Awo's New Statue:Why People Are Against It | The Arts-Muse Fair

In its wisdom to adequately represent the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in a new statute, Poly 3D Art Studios, commissioned by the Lagos State Government for the work decided that the figure of the former Premier of the defunct Western region should be artistically presented in a sitting position rather than a standing posture and to have it wearing a Timberland boots to boot!

This artistic sense of the sculptors to hide Awolowo’s feet in a laced boot and not shoes appears not to have currency with many admirers of the late politician and lawyer. Since the 20-foot-tall sculpture was unveiled last week in Ikeja by the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, it has received many knocks that could literally knock it down to its feet.    

The idea behind the work, according to Hamza Atta, the CEO of Poly 3D Art Studios in an interview with the City People, was for his team to come up with an original work of art, devoid of copying the existing art works of Awolowo; and to bring out the mental magnitude of the Sage to inspire youths to greatness.

The 20ft high sculpture is made of steel and polystyrene, coated with hard coat for weatherproofing, and painted with bronze paint that took three months to complete.
However, critics are not impressed with this statue, which they believe fell short of correctly representing the high status of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Many took to the social media to lash out at both the sculptors and the Lagos Sate government, calling the statue of Awolowo wearing a laced boots as an affront on the personality of the sage and the culture he was proud to represent while he was alive.

In its defence, the Lagos State Government through the Special Adviser to the Governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Adebimpe Akinsola  took to the state government’s official facebook page to explain that many previous sculptures have shown other personal traits of the sage, particularly those that portray him as a ‘dogged fighter’ standing with his famous sign of victory. She said the decision to have him sitting down in boots in this new sculpture alludes to his multi-dimensional eminence.

The government compared the new sculpture to the likes of Abraham Lincoln in his sitting position designed by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli Brothers.

According to Mrs. Akinsola, instead of focusing only on the artistic depiction of the late Awo, critics should equally consider the intention of the Lagos State Government to inspire the young generations about his legacies with the statue.It is a piece of artwork expressing the Artist’s impression of the late Sage and not a photograph” she said.

Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, one of the strident critics of this statue reacted to the Lagos state government’s  defence in her comment to the facebook post, “ This explanation is lame and contrived. This piece of work is a cultural assault. A man of Chief Obafemi Awolowo's standing should be sculpted by Nigeria's best and brightest not a polystyrene contractor and marketer. He should have been done in Granite, Limestone, sandstone or even alabaster. What are those cheap badly glued bathroom tiles for? How about the atrocious lettering on the work? This kind of work should outlast generations. This lame defense is a coating on mediocrity. I am ashamed of this. You can yield to popular opinion and pull it down or double down and grandstand.”

Another critic, Tayo Maxwell, in his comment also dismissed the new sculptor as below standard  “The govt people can say whatever they want to but the former sculpture is way better that this piece of cement, sand and paint put together. That's by popular opinion and not just because of the timberland laced shoes.Has Awolowo become a subject of some artist's abstract imagination?

Peter Akin Babayemi, commenting too, explains the reason for the seemingly public condemnation of the statue “I'm of the opinion that the general public reacted within the context of they want to see in their national hero- Awolowo, who is no longer a family property. Any work of art that needed to be explained to the general public, the concepts and professional intrigues no longer serve the purpose of the general public”

Meanwhile, the family of the late sage has applauded the statue and appreciated the Lagos State Government for the honour done to the Awolowo family. According to Mr Segun Awolowo (Jnr) “I love the statue and I think Hamza (the Sculptor) did justice to his memory. As for the large boot, I believe the symbolism is that his shoes are still too big to fill after all this while’’.