FOREST OF THOUSAND WONDERS (FOR MOYO OGUNDIPE 1948 – 2017) BY NIYI OSUNDARE

In one of our epistolary exchanges in the late 1970’s, Moyo Ogundipe explained why he had decided to quit a high-profile advertising job some had thought would be his ultimate answer to the challenge he had always craved. But that expectation fell flat after the first two weeks! Tired of the world of sound bites and pretty phrasing, of celebrated clichés and tendentious imaging, Ogundipe began to yearn for new frontiers where words and images roam and range, unencumbered by hackneyed lingo and special interest.

I was hardly surprised at his dissatisfaction with any preoccupation that would turn him into a ‘desk artist’. For Moyo Ogundipe has always been an ‘artist on the go’: restless, mercurial, dynamic, but also deep and rooted, playful and utterly serious, sometimes comically transparent, sometimes intimidatingly opaque. In whatever mood his Muse places him, in whatever medium he chooses for his expression, Ogundipe remains the quintessential myth-maker and poet, one who sees Word and Image in verbal and visual terms, and the space between. His words on the open page are as protean and seamlessly suggestive as his strokes on the canvas. His ‘pictures’ are visual proverbs with a sinuous lyricism and inescapable musicality. To merely see an Ogundipe painting is to do it an egregious disservice; you have to hear it as well. Then think it as you feel your way around it.

Ogundipe’s lifelong fascination with the word and the image began a long time ago. When I arrived for the Higher School Certificate course at the famous Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti, in January 1967, one of my first objects of curiosity was the school magazine. (My abiding interest in such publications began at Amoye Grammar School, Ikere, where I had been editor-in-chief for the school magazine). I was impressed but not surprised at the quality and diversity of the contents of Christ’s School’s magazine, considering the high status of the school and the caliber of its students. What kept me completely engaged were the illustrations and cartoons by a young artist who signed his name as “Lancey M”. Page after page, these drawings served as visual reinforcements for the written texts, or curious representations of the young artist’s own unusual imagination. Almost instinctively, I knew this artist and I would soon find areas of collaboration and engagement, but I was not sure how exactly it was going to be.

But Fate has its own drama, complete with baffling plots and teasing serendipity. A few days later, I found that the person sitting next to me in Mr. S.A. Oloketuyi’s literature class was none other than the famous “Lancey M!” Thus began what has now turned out to be a lifelong personal and professional relationship. I soon found out that the artist whose ‘hands’ I had seen in the school magazine was also a budding poet with a deep and passionate interest in poetry and drama. We traded enthusiastic ‘gists’ about Shakespeare and Soyinka, Okigbo and Wordsworth, John Pepper Clark and John Keats. Even at this early stage, I discovered that Ogundipe adored Soyinka’s poetry, but was absolutely dazzled by Okigbo’s hypnotic lyricism. This lyricism, this running fusion of myth and matter, music and magic, became the hallmarks of Ogundipe’s poetry and, later, his works as a visual artist.

Soon, our classroom chattering blossomed into a practical demonstration. With the encouragement of the school principal, Chief R.A. Ogunlade, we revived Agidimo, the school’s occasional magazine, with me as editor-in-chief and Ogundipe in charge of art and design. A drawing of Agidimo, the rhinoceros insect (namesake with the hill on which Christ’s School is sited), superbly done by Ogundipe, occupied the masthead of the magazine, providing an irresistible visual appeal. Buoyed by this impressively artistic cover and its insightful and lively contents, Agidimo caught the fancy of the characteristically critical Christ’s School readers and became the toast of the entire community.

Ogundipe’sartisticc talents took him straight to another stage, literally speaking. In 1968, he and I were involved in two major dramatic events. The first was the annual inter-house drama festival, a keenly contested and robustly inspiring competition for which Christ’s School was justifiably famous – and respected. With enthusiastic input from gifted members of our house, Dallimore House, I composed the two plays (one in English, the other in Yoruba), but it was in the English play that Ogundipe played a major role as Heir of a powerful but embattled Emperor (played by me). The same year, with the active support of the Principal and under the able and disciplined directorship of Mr. V.A. Daramola, the school’s Drama Group produced This Is Our Chance, undoubtedly the most frequently performed play by James Ene Henshaw, Nigeria’s late doctor-playwright. Again, Ogundipe played the role of Prince (while I played the role of King Damba). For many nights, this play set the stage of the school quadrangle aglow, and its success was so rapturous that the Principal encouraged the group to take it to neighboring schools.

Without doubt, Christ’s School brought out the growing essence of Ogundipe the poet, the journalist, and the actor, but it was in his capacity as a maverick artist that he made his name. Rebellious, sometimes mischievous, and suspicious of authority, Ogundipe was neither a law-breaker nor a passive genuflector at the altar of what he considered intemperate commandments. His love for freedom was passionate and intense. His impulse was ineluctably democratic, even demotic. Junior students threatened by campus bullies came under his wings, as did free rangers and would-be artists in need of a kind mentor. His bedside in Dallimore House was always thronged by a motley gathering of pilgrims from other houses, while his easy-going ways made him one of the most popular students on Agidimo Hill. Wherever he went on campus, a chorus of “Lancey M” from passers-by sweetened his passage. Even the birds in campus trees seemed to recognize the name.

Christ’s School had its own community of artists: talented, focused, proud, keenly aware of their special gifts, sometimes posing as the chosen tribe of the Muse. Under the tutelage of V.A. Daramola, a devoted teacher and art educator, a generation of future Nigerian artists and allied professionals fledged and soared: Macaulay Iyayi, Morakinyo Olugboji, Sesan Ogunro, Susan Ilugbusi, Funmilola Olorunnisola, Iyabo Oguntusa, Femi Mosuro… (To this list must be added the likes of Ben Tomoloju, one of the most richly talented artists and cultural impresarios in Nigeria today, who was many years Ogundipe’s junior). The incubating chamber and cluttered workshop was the Art Room, strategically sited on the upper floor of a tower-like structure which loomed like the lighthouse over the school quadrangle and the rest of the campus. What moments of admiration and envy for the rest of us as we watched the young artists going up and down the stairs that led to this tower, spattered with paint, their brushes held aloft like rainbow spears! This was Moyo’s inaugural professional tribe, the first appreciators of his then precocious output. But the wider Christ’s School community sometimes had a glimpse of the artist at work as Mr Daramola stood with visible pride by his protégé and his prodigious explorations on the canvas. It surprised no one when Ogundipe emerged from the Higher School Certificate exam as one of the best Fine Arts candidates in West Africa in 1968 and was instantly snatched for the B.A by the then University of Ife. Thereafter, Ogundipe’s canvas became wider, his brush more adventurous, his insight more profound. Thereafter, he became an artist of the world…

*When Ogundipe left for graduate studies in the United States about a decade and half ago, many were afraid that this highly gifted artist might become a victim of the “immigrant disease”, that terrible affliction of the artist torn from his/her roots, now surrounded by the sights and overwhelmed by the sounds of another land. Would the deeply indigenous sound fade into a mongrel echo? Would erstwhile sharp and penetrating sights blunder into visual blurs? Would the pulsating hyperbole of the native idiom attenuate into a half-remembered hint? Just how would this artist survive the tempting, sometimes lucrative hype of the American system without losing his way in its “post-modernist, post-structuralist, post-hermeneutic, post-representational, post-industrial, post. .  post. . “ maze and its literal, frequently modish presumptiveness? How would he draw from the astounding richness of the American world without losing his African soul in the process?

Ogundipe’s prolific output in the past two decades has given the lie these fears. Home is in the heart, Ogundipe often philosophizes during some of our many informal brainstorming sessions and reminiscences; everywhere you go, it never leaves its place in your chest. Every land has its song, but Humanity has a large choir. When the snail goes on a journey, it never leaves its home behind. And so Ogundipe has taken full advantage of the vast American space, tapped into its infinite possibilities. The result is an outpouring of an artistic genius that has been struggling for an outlet for many years and was happy to get one at last. The Agidimo Muse is on the ascent. . . .

That home that travels so ineluctantly in Ogundipe’s ‘heart’ frequently finds expression even in the strangest space. It is a home that is telluric in its tenacity, bristling with sound and silence, sign and sense, the ludicrous and the sublime, the apparently simple and the hermeneutically complex. It is an essentially plural home, whose mathematics works through the maxim of this plus that, whose matrix rests on the principle of rational inclusiveness. It is a complexly polyphonic, polyvalent, and polydimensional home which locates the specific in the general, the general in the specific. A home that is self-assured and tolerant, accommodating without losing the faculty of rational discrimination. That home derives from the Yoruba worldview which waters the very root of Ogundipe’s creative tree, bestowing the flair and freshness that looks so native to his art.

A sensitive apprehension of that worldview is necessary for an adequate appreciation of the predominance of what I call the forest idiom in Ogundipe’s works. Like a typical Yoruba forest, his canvas is thronged, haunting, and quick with surprises. The soil is moist with fecundity; undergrowths are thick with mystery; ropy climbers swing and interlock in every direction; the canopy lends a spell of brooding shadows. There are unmistakable hints and echoes here of Fagunwa, Tutuola, and Soyinka (especially the Soyinka of A Dance of the Forests and Forest of a Thousand Daemons). For Ogundipe, this wild and wondrous site, this intimidatingly promiscuous space, is the theater for the real drama of existence, or oftentimes an alternative stage for the marvelously impossible. For in Yoruba belief, the forest is not simply the opposite of the cultivated city. In many ways, both sites are complementary and mutually reinforcing. The forest is the abode of innumerable spirits, some benign and benevolent, others dangerous and forbiddingly mean. It is also the home of the dead and/or the living-dead whose communion with the world of the living – and the unborn – is considered vital for the sustenance and survival of all states and spheres of existence. Its essence is as plural as the leaves on the trees, its power as potent as the vital forces that populate its zone.

Intimations of the forest breathe through Ogundipe’s canvas – in the ubiquitous green, its dense and crowded ambiance, and the lines which criss-cross the space like traveling branches. But this forest is hardly ever a region of unrelieved darkness and monochromatic gloom. A playful yellow often lets in the sun, and there are times when a brown or bright orange lends the hint of the dry season. Dappled in their detail, arrestingly colorful, Ogundipe’s paintings remind us so forcibly of Ankara, that textile brand so beloved to people of West Africa. Jungle of Magical Feats vibrates with forest echoes, while in Emperor Sundiata’s Daughter (a painting whose subject possesses the stunning gaze and immortal poise of an African Mona Lisa), the background is lush like Ijesa-Isu forest in the rainy season.

Water and the water motif also capture our attention in these paintings. Here Ogundipe’s imagination waxes solidly liquid, and his images swim in a sweet, seductive blue. Mermaids are the predominant denizens of this zone (Queendom of Mermaids, The Mermaid and the Piscean Princess etc). Here Ogundipe has invited us to the dance of deities: Olokun, Yemoja, Osun, Oya, all staple goddesses, invariably come to mind as we watch the Mermaid swing and splash across the canvas. There is a mythical boldness in these double-bodied beings that compels comparison with their pastoral counterparts in Three Negritude Princesses, the sassy debutantes in Three Lagos Socialites, and the regal, statuesque figure in Emperor Sundiata’s Daughter. From mermaid to madam, women throng Ogundipe’s canvas whether in their Negritude nudity or bejeweled modern mode. Critical spectators might see these women and marvel at their mythic grandeur while wondering why the woman that ‘draws the water and cooks the food’ never makes it to the artist’s canvas. They might be anxious to know why the ‘hue and cry’ of a harsh world hardly troubles the music of Ogundipe’s visual symphony.

Such spectators would be asking questions that are so fundamental to Ogundipe’s philosophy and practice of art. For his journey in these works is an essentially interior one, a journey into that world of endless transformations and magical mutations in which centaurs serenade the universe with saxophones, and the fumes from a smoking pipe morph into raging cobras. Perhaps these works are conceived as an imaginative escape from the ugliness of the world we know, a psychic journey into the universe of root and essence, into an African past whose value has been violated by reckless modernity, a quest for a vision that challenges contemporary blindnesses as a way of confronting them.

Indigenous laakaye, global flair, constant wrestling with memory and remembrance, lyrical celebration of nature and life; a bardic brush, a canvas bristling with incantations, a forest of endless music and marvel . . .  these are some of the gifts presented here from the “sacred and secret territories of [Ogundipe’s] soul”. They are his ultimate testament, the unfolding narrative of his canvas of tales. From Agidimo’s budding artist to a global master; from Christ’s School’s quadrangle platform to the world stage, from “Lancey M” to “Moyo Ogundipe”. . . the journey has been long, frequently rough, colorfully impressive – but not yet complete. The works on offer here are from Ogundipe’s forest of a thousand wonders, his “painted harmonies” (to borrow Okigbo’s memorable phrase). They are music in motion, songs which thresh the color of fertile dreams.

Source: Forest Of Thousand Wonders (For Moyo Ogundipe 1948 – 2017) By Niyi Osundare | Sahara Reporters

THE MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF A LIFE COACH NO 4

“Whoever you are, there is some younger person who thinks you are perfect.
There is some work that will never be done if you don’t do it.
There is someone who would miss you if you were gone.
There is a place that you alone can fill.”…Jacob M. Braude

I got visited a few months ago by one of my old students. It was a visit made almost after 21 yrs because he passed out of PASS TUTORIAL COLLEGE in 1995. Since then he attended Yaba Tech, Unilag and did his Masters in England. Today he runs his own oil and gas company based around the Ikeja-Berger axis.

So what was special about the visit? He said since he came back from England he had intended to look for me to say thank you for the way his life was changed at the Tutorial School. He said before he came to the school his father had lost hope on him because of his careless attitude towards education.

He said they were living at Olodi – Apapa and that it was a friend of his father who told him about PASS in Festac. He said despite that his old man was not interested but that it was his mother who brought him to PASS and that he remembered me from the first day he was registered.

He said that even when he changed the father still suspected him of pretense till the day of his graduation from Unilag. He said it was at the end of the ceremony after the father saw his name on the list of graduating students that he stretched out his hands to shake him and told him that he should read further.

He said when he got to England was when he saw the practical demonstration of similar methods used by teachers for them as was done in PASS. He said Unilag lecturers acted like demi-gods but he experienced life coaching again in England the way PASS TUTORIAL COLLEGE did it for them in those days.

So he decided that one day he would leave his workers behind in the office and tell them he was going to look for one Mr. Odumosu in Festac Town. He did not get the address in full but he knew it was somewhere on 5th Avenue so he decided to check me up by going into each close on the avenue asking residents if they knew my close! He was lucky someone in the second close he entered told him my exact address and he came directly.

When we met I could not really recognize him. You can imagine the changes after 21 yrs that would have come upon a boy who was 16 or 17 years old. He was well-dressed, with nicely cut hair and trimmed beard. Nice car too. He told me the methods used for them at PASS were completely different from what was used for them throughout his six years in his secondary school.

And me? I marveled at the strength of the bond a teacher can create with students if he is truly interested in their lives. Many tutors do not seem to know the existence or power of this bond. It was the same bond that made me call my secondary school Mason College almost 27 yrs after I met Revered Donald Mason at Christ’s School Ado-Ekiti. It is the same bond that makes me still posting articles till tomorrow about Reverend Ogunlade (Otura) who took over from Rev Mason after his retirement.

I thanked him for his decision to seek me out and the sacrifice to leave his work and workers behind just to pay me a visit. I also thanked God for what PASS did in his life. As usual my remark was that nothing could have been achieved by me or the school if God had not put the ability in him to “come to himself”through his DNA.

I also told him as I wish to remind any teacher reading this today that we teachers are specially anointed gardeners in God’s garden. No pastor or reverend or shepherd can keep students in the same place from 8 am to 3 pm daily,Monday to Friday. It is only a school and its group of teachers who can.

As a teacher you would have completely missed the road if you think your only concern is to teach subjects allocated to you through the school’s time table. In most schools there are many interfaces for interaction with students outside boxes called classrooms. No matter how short a time you spend with students in any school make sure they can remember your work in their lives 21 years later. My visitor spent only 9 months in PASS from October 94 to June 95 but he came looking for the “Director” in 2016!

This is another experience of mine as as a life coach. Please look closely at yourselves now and what you think you can do for those children who are with you today before it’s too late.All the so-called small children with me in those days have grown up to be papas and mamas too.Those small eyes in your classrooms today,sometimes excited and sometimes afraid, will remember u someday and will decide whether u are worth remembering at all not to talk about leaving their work behind to plod through Lagos traffic just to greet you.

But in the case i just narrated was it greetings with an ordinary handshake?…Lets leave that one out for now….hahaha!

This is my 4th story of the series meant to encourage teachers.The other 3 are on my FB wall.Please have a nice day and thanks for reading

SOME JOKES YOU HEARD OR READ ARE JUST TOO FUNNY TO BE FORGOTTEN!…HERE ARE THREE OF THEM

SOME JOKES YOU HEARD OR READ ARE JUST TOO FUNNY TO BE FORGOTTEN!...HERE ARE THREE OF THEM

1.FAMILY TIES

…recently, Ebi,a six-year-old pupil of a Government primary school in Twon-Brass, Bayelsa state was given the beating of his life by the mother for not being able to provide the answer to a simple mental arithmetic of “five times five”

…at the peak of the punishment the illiterate father walked in after a hectic day on the waters where he went a-fishing…….on seeing what was going on he screamed “Mama Preye why are you beating my son as if he stole anything?”……the almost illiterate woman replied “Can you imagine that he no sabi common arithmetic like five times five?”

…furiously the man spat back”What of you? You sabi am? To God if you no tell me five times five now now this stick go fall for your body!”
…and smiling as if she just won a lottery the woman said”five times five no be 555?..na dat one small pikin no fit know?”

…..then the man,after a few seconds replied “na God save you today,i think say you na no fit know am”….he then dropped the long stick…

SOME JOKES YOU HEAR OR READ ARE TOO FUNNY TO BE FORGOTTEN!...HERE ARE THREE OF THEM

WHAAAAT!

2.WHAT IF A GUN IS POINTED AT YOUR HEAD?

Two friends are at a bar.After a few bottles of star lager and stout by each  of them the following conversation ensued

1st friend…”what is it that you cannot do even if a gun is pointed to your head by an armed robber?”

2nd friend…”why are you asking me? Abi my friend na armed robber?”

1st friend…”no,i am remembering what somebody said when he was asked the same question”

2nd friend…now getting interested..” who and what did he say?”

1st friend…”this question was put last week to Hon Ozo Cyprian UGHAMADU,former deputy speaker Anambra State House of Assembly by BLUNT “a column of the unexpected ” under the weekly called NATIONAL LIFE and this is what he had to say….

‘i would not betray a trust or twist what i know to be the truth….the fact is that i would rather be blunt and set the records straight than sulk in silence….so at gun point i will speak my mind if i am convinced about it and my conscience tells me that what i am doing is for public good,i will stand by it no matter the circumstance…forget about the gun i will tell the armed robber what i feel just before you make up your mind to blow my head off’

…so my friend over to you…what would  you  have done?”

2nd friend…”good talk, brave honorable…..i wish there are many men of great valor like you in our country…men who are not like me…because if at gun point i am asked to call myself a cow i will gladly do so despite knowing that i am not one…if a boy puts a gun  to my head and asks me to jump up 5 times i will do so 7 times!…..the only thing i will not do and can not do is to sexually assault my own child……i’d rather die…”

So our  brodas and sistas, please tell us what you can never do with a gun POINTED at your head.

3.TO RETRY, ABORT OR CANCEL?

Husband, a bald Computer Professor who deeply loves his work returned home late from work

 and had the following conversation with his troublesome  wife:

Husband:                  Hi dear. I’m logged in (meaning “I am home, dear”)

Wife:                          Have you brought the grocery?

Husband:                 Bad command or file name

Wife:                          But I told you in the morning?

Husband:                 Erroneous syntax, abort, retry, cancel?

Wife:                          What about the new TV you promised to get?

Husband:                  Variable not found

Wife:                           Okay, give me your credit card. I need to do some shopping

Husband:                 Sharing violation, access denied

Wife:                         It was a great mistake that I married an idiot like you

Husband:                  Yes, data type mismatch

Wife:                         You are useless

Husband:                  File in use, try after some time

Wife:                         Who was the lady I saw in in your car on campus this morning?

Husband:                 System is unstable. Press ALT + CTRL + DEL twice to reboot

Wife:                          I have not prepared any food for you. But check the fridge for some snacks

Husband:                  File system full

Wife:                           Again, what is the relationship with your receptionist whom I saw in your car today?

Husband:                   Only user with WRITE permission

Wife:                            Is that your answer? What  exactly is my value to you  in this family?

Husband:                   Unknown virus

Wife:                            Me? Do you love me at all or just your computer only. Or are you’re just being funny?

Husband:                    Too many parameters!

Wife:                             I will go to my dad’s house

Husband:                     This program has performed an illegal operation and will be terminated

Wife:                             I’ll leave you forever

Husband:                     Close all programs and log out and then log in as another user

Wife:                              It’s worthless talking to you

Husband:                       Shutdown the computer

Wife:                               I’m going

Husband:                       It’s now safe to turn off your computer

 First two copied from Nigerian social magazines and third one copied from a Christ’s School  Ado-Ekiti Alumni website but originally written by jelly.b

MASON COLLEGE,FESTAC IN PICTURES:OUR FANTASTIC YEARS OF SELFLESS,DEDICATED AND SOUND EDUCATION!(55)

 

MASON COLLEGE,FESTAC IN PICTURES:OUR FANTASTIC YEARS OF SELFLESS,DEDICATED AND SOUND EDUCATION!(55)

MASON COLLEGE,FESTAC IN PICTURES:OUR FANTASTIC YEARS OF SELFLESS,DEDICATED AND SOUND EDUCATION!(55)

MASON COLLEGE,FESTAC IN PICTURES:OUR FANTASTIC YEARS OF SELFLESS,DEDICATED AND SOUND EDUCATION!(55)

MASON COLLEGE,FESTAC IN PICTURES:OUR FANTASTIC YEARS OF SELFLESS,DEDICATED AND SOUND EDUCATION!(55)

MASON COLLEGE,FESTAC IN PICTURES:OUR FANTASTIC YEARS OF SELFLESS,DEDICATED AND SOUND EDUCATION!(55)