Red Walls of Bida – The Book

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Since 2014, I have been involved with research, study, and promoting awareness of the splendid traditional crafts in Nupe Land, Bida, Nigeria. On this blog find the first of my reports.

Bida Glass: Bangles and Beads

A four month exhibition on Celtic Glass in France has just ended where Bida glass making highlighted.

Bling-Bling in Bida

Bida Glass at MuséoParc Alésia, France

The next step is a documentary so stay tuned! If you would like a hard copy of this book, please email: leslaba@yahoo.com

Shyllon Museum of Art

One and a half hours drive out of Lagos toward Epe town, eastward on the Lekki Motorway is a relatively small sign that marks our destination, Pan-Atlantic University. I have accepted the kind invitation of Hugh and Robin Campbell (Nigerian Field Society and AOT) to meet the designing architect and director, Jess Castellote, of the almost opened Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art.

Our exuberant, over 60, host proudly states that he is beginning his second life.  After a full career as an architect, he recently completed a PhD in art history and has taken the position of director of the Shyllon Museum. His enthusiasm is infectious and our small group hangs onto his every word.

 

Dancer by Ben Enwonwu

Beadwork: contemporary and traditional royal crown of Yorubaland

What does it take to open the first of its kind university art museum in Nigeria? Vision,  donations, and dedication for starters! The vision began in 2014 when Prince Yemisi Shyllon proposed a university museum to house Nigerian art. Prince Shyllon has one of the most important private collection with an estimated 7000 works of Nigerian art and donated 1000 artworks (visit to Prince Shyllon’s private collection in 2012) to the museum with a donation toward construction and long term management of the museum. Prince Shyllon’s collection includes modern painting and sculptures by Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Yusuf Grillo, Peju Alatise, Osogbo artists, and traditional art such as  bronzes from Benin and royal crowns of Yorubaland.

Mr. Castellote begins the tour by explaining the dimensions of the museum, it is a big square box, 30x30x11 meters with only two windows. The stained rusty-red concrete is reminiscent of West African laterite soil, which presents an impressive contrast against the vast open and green campus. The architecture is something like a fortress but Mr. Castellote explains the design allows for insulation against tropical weather, provides security, and gives the visitor a chance to leave the outside totally behind them and enter into an art experience without distraction. The indoor area is designed with open and fluid space so that the visitor can experience a work of art from different angles and levels. Mr. Castellote explains,“Spectators are a part of the spectacle.”

One of the two windows that look to the outdoors, beyond is the unfinished building that will be used as an art centre for youth.

The museum focus is to learn about Nigerian art and heritage through continuity from tradition to contemporary. The emphasis is on education programmes, which is intended to bring 25 students from various local public schools for 200 days of the year. With a purchase of a bus, youth will be collected from public schools to experience art in all its forms i.e. a special youth pavilion is being built for classes. (see above photo)

Olanrewaju Tejuoso prepares art installation at the entrance of YSMA

As we leave the museum, we meet Olanrewaju Tejuoso, a Nigerian artist whose work configures wood and discarded empty sachets water, biscuit wraps, and empty bags of processed foods, polythene and foils. This installation will be greet visitors. (Watch Olanrewaju’s video about discarded sachets of water in Nigeria and his art.)

Now Nigerians and visitors have a beautiful addition to its thriving art scene besides art galleries to appreciate an astonishing collection of Nigerian art. The official opening of Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art is October 19, 2019.

Visits

From October 19th 2019, when the YSMA will be open to the general public, visits to the museum to experience the best of Nigerian arts will always be free to all thanks to the partners and friends of the YSMA from Tuesday to Saturday.

Hours

Tuesday 10am – 4pm
Wednesday 10am – 4pm
Thursday 10am – 4pm
Friday 10am – 4pm
Saturday 10am – 4pm

 

 

 

 

 

Bling-Bling in Bida

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Bahagadochi

(praise and respect for His Royal Highness) 

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His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, ETSU (King) NUPE and the Chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers

Above: HRH ETSU NUPE examines a piece of raw ‘bikini’ glass.

Once again, Yacubu, the best driver in Nigeria, and I took the journey from Abuja to Bida. It takes 5 hours to cover this distance.  The roads are hot, dusty, and broken and can only be described as ‘rutted, rough, and dangerous’. It is Ramadan; people are fasting from dawn to dusk which incorporates a sense of restless urgency to arrive at one’s destination before sunset.

I have an audience with the ETSU (Emir) His Royal Highness Alhaji Yahaya Abubaker. My request was granted for Saturday, May 18th and my goal was to present the Emir with catalogues from the exhibition Bida Glass at MuséoParc Alésia, France where the story of Bida glass is displayed prominently.

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photo credit: Joëlle Rolland

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photo credit: Joëlle Rolland

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photo credit: Joëlle Rolland

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photo credit: Joëlle Rolland

Traditional crafts are threatened by cheap, mass imports. Handwork is, more and more, considered to be degrading among the youth.   Yet, in Nupeland, people honor their culture and traditional crafts in a way that is rarely seen today.  And, the ETSU leads his people with his deep commitment to preservation of heritage and in doing so, strengthens the community as they face the pressures of technology.

In a very small way, I have been allowed to participate in documentation of Bida glassmakers. I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to meet the Emir and his proud and capable craftsmen. It was wonderful to sit on a bench in a simple workshop under a mat-covered mud hut and watch the skillful hands of a glassmaker. Again and again, I admired the calm, the ease, and the dedication with which they work.

https://nomad4now.com/articles/bida-bracelets-ancient-art-of-glassmaking/

https://nomad4now.com/articles/bida-glass-bangles-and-beads/

My gratitude to the ETSU for his patience with me while learning about the NUPE culture and the craftsmen who continue their trade, day in and day out, will remain cherished moments in my daily life.

Bahagadochi

(praise and respect for His Royal Highness) 

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Bida Glass at MuséoParc Alésia, France

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“In this great chain of causes and effects, no single fact can be considered in isolation.” – Alexander von Humboldt 

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Are you in France this summer from April 6th to September 22nd? If so, a trip to the Alésia, ancient town situated on Mont Auxois, above the present-day village of Alise-Sainte-Reine in the area of Côte d’Ore, France, is well worth adding to your agenda. It is a chance to take in the Gallo-Roman ruins but also visit an unusual and first of its kind exhibition of Celtic glassmaking that does not only demonstrates medieval times but traces the path of glass making from ancient times through a series of seemingly unrelated connections to a fundamental and essential aspect of the modern world…glass bracelets.

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https://www.alesia.com/lieux-de-visite-en/#centre

The exhibition studies the connection of migration of glassmaking from Egypt to Gallo-Roman era and its connection to modern day Nigeria. Joëlle Rolland PhD, researcher professor, at Maison de l’Archéologie et de l’Ethnologie, René Ginouvès has spent the last year organizing this exhibition about the production of Celtic glass bracelets.  As Joëlle Rolland expertise is Celtic glass, her research spanned Egypt, Nepal and the glass makers of Bida, Nigeria. She discovered the work of Elisabeth Thea Haevernick who publish in 1960 her thesis on Celtic glass bangles and, the ethnologist,  René Gardi who also researched Bida glass in the 1970s and wrote articles with comparisons with the work of Celtic bracelets. As well as, Leo Frobenius  in 1911 who visited Bida also illustrated the techniques of fabrication with the famous illustrations Celtic glass.  All of this, by chance, led Joëlle to my documentation of the glassmaking in Bida, Nigeria. Read: Bida: Bangles and Beads.

During the last four years, we have stayed in close contact sharing information. Joëlle invited me to participate in the upcoming exhibition on Celtic glass at MuséoParc Alésia. Joëlle will be demonstrating the manufacture of bracelets with the glassmaker on the weekends of April 13-14 and also in September, the weekend of 21-22.Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 1.41.12 AM

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For those of you who might not be able to visit, below is my contribution to the catalogue and the table of contents;Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-001Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-002Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-004Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-005Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-006Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-007Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-008Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-009Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-010Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-011Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-012Catalogue Bling-Bling 2019 TAP Lesley Lababidi-013