One of Nigeria’s pioneer graduate artists, art teacher, educationist, and former Federal art adviser who took over from late Ben Enwonwu in 1969, Chief Timothy Adebanjo Fasuyi, turned 83 recently. To mark the event, the art community gathered in his TAFAS Gallery in Lagos to honour him.

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) used the occasion to present a book documenting his life and times, as well as an art exhibition of work by the celebrant, who was one of the pioneer students of Nigeria College of Arts and Science, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

He established the first cultural centre, TAFAS cultural centre in Lagos and was instrumental to the development of art and culture in Nigeria.

The event, chaired by founder, leading art patron and founder of Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Arts Foundation (OYASAF), Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, was hosted by NGA and it had in attendance, renowned artist and founder of Harmattan Workshop, Prof Bruce Onobrakpeya; Chairman, Governing Board, NGA, Ambassador Umaru Suleiman; DG, NGA, Abdullahi Muku, Acting Executive Secretary/CEO, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Mr. Louis Eriomala; former DG, NGA, Dr. Paul Dike; Dean, Faculty of Environmental Design, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof. Jerry Buhari; Dean of YABATECH School of Art, Dr. Kunle Adeyemi; President of Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Oliver Enwonwu; Dr. Kunle Filani; Mike Omoighe, among others.

As speaker after speaker paid deserving tribute to the celebrant for his contribution to the development of arts and culture sector in the country, calls on federal government to expedite action on the review and implementation Nigeria’s cultural Policy also took centre stage.

The NGA, DG, Dr. Muku, in his speech, described Chief Fasuyi as “a consummate artist” worthy of documenting for posterity. He said: “In realisation of one of the key functions of the National Gallery of Art: sponsoring and encouraging research into all aspects of arts, I did not hesitate to approve the research into all aspects of arts; I did not hesitate to approve the research and documentation of this foremost artist and art educator.

“It is a testimony to his abiding interest in the art practice that at a time people of his age would rather stay quiet in retirement, he revived TAFAS Gallery, picked up his paint buckets, dusted up his brush to paint and even sculpt at 83. He is inspiring art educator who did all he could to enhance the image of the fine artist.

“When Simon Ikpakronyi, our Director, Planning and Research, first mention the name, Adebanjo Fasuyi to me, I must confess it did not ring a bell. But by the time he added that Fasuyi was the first graduate of painting with a first class degree from the then Nigerian College of Arts, Science & Technology (NCAST), the forerunner of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1959, I could not just pay attention but became excited. I wanted to know more about him and I thought many more people would be curious to find out more about the man.”

According to him, this research was all-embracing – digging into the archives to unveil how the very first set of NCAST lived and learnt; interaction with their teachers, mostly expatriates; their course content, social life at the institution as well as the artist’s early life, career and late return to professional practice.” Prof Bruce Onobrakpeya, who was the keynote speaker at the book presentation, described Fasuyi as “an artist and art educator, and Nigerian ambassador extraordinaire”.

“Nigeria owes it as a duty to honour Fasuyi to sing his praise as someone who fought and won respect for Nigerian artists and the art profession in the country.

Fasuyi, who is said to be the first graduate of painting with a first class degree from the then Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (NCAST), the forerunner of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in 1959, is referred to as a ‘principal of principals’ and ‘a school entrepreneur’ in the educational sector.

In Nigerian contemporary art, he is a foremost pacesetter and social mobiliser, who was formerly an art adviser to the Federal Government, representing the country in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). “Today, an artist can take a position in governance that was formerly reserved for other professionals.

He was one of those who negotiated with the Federal Government to give art graduates from Nigerian colleges a salary status equivalent to those of other degree holders. He was one of the founding fathers of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) of which he was the secretary for many years.

We thank NGA for giving us another document that will move Nigerian art forward. I congratulate Fasuyi and family on the exhibition being put up. The artist never actually retires,” he said.

He decried the state of the art sector and underscored the imperative of a cultural policy to the development of the sector.

“We use this occasion to urge the Federal Government to do more for artists by ratifying the cultural policy so that art can bring benefits to artists and the country. If ratified, it should take care of insurance and endowment for artists,” he said. He urged younger and budding artists to draw inspiration from Fasuyi’s example.

He called on the artist and government to promote the art informal education set like TAFAS gallery and Harmattan workshop.

Credit: New Telegraph

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