Posthumous honour for first female professor of fine Arts in Nigeria

Africa’s renowned artist, Dr. Bruce Onobreakpeya, has commended the wife of Akwa Ibom State governor, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, for establishing a modern art gallery for the University of Uyo in memory of her late mother and the first female fine and industrial artist, late Professor Stella Idiong. At the official inauguration of the gallery at the main campus of the university, Onobrakpeya said the gesture was deserving considering the contributions of late Idiong towards her vision and passion for art.

In his opening remarks, Onobrakpeya said he was particularly happy to be part of the process of immortalising Idiong because she was one of their own.

“It is an honour and privilege to be the chairman of the commissioning of an art gallery and commemorative exhibition in honour of late Professor Stella Bernard Idiong here at the University of Uyo. Idiong was a great teacher with a vision. She knew the important role that art galleries play in the education of artists and actually established the gallery of art in the Department of Fine and Industrial Arts here in the University of Uyo in order to encourage art exhibitions.

“With the commemorative exhibition, the function of art gallery in the University of Uyo has started to be made manifest. University of Uyo should be proud to be one of the very few universities in Nigeria to establish their own art gallery. I hope that in the future this gallery, which is being commissioned today, would be made a full fledged department with its own director.”

According to him, late Stella Idiong’s participation and innovation during several workshops she attended were of great inspiration to the community. Onobrakpeya donated one of his art works ‘Thanksgiving’ to the new art gallery, saying the donation was to thank God for late Idiong’s contributions to humanity.

“We are grateful to the family of late Idiong for this magnanimous gift,” he continued. “We pray that the legacy of Stella Idiong as teacher, lecturer, educationist and fine artist may last forever!”

In her goodwill message, president of Female Arts Association of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Rosemary Akande, also commended the donors of the art gallery, and urged other Nigerians to emulate the gesture of honouring the memory of female artists in such encouraging way.

Also, the Vice Chancellor of University of Uyo, Professor Eniefiok Essien, commended the governor’s wife and the late Obong Bernard Idiong’s family for honouring their mother’s memory with a state-of-the-art gallery and a befitting art show. He noted that the late iconic artist initiated so many programmes in the Department of Fine and Industrial Arts, where she held sway.

“Indeed, this is an event that will be remembered as history,” Essien said. “For available records in the university, late Stella Idiong was one of the foundation staff of the Department of Fine and Industrial Art. She won many distinctions and awards in the field of arts. She taught and propagated arts in all levels of education within and outside Nigeria. She was the first female professor of arts in Nigeria.

“For her numerous contributions to Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria as a whole, it is laudable that this art gallery has been created to immortalize her. I assure the donors of this art gallery and the university community that we shall continue to improve on the quality and content of this gallery. We believe that in future visual art exhibited in this gallery will attain a global height thus uplifting the University of Uyo.”

In her remarks, the wife of the governor and the donor of the gallery, Lady Martha Udom Emmanuel, thanked those who supported the family to ensure the project was completed and expressed the hope that the gallery would facilitate collaboration between teachers and students.

“By establishing this art gallery, we have established an enabling environment for the development of painting, sculpture as well as
developing the graphics of this department for social and economic gains. I, therefore, urge that this gallery should be taken good care of. I
want to appreciate the VC, and Head of Department of Fine and Industrial Art for granting us the permission and space to build this gallery.”

While declaring the gallery open, governor Udom Emmanuel assured the VC and the entire Governing Council of the university that the money needed to connect the facility to the national grid would be made available immediately.

He particularly commended the VC for the peace witnessed on campus, saying, “And whenever you see peace of this nature, it is leadership. I thank the Governing Council of this university for this honour done to a great woman, who touched lives and meant so much to a lot of people, who are still living and who can bear testimony to the quality of life that she lived. My administration will continue to support this university in other ways.”

Dignitaries from outside and within the state present at the commissioning were Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, wife of Enugu State governor, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, Senator Anietie Okon, chairman, Lagos chapter, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Mr. Oliver Enwonwu among others.

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