kick-start the year at the FCT Exhibition Pavilion, Garki, Abuja.
It is an annual multi-cultural art exhibition, championed by the National Gallery of Art, (NGA), in collaboration with different embassies in Nigeria. This years’ exhibition featured artworks from China, Czech Republic, France, and Nigeria. It was an interesting collection of art from the four different countries, all quite diverse, and equally captivating. “As the name, Art of Friendship implies, it is an exhibition set up to foster friendship among different countries” explained Ngozi John Uyah, the curator of the exhibition.
There was an unusual display of art from the Czech Republic as the works were “dry point” pieces which are uncommon on this side of the globe. They were from a collection titled, “Excerpts from a Pilgrim’s diary” by a young Czech artist – Jakub Solin. Apparently the artist got his inspiration from the Bohemian Forest and as he put it, the collection best conveys his experience “as a pilgrim through life.” The images were quite detailed and engaging not just because of their small sizes but also due to their subtle reflection of nature. The Czech Ambassador, Mr. Pavel Mikes who expressed his delight over the participation of Czechia in the exhibition said though the pieces on display were quite enjoyable to look at, what was more important was “the meeting and discovering of each other.”
China showed off – yes, showed off – a beautiful collection of pictures of the mountainous region of Jiangxi. The originator of the pictures is unknown but that did not detract from the beauty of misty mountains, lush green land, colourful operas and more. It seemed China intentionally put those pictures on display to tempt world travellers to board the next plane headed east into China! According to the Chinese ambassador, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Nigeria and China, adding: “China looks forward to further strengthening and enhancing its cooperation with Nigeria in the future.”  On the Jiangxi Province on display, he said “it enchants people with its picturesque scene of misty mountains and fresh water lakes.”
Strangely, France chose a Nigerian artist to represent it at the exhibition- Ugwu Bede Ifeanyi, the first winner of the Institut Francais’ Young Talent Award, 2016. Ugwu contributed five interesting installation pieces which were produced in Styrofoam, wood and calabash. The piece that seemed to catch the most attention was “Nursery” which was indicative of a bird’s nest with its chicks nursing in it.
Speaking, the French ambassador, Denys Gauer, stated that France “aims to boost young artists and foster their professionalism” by showing off their works to important stakeholders in the art world. To the delight of Nigerian art lovers, the ambassador announced that a significant exhibition, Metropolis Afrique Capitales scheduled to hold in France later in the year will showcase two Nigerian artists, Ugwu Bede Ifeanyi and Modeopula Fadugba.
Nigeria had a collection of works from a number of different artists. The works on display included ceramics, terracotta, paintings, mixed media, photography and metal sculpture. The works varied from abstract works of art to reflections of humans in their real environment, displaying basic everyday behaviour. One of the works that seemed to captivate the audience is a painting by Clement Nwafor titled, “Unity” which depicts a handful of children joyfully washing a large Nigerian flag together. The image is so emotional it made you want to hug your neighbour beside you irrespective of which ethnic group he or she came from.
Explaining the rationale for the exhibition, the Director-General, NGA, Mr Abdullahi Muku stated that the programme provides a “single platform for collaborating countries to showcase their unique artistic heritages as a basis for cross fertilization of ideas and cultures”. He stressed that with the pains it takes an artist to produce an art piece, even though bought and sold, it is actually priceless.
On his part, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Ayotunde Adesugba commended NGA for the initiative. He expressed his delight at having all four countries participate at the event and called on other countries to join in future editions pointing out the importance of art as a tool to “bringing countries together and in so doing engendering world peace.” Chairman of the occasion, Dr Uzor Orji Kalu, who has been an avid supporter of the Art of Friendship, expressed his delight at the continuous mounting of the exhibition series restating his commitment to the noble cause

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