Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Memoriam: Agbo Folarin and Gregory Isaacs

The light of our world shines dimmer with the deaths of two remarkable men, the Nigerian sculptor Agbo Folarin, and the Jamaican Reggae star Gregory Isaacs.

Agbo Folarin, who retired as a professor of art at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, was a leading artist of the renowned Ife School. His many sculptural commissions at Ife in no small way have defined, for many, the visual character the beautiful campus. A teacher of acclaimed artists and scholars, Folarin's place in the history of Nigerian art is assured. But thinking about a common problem of Nigerian artists, I worry what happens to the work he left behind and about his invaluable archives. I pray though there are few among his bereaved family who would take on the task of safeguarding the materials that will constitute the basis of future research on the life and work of the master sculptor.

Gregory Isaacs, the gentleman cool ruler who, despite long struggles with his personal demons, gave to reggae music its coolest riddims, its most romantic lyrics, its heart tingling rhymes. I cannot forget the days back in the Umuahia of my youth when my brother Ike and I struggled mightily to extract the bass riddims from Isaacs' (but also Black Uhuru, Marley, etc) sounds with the aid of earthen pots and primitive speakers, which was all we could afford. How so much I pined to weave my own version of the man's silk-threaded voice. Listening to him as I write this now, I cannot help but say: Lord a mercy!

Did the sun come out today?

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