In this year 2011, January 22 would probably remain a unique day, not for any other reason but for the fact that, it ushers an event that has historical connotation to Nigerian artists based in Zaria. On that Saturday morning around 10:00 am, amidst the harmattan weather with its penetrating cold wind which has little or no respect for people wearing light denims, a teeming number of artists were brought together to partake in an art workshop titled: Scapes and Forms. The workshop pulled artists from their studios into an open environment where creative talents/endeavors were artistically harnessed in a delightful manner to produce different forms of visual representations. The occasion was more or less like a midpoint for both lecturers and students especially of the twin-departments (Fine Arts and Industrial Design) in ABU Zaria, to refresh their artistic skills but largely in various two-dimensional forms: painting and drawing. Over sixty artists, who responded to workshop with enthusiasm, gathered in front of Samaru market, Zaria, to artistically take the Scapes and Forms of the activities going on in the area.
Shortly before the commencement of the workshop, Dr. G.G. Duniya, who happened to be the lead facilitator of the workshop (assisted by Mr. Lasisi Lamidi), addressed participants before declaring it open. In his address, Dr. Duniya highlighted the essence as well as the purpose of the workshop, and what it (the workshop) intends to achieve: “This painting and drawing workshop is intended to serve as an avenue for creative minds to interact and share drawing and painterly ideas, away from the normal studio setting. The workshop is also expected to expose professionals and student artists to the numerous possibilities in art, using varied media and techniques or experiments”. He concluded by saying “we advice you to feel free and express yourselves in the Zaria Art School’s freedom of expression, using forms before you and the materials that suits your creative impulse”.
Immediately after the address, easels were mounted by some artists while other artists took strategic sitting positions that best suit their views. But more interestingly, cars brought by some participants to the venue were automatically turned into stabilizing platforms for keeping drawing boards while the workshop goes on. On the other hand, a good number of participants were seen squatting on the ground with their drawing boards, taking artistic view of their creative taste. The venue was an utmost contradiction to studio environment as it offers seeming challenges but mostly to the advantage of the participants. For example, the traffic of people in the market at the other side of the road, the moving vehicles and cyclists as well as sounds/noises generated by the traffics, contributed in shaping the aura of the workshop’s venue into a disorganized and noisy environment. This is unlike studio situation which is usually calm and serene; however, the venue was probably the best for that kind of workshop since the participants of the workshop later converted the inherent challenges therein, into creative opportunities by displaying their artistic talents in various two-dimensional forms.
In terms of attendance, the participants of the Scapes and Forms’s workshop, cut across undergraduate and postgraduate students of both Fine Arts and Industrial Design departments, as well as lecturers in the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The uniqueness of the workshop was not only because it was held in an out-door environment that stimulates high creative impulse for exciting artistic designs, it also lies in the fact that some students, probably for the first time, find themselves drawing or painting along side with their lecturers (professionals). This scenario was highly favoured by mutual interactivity between the two (lecturers and students) with jokes and funny comments to keep the venue lively while the workshop progresses.
Another factor which contributed to adding more flavour in the workshop was the open thematization “Scapes and Forms” which paved way for diverse artistic creations. In view of that, it was common to see interplay of different media in different styles in the works the participating artists. Hence, one artist is painting while another artist sitting next is drawing in charcoal. But most importantly, the open theme favoured creative diversity on the part of the participating artists especially on the choice of art expression which was generally seen in their works. For example, Dr. Ken Okoli opt to take the photographic aspect of the event, while Mr. Wesley (a lecturer in sculpture) decides to reveal the other side of his artistic flair in painting.
Call it a Zaria affair; but for those who were present can agree with the writer that it goes beyond that point as the presence of artists from other art schools attended. For example, the presence of Mr. Tony Emodi and Mr. Emmanuel Eroka both from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, made Yaba Art school to be well represented in the workshop. Among lecturers who participated in Scapes and Forms are Mr. Shafe, Mr. Caleb, Mr. Aliyu Moh’d as well as the facilitators: Dr. G.G. Duniya and Mr. Lasisi Lamidi.
The workshop was not only desirable at the moment but somewhat timely because, it came at a period when cotemporary art practice is degenerating in the essential values which are necessary for sustaining an endearing visual culture of a multi-cultural nation like Nigeria. For instance, the coming of recent trends in art like installation art gives the younger artists little opportunities for proper application of some elements of art as well as basic techniques required in “drawing”- which is the first and basic quality of a good artist. With the dying culture of art workshop in contemporary art practice, Zaria Art School through the department of Fine Arts, ABU Zaria, did not only present artists the creative opportunity to improving their drawing skills but also set to revive as well as sustain the rudiments in contemporary art practice using art events like scapes and Forms.