Igwe Alfred Achebe (Agbogidi) The Obi of Onitsha is one of the Art and culture loving monarchs in Nigeria
He worked in many organisations at top management level, served in Shell International Company Limited, London, was managing director of Diamond Bank, chairman of Universal Insurance Ltd and Omak Maritime Ltd.
But among all these,the revered monarch is a good collector of art works, promoter of artists and that is why he is seen in many exhibitions in Nigeria.
As a result of his love for art and numerous contributions towards the growth of Art in Africa, the organisers of Life in My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) recently installed him as the Patron of the body, an offer he easily accepted.
In this interview, the art loving monarch talks about his plans for the development of art in Onitsha, Nigeria, why he accepted the offer and other issues. Excerpts:
By Japhet Alakam
You are a good collector of art works, and seen in almost all exhibitions in Lagos, why do you have much interest in Arts, especially for a man coming from the oil sector?
I don’t know, its natural, its natural, I grew up in an environment where art is appreciated (Onitsha). Art is part and parcel of our life in Onitsha. The way traditional houses are decorated with beads, our masquerades, dances are all very artistic, so seen in the visual art is very natural.
Recently, you were offered the position of the patron of LIMCAF, and what baffled many was the way you easily accepted the offer, why?
My instant decision to support the LIMCAF was naturally my duty and pleasure. As a royal father, I consider it my natural responsibility to support everything that is good for man, every endeavour, effort and all laudable initiatives that can edify the human spirit and nature, and this is one of them.
Also, coincidentally, I share with all of you, and many more persons, a deep passion for the visual arts. This confluence of duty and pleasure has resulted in my happy participation. Thus, notwithstanding my many other commitments, I will do my best to remain part of this noble initiative, just as I support other art activities around the country.
Surprisingly, in a society that is gradually going away from those humanistic values that nurtured people like you when you were growing up.
The distance is becoming very far as they tend to look toward the materialistic things. But here you are still interested in bringing back such things in a city like Onitsha that is known for its commercial enterprise, its amazing, what do you say?
Well, it is a challenge, like I said earlier on, the world or life today in Nigeria is not like when we were growing up.
There is too much pressure, there is too much materialism, too much craving for money, power etc., but at the end of the day you ask yourself, what really is the essence of life and you have all the money in the world, it does not make you happy or you have a little bit of of knowledge of your culture, where you come from, what your ancestors do, how the creativity in men, art, drama, poetry, literature all bring out the intrinsic qualities of man and the enjoyment of these and the sponsorship of the creativity of these has its own reward spiritually .
If you go to all the countries in the world, countries spend fortunes on their culture, not only their own culture, they even try to bring up other people’s, go to Smithsonian museum which is the official museum of United States of America, they have a whole section for African art, African literature.
They want the Americans to appreciate the art and culture of the world, it should be the same, as a traditional ruler, it is my duty to support the revival of these, not just me, but every Nigerian should become part of this transformation. Money is good but money is not everything. The intrinsic values of human beings are also very important.
Presently, Nigeria is fighting a religious battle with insurgents. How much do you think the patronage of art by every Nigerian should help in mitigating against these types of uprisings?
If we are really committed, art is a universal language, music, poetry, creativity are all universal languages, if we focus on our culture just like what LIMCAF is trying to do with exhibitions in Kaduna, Abuja, Lagos etc., then they will bring together these young artists from other parts of the country to share with one another.
I have been at the grand finale of LIMCAF in two occasions and saw how they hug each other, exchange works etc., it can bring the country a lot of good, these are things that can bring us closer to each other.
Any where there is conflict, people are talking to other people and they are not listening to them, the more we can listen to others as we talk to one another, the more we can get the country better.
You said that you have commenced plans to eventually build a museum/cultural centre in Onitsha, can you throw more light on it?
The plan is just at the concept stage, but the idea is to have a museum and culture centre in Onitsha, where people can go and relax and feel at ease and appreciate the culture of the whole world.
Culled from Vanguard 9th Oct.2015.