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First of all, I would like to thank the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the entire Lagos State Government and the consultants Terra Kulture who invited Polystyrene Industries Ltd to design and construct this monumental piece of artwork.
I was in the FCT yesterday and they were all talking of the great significance of what the Lagos State Government is doing in creating awareness of our arts and culture. Creating monuments and memorials needs to be part of our urban policy and urban design. Not only does it enliven communities, but these works of art serve as an expression of common community values and preserve the heritage of our country.
What was the concept behind the sculpture?
When we were asked by Terra Kulture to carry out our interpretation of this great man, our first course was to research him further. Pa Awolowo was a great reader and thinker and this is the aspect of him that we wanted to capture. Awo had mental magnitude, he recognised that in this changing world brain power as opposed to brawn was where we must invest, especially in the youth. That is why he extolled education and a minimum wage and the benefits of this vision are seen throughout this nation.
The sitting posture of the new monument, keeps him in good company. The statue of arguably the most famous of the American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was done with him sitting majestically. It was this majesty that we sought to capture in our depiction of him. A leader of men. A standing Awo has been done several times before. Our philosophy is not to copy but to create original works of art.
We only feel joy when we see the droves of people who have been making their way to its location to take pictures alongside this great man. That was the intention of Lagos State and that is what we hoped that we would assist Lagos State to achieve.
This is community art that we hope will create attachment and pride in one’s community and a desire to make things better for all. We also hope that it inspires all citizens to read about this great man and learn lessons from what he was able to achieve. Our youth should be trying to implement all the good things that they learn from great leaders. As a result of this sculpture I also have learnt so much of what this great son of Nigeria achieved and sacrificed on behalf of Nigeria. I am ecstatic that in all the noise, no one has said that it does not look like him!
There has also been much talk of his shoes and the fact that they are laced. Pa Awolowo did also wear shoes with laces but to be very honest it was because of the detail that we wanted to put into the sculpture that we chose to sculpt laced shoes. It is an expression of our art and attention to detail. We never foresaw that it would create such controversy. Our intention was to show that his were large shoes to fill.
We feel that we have participated in something that is home-grown and celebrates our own. This is what we have to do to create awareness, inspire and give confidence to our youth. Can you imagine the kind of confidence a Mandela, Martin Luther King and even our Barack Obama have given to the black race and to humanity as a whole?
We have local champions here and I am delighted that Lagos State and their wonderful Governor Ambode see it fit to honour a national leader, even though he was not from Lagos State.
This is the kind of inclusion that we must have in our country if Nigeria is to be great. We must celebrate our own.
HAMZA ATTA 2017.