Nothing primitive here: In conversation with Nigerian cutlery sculptor Abinoro Akporode

LUCY GITHUGO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

THE first thing that welcomes you to Block 75 on Abesan Estate road in Ipaja, Lagos, is a lion, a horse, an owl and an eagle- these sculptures stand guard at the entrance gate.

This is the ArtbyCollins Studio, owned by the Nigerian artist Abinoro Akporode Collins.

Inside, we are met with a captivating menagerie of expressive creatures made from spoons, forks and knives. From animals and birds to humans and fantastical creatures, the studio is a museum of sorts.

“This is not just my studio, It’s also my office and workshop where I and my assistants spend a lot of hours creating and displaying our works for our potential clients, gallerists, collectors and art lovers in the city,” Akporode says.

Abinoro is an internationally recognised sculptor whose works have featured in exhibitions across Africa, Europe, Asia, the United States, and the Middle East.

In 2019, he firmly imprinted his name among Africa’s top creatives with his unique sculpture–Cosmic Man–which fetched him US$30,000. But that wasn’t his first rodeo.

The 38-year-old debuted in 2012 while studying Art and Design at Auchi polytechnic in Edo State, Nigeria. His use of cutlery to create sculptures was inspired by research he conducted after his lecturer probed students to curve pieces from repurposed materials. He discovered that spoons could be used to create birds’ feathers through his research.

He created his first piece– a cockerel that used about 12 dozen spoons he picked from the trash.

But growing up in Agbarho village in Delta State, Nigeria, the sculptor went through a school system that taught that African tradition was primitive while that from the West was presented as the ultimate creativity and hallmark of civility.

“There’s a need to showcase African art in new angles because there’s rich culture and heritage in the continent which has yet to be explored and appreciated. Our history books are mostly written by non-Africans who don’t know what stands for us and thus represent our art as primitive,” said Abinoro.

For Abinoro, sculpturing is also spiritual.

“sculpture explores the idea of man and the cosmic world, the forces that control existence, time, the beginning of all life and why we all exist and all-natural phenomenon,” he said.

For many African creatives like Abinoro, their work is cut out. He, for instance, uses his social media platforms, where he has over 10,000 followers, to change the often distorted and misrepresented narrative of African art.

Femi Williams, an art collector and gallerist at Iwalewa Gallery of Art in Nigeria, is one of Abinoro’s clients.

“Abinoro’s artworks have been good business to me. For instance, I have recently sold six of pieces at between 1.5 to 3 million Nigerian Naira,” he added.

Femi says he recently bought three other sculptures from Abinoro for his four galleries in Lagos.

Ato Arinze, Art expert and artists’ manager in Lagos, says Abinoro’s use of cutlery pieces to create sculptures is “very unique that has not been used by any other artists globally.”

Arinze has been a sculptor for 30-plus years and has a host of sculptural commissions to his credit, including the bust of the first President of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikwe.

“Abinoro’s art is unique, something I’ve not seen in the sculpting world. His sculptures are very expressive and can pass the message more than other forms of art,” he added.

Abinoro is happy that his talent has been recognised, saying University art students are often referred to his ArtbyCollins studio for training and internship.

And his advice to the youth and other artists: “Use your raw talent; it is your asset. For instance, art is what’s feeding me, and I’m proud of it. If you have a talent or gift that you can use to amaze the world, use it.”






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