eyi Paul Oshodi is a Lagos based creative artist, curator and multi-media consultant of note. Following his passion for the creative arts and commitment to “raising the creative industry stake and deepening the untapped resources that are embedded within the country and beyond through producing and raising arts, culture and tourism contents”, he established the Oshodi Arts Gallery, located at the Ijebu Ode/ Itokin Road, area of Ikorodu, Lagos.
The gallery is today, home to over 10,000 artworks across various genres of the visual arts. In a chat with New Telegraph, the Ode-Irele, Irele Local Government Area of Ondo State, South West, Nigeria, born artist, gives further insight into the idea behind the gallery and his passion for the arts.
“I am a sculptor. I had my first degree in sculpture at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Osun State. I have a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Ibadan. I also studied Technical Education at Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos. I am a critic, and I also educate, teach art, especially about its history, because there is no way you can be a good artist without knowing its history. Art is about history. An artwork must have a story to tell. That is why as an art historian, you need to teach the younger artists, first, that aspect of history that is important in the mind of an artist. You cannot conceptualise without having something inside you. Before you lay your brush on the canvas there must be something in your mind. It is not just about carrying brush and draw what you see. Art is a universal language that everybody all over the world must understand. Also, art is one of the key things that you can use to tell a story about the past. A dancer can come and dance, a performing artiste can come and perform, but they still need the backup of a visual artist, to design and costume them. The costume must tell a story. For instance, most of the people that were born now might not even know what is called ‘agdada’ ; they might not even what know what is called ‘danshiki’.
So, we use art to as a medium for documentation and archiving the past so that the present people can see it and equally project it into the future.
“So, this gallery is not by mistake. It is something that we have been nurturing for over 15 years. All along in those years we’ve been painting, collecting and keeping all those things with us. They are works that we have been working on for over 15 years,” he says.
Every gallery, he added, has a vision. “Our core values are bent on raising the creative industry stake and deepening the untapped resources that are embedded within the country and beyond through producing and raising arts, culture and tourism contents. Our mission was very clear from the inception, which among others are to engage our artistic career for creativity, aesthetics, values and projecting our cultural heritage, to discover talents, develop and deploy them strategically and systematically, to promote professionalism through provision of platforms.
“The gallery houses over 17000 artworks – sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and textiles.”
According to him, aside from displaying a grandiose collection, Oshodi Art Gallery is dedicated to creating awareness and promoting Nigerian arts and cultural heritage, and also the life styles and traditional values through workshops, art shows, exhibitions, training and other activities.
“Our focus is to take it another level, so that it will be able to accommodate most of or all the other works. We have 15000 paintings, over 1000 sculptures (both wood carvings and metal works); and we are still doing more. They are works that we have been working on for over 15 years. The only thing we didn’t have in place then was the structure; we didn’t have a building in place. As I am talking to you, we have just 40 percent of our works here in the gallery. The remaining 60 percent is still out there that we need to bring in. Some of the works are in my own house here in Ikorodu; some are in Akure, because of the Ondo State Arts Festival which we used to host annually. Most of the time in the process of moving the works, some of them get damaged. So we decided to keep them there so that anytime we want to do it and we need the works, we can we easily bring them out again and exhibit them. So, our worry is that this gallery would not be able to accommodate all the other works.
“Also, we have not less than 40 artists who have partnered with us. For instance, we have Mufu Onifade, Wallace Ejoh, Joshua Imesuruonye’s works here, and many others. Significantly, we are trying to partner with talented young artists, who are very good in what they are doing. We try to brush them up and make them better artists in future, and see the relevance and dividends of being an artist.”
So, did he really set out to become a visual artist? You ask.
“I am from a family of four children, from Ode Irele, Ikale, in Ondo State. According to history, we are of part of Benin City and Ilajes. So, we are from that background and we have a way of life that we learn how to draw before learning how to write as a child. But as we begin to draw and to write, a lot of we encounter a lot of frustration and discouragement from our parents who believe you might not be wealthy or rich if you study art, especially fine art. But by the grace of God and the passion we have for it we didn’t stop drawing. In fact, it got to a level that when I was a little boy our landlord had to
give us quit notice because I was always on the wall of the building. He told my parents that he doesn’t want my parents to live in his house again because I was using charcoal to draw on the wall. I was about five years old then.
“During my secondary school days, I used to draw a lot, and everybody in that community knew me as one of the best young artists then. And when I wanted to choose secondary school, I was looking for a school that they teach fine art. Luckily for me I attended Stella Maris College, Okitipupa. I was lucky to study fine art, wood work and technical drawing. That was in 1990, the year that the implementation of the 6-3-3-4 began in Ondo State, and we were the first set. So I was lucky to be part of that set. They brought a lot of workshop equipment to the school. I was the only one offering wood work, also, I was the only one attending classes for technical drawing, in fact fine art, in the school. I did it at WAEC, which I passed, and after that I went to Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) to study fine art.
“Also, we have a lot of festivals in those days, which also inspired me, although, my dad was into textile design. He had a place in Okitipupa where they used to weave ‘ask oke’, and he had a lot of people work for him. He also used to weave baskets. My mum was a trader.”
Oshodi also explained the idea behind the Ondo Arts Festival, adding that it was a huge success. “The Ondo State Arts Festival was a great event. As you know, it is not always easy to get such support from government. A lot of people have beautiful proposals, ideas, and they present them to their governors, and their governors turn them down. So, we thank the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, for the opportunity given to us to kick-start the festival. It was a mission accomplished.
“Ondo State has a lot in terms of its rich cultural heritage. For example, if you look at the 18 local government areas, they have different cultures and traditions. Even their food is different; the way they dress is different. Also, if you look at the landscape, the seaside we have in Ondo South is bigger than the one in Lagos. There is also Idanre Hill. Even in the Akoko side of Akure there are a lot of hills there. There is also Oke Igbo where we have the Igbo Eledumare. So, Ondo State has a rich cultural heritage which we need to celebrate and promote as a major tourist attraction,” Oshodi enthused.