humanities, arts and culture

Name : Mr ONOBRAKPEYA, Paul Bruce, NNOM
Award Year : 2017
Conferred by : President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR


Mr. Bruce Paul Obomoyema Onobrakpeya (MFR), a man of multiple talents and impressive achievements, attended the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (NCAST), Zaria, from 1957-1961, obtaining the Dip. F.A. of the London University.

A world renowned artist, painter, and outstanding printmaker, he is also an art experimentalist and initiator of art forms.His prodigious and innovative contributions to African art have received acclaim both locally and internationally. His epistemology in relation to the visual arts charted a new course in the understanding and relevance of African Art in the contemporary world.

He held his first one-man Exhibition at Ughelli in 1959, and has never looked back since. Inspired by the legends, myths and philosophy of his Urhobo people, his works are now among the most sought after by collectors and curators all over the world. To date, he has participated in over 68 exhibitions in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, and his works are found in the most prestigious museums and galleries, such as the Vatican Museum in Rome, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C, the Suomi in Finland, and the Victory Museum in Baghdad, to mention a few. In 2016 some of his art pieces were acquired for the King of Morocco’s collection, while at home, his works decorate Important public places such as the Office of the President of Nigeria in Aso Rock and the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja.

Arguably the most resourceful and innovative African artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya discovered and pioneered the use of plastography, a technique by which designs are engraved on resin or plastic, inked and printed on another receptive surface—a technique now widely used by artists in Nigeria and abroad. In 1958, he initiated the annual Harmattan Workshop, aimed at empowering Nigerian youths, especially in the Niger Delta, to acquire skills in several diverse areas, such as bead-making, leather work, photography, textiles, painting, printmaking, blacksmithing, wood and stone carving, ceramics, and so on, as well as filming and musical recordings. The Workshop, which also offers scholarships to the indigent, has now become one of the most important training grounds for artists in Nigeria, as well as a flourishing tourist center to the benefit especially of the local community.

Bruce Onobrakpeya is a member of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) and has been our country’s worthy ambassador, having served as art consultant, resident guest artist, or Artist- in- Residence in many institutions and colleges abroad and Nigeria. It is not surprising therefore that, for all his work and innovations, Bruce Onobrakpeya has earned over 30 national and international awards and appointments, including a Silver Medal at the Fifth Triennial in India in 1982, and the SPANFEST Excellence Award – Lifetime Achievement Award in the Art, in 2013. In 2002, he was awarded the MFR (Member of the Order of the Republic of Nigeria) and in 2017, was given the honorary Doctor of Letters, by both the University of Ibadan and the Delta State University in 2017, where a new art gallery has also been dedicated to him.

President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is this genius of a man, regarded as one of Nigeria’s living treasures, this uncommon gift to our nation, of such towering intelligence and imagination, a man so copiously endowed and yet so humble in demeanor, this visionary of our times who has brought us such honor and respect that I have the rare honor to present to you for the conferment of the Nigerian National Order of Merit, NNOM for the 2017 award year.

African Arts
Onobrakpeya and the Harmttan workshop