…calls for befitting national gallery
One of the founding fathers of Nigerian art, Chief Timothy Adebanjo Fasuyi, alias Tafas, turned 84 last Friday.
Renowned artist, accomplished educationist, and one of the leading lights of modern Nigeria art, he graduated in painting in 1959 with a first class degree, and he was one of the foundation students of the old Nigeria College of Art, Science and Technology (NCAST) that produced renowned painters who formed the nucleus of modern Nigeria art today. Other NCAST artists include: Prof. Solomon Wangboje, the first Nigeria professor of art; Prof. Yusuf Grillo of Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) fame, William Olasebikan, Uche Okeke, Prof. Bruce Onabrakpeya, Demas Nwoko, Prof. Jimoh Akolo, and Prof. Adamu Baikie.
“The NCAST phased out to become the Amadu Bello University (ABU) that produces more renowned Nigeria artist including Shina Yusuf, Dele Jegede, Kolade Osinowo and Jerry Buhari. The university spread to the different part of the country and helps to establish new faculties and departed of art in the universities all over the country. So Zaria is the source of the leading artist and by extension the development of modern art in Nigeria,” he recalls.
Since his graduation in 1959, Fasuyi has maintained a leadership role in many directions. As an educationist he started his teaching career at Kings College and rose from there to become the principal of the Federal Government College, Enugu, and later the ‘principal of principals’, being the schedule officer in charge of secondary education in Nigeria. As an artist he was the Secretary of the Society of Nigerian Artist (SNA) for over 10 years before he was appointed as the Federal Art Adviser, which was the highest post an artist could reach in the Federal service at that time.
As an administrator he was at different times the Executive Secretary of the Federal Scholarship Board. In all his postings at the Federal Ministry of Education, Fasuyi put into play his creative idea starting new thing, starting new programs, establishing new departments and enhancing the quality of performance in service.
As an artist, Fasuyi has exhibited his paintings in Nigeria and other countries of the world. His last solo exhibition was in Paris, France in 1984, and it was sponsored by Total Nigeria limited. As a sculptor he has introduce a new media of expression using gourds and plastic materials to create new forms of sculptures.
At 84, Fasuyi is still active in painting and producing sculptures. Age, he notes, is not a challenge to creativity.
“You don’t grow old and out of creativity. I want the younger ones to know that age is not a challenge to creativity. I believe that God has a purpose for everybody,” says.
Although, he has no regret about his life, he, however, has concerns about some issues on art in Nigeria. One of them is the apparent lack of a physical or real national gallery of art, which according to him, is long overdue.
“Government has to do something. I must tell you that I am not happy with the situation of National Gallery of Arts. We have been saying it for the past over 30 years now about the National Gallery. Where is the gallery? Where is it located? Somebody should tell us where the plot of land in which they are going to build National Gallery is located. They have not even identified and told the public where they are going to build the National Gallery. They said it is going to be in Abuja. The National Gallery in Lagos, I don’t know what they are going to use it for. I don’t see why they cannot turn the major part of it into a national gallery, and bring the works of prominent artists, dead or alive, to display there. So that when visitors come to Nigeria, there is a place they can go to and see the over 500 works of Nigerian artists. The pride of the civilised countries is their museum. If you go to Britain today the first thing they would tell you is if you have been to their National Museum or their National Gallery. These are existing structures, and we are yet to have something like that in Nigeria. I must tell you that it is dragging.
“Good enough, Dr. Simon Ikpakronyi has been appointed as the Acting Director General, National Gallery of Art. I hope with his background he will be able to push for a concrete National Gallery of Art,” Fasuyi said.
According to him, he has about 250 of his works at his TAFAS gallery in his residence in Ikeja.
“If they put these works together they can put them at the National Gallery of Art. They can get my works free of charge, get from Bruce Onobrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo and other artists, and display them at the National Gallery of Art.
“The only man in Nigeria who is thinking seriously about a gallery in Nigeria is Prince Yemisi Shylon, who is now building a museum in Epe, Lagos. He is the only person I know who is doing enough work on art preservation and art history. I have not seen enough coming from Abuja, to show that they are serious about National Gallery. But I hope eventually something will happen in that direction.”