Historic African artwork goes on show in Sunderland

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VIBRANT African artworks dating back more than 50 years will be displayed on Wearside.

The eye-catching exhibition, on loan to Sunderland University, will go on show at the National Glass Centre.

The exhibition launch is being hosted by Northumbrian Water and WaterAid on Monday.

It comes after the venue was given permission to display the collection, which is owned by Dr Tim Brennan, an international artist, curator and associate dean at the university.

Graeme Thompson, dean of Arts, Design and Media at the university, said: “This is a remarkable exhibition capturing a particular moment in time.

“We are thrilled we now have an opportunity to travel back to Nigeria to try and discover what happened to these brilliant artists.”

In the summer of 1960, Dr Brennan’s parents, Barbara and Martin, moved to Lafia in Nigeria to work as teacher trainers.

Over the next two years they worked with local students at St Augustine’s Teacher Training College producing the artworks.

The couple based their teaching on the ideas of the role of art in education and the collection created by the aspiring Nigerian teachers described everyday village life in a positive and vibrant manner.

Following their deaths, the collection was passed to Dr Brennan and now he is following in his parents’ footsteps, returning to the African community to trace the painters who produced this vivid chronicle of Lafian life.

WaterAid, which has several projects in Nigeria, and the charity’s supporter Northumbrian Water, are backing Dr Brennan’s project called Tracing Lafia.

Dr Brennan said: “We are delighted that Northumbrian Water’s support has brought us so far in such a short period of time.”

He added: “The paintings which evolved from the direct personal experiences of local students.

“They were encouraged to ignore Western influence, embrace their local environment and create artworks through free expression.

“They developed a great confidence in their own work which resulted in aesthetically-beautiful, vibrant paintings.

“This collection of paintings was completed 50 years ago by third-year students who will now be in their late 60s and 70s.

“Only local materials were available, which included recycled paper from cement bags and the paints were made from food and leaf dyes, hair dye, washing powder, soil and clay.

“Boot polish, henna, chalk and charcoal provided the means to draw.

“The aptitude of the Nigerians coupled with the expertise of the teaching transcended these limitations to produce this original and accomplished collection.”

Twelve of the original paintings will be on display to the public at the glass centre, from Monday until July 5.

You can support the work of WaterAid in Nigeria by purchasing a limited edition print from the collection.

•For more information contact Dianne Chaganis via email: Dianne.chaganis@sunderland.ac.uk

Twitter: @sunechokaty