By Francis Sadhere

As part of its efforts to bring succor to Niger Delta Youths, the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in partnership with a Non- Governmental Foundation, Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, have trained 60 Delta youths from six states of the region in various art skills.

The graduating students in a group photograph with the three monarchs and others, SPDC staff, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya (3rd right) and others.

In his address at the graduation ceremony of the 60 students yesterday at the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation Training Facility, Agbarha-Otor, Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, the MD, SPDC, Mr. Osagie Okonbor who was represented by Engr. Dennis Oyakhire, charged the graduating students to go into the world and impart their knowledge to others.

He said the essence of the partnership was to bring succor to the youths of Niger Delta, and help them become self sufficient so that they can take care of themselves and their immediate families.

Mr. Okonbor added that the partnership between Shell and the foundation would mark the beginning of a milestone in the development of young artist in the region, adding that he is hoping that the artistic skills they have learnt from the foundation will encourage their entrepreneur spirits and spur them on a fast track of success.

While thanking Professor Onobrakpeya for providing direct instruction and mentorship to the young talented artists, Mr. Okonbor described Professor Onobrakpeya as a living legend who is responsible for the renaissance of contemporary art in Nigeria.

He said: “Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya is a world renowned printmaker, painter, and sculptor. He is also one of Africa’s best known and highly respected artists. He has been described as a living legend that is responsible for the renaissance of contemporary art in Nigeria. Professor Onobrakpeya’s career spans many decades with exhibition credits that include the Tate Modern Gallery in London, the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., USA among others.”

He said under the mentorship of Professor Onobrakpaye the “Art of the Delta” program of SPDC, has provided talented artist from the Niger Delta region with advanced skills in creative arts such as photography, textile, bead making, ceramics and drawing, stressing that artists were deemed to be the most talented, promising artists in the Niger Delta.

He further said that each of the graduating students will receive starter packs at the end of the programme to further support their endeavors.

Earlier in his opening speech, the Founder of Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation Training Facility, Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya, thanked Shell for Partnering with his foundation, just as he appealed for more spirited individuals and organization to emulate Shell in supporting the foundation so as to enable it train more youths in the region.

He said: “The Harmattan Workshop has improved and affected positively the lives of many people. We are therefore encouraged to strive to make it sustainable by soliciting for help. The structures and training and maintenance are capital intensive. Our first appeal therefore, is for funds to enable us hold the workshops many session in a year. Right now the space and facilities are underutilized.”

Professor Onobrakpeya explained that the special art training program sponsored by shell in collaboration with his institution was the second session of the 17th Harmattan Workshop, adding that the workshop is an informal art education set up and dedicated to the development of arts and culture.

He said the programme which was initiated in 1998 has successfully conducted 17 annual programmes that have turned out 1,500 beneficiaries which include university students, teachers, and professionals. Prof. Onobrakpeya noted that many of the graduates were drawn from the local communities, some of whom he said, may not have had the opportunity for any form of art education.

While listing some of the gains achieved by the Harmattan Workshop over the years to include; sharing of skills and ideas, transferred skills, friendship and networking, job creation among others, Prof. Onobrakpeya stressed that the location of the training facility in Agbarah-Otor has put her in the world map, hoping that some day it may become UNESCO heritage site like Oshogbo.

On his part, the Ovie of Agbarah-Otor Kingdom, HRM Richard Oghenevwogaga Ebelle, the Okorefe 1of Agbarah-Otor Kingdom, thanked SPDC for partnering with the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, adding that the partnership has taken a lot of youths out of the unemployment market.

Also present at the occasion were the Ohworode of Olomu Kingdom, HRM, Ovie R.L. Ogbon (JP), Ogoni-Oghoro 1 of olomu Kingdom, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Agbogidi Inamaechi Achebe, representative of the Delta State Commissioner for Youths Development, Comrade Omolobi Newuwumi, the Rector, Ibru Center, Barr. Ernest Enoha among others.