Art and design is one of the numerous courses some polytechnics in Nigeria offer. It is a two-tier programme in which the polytechnics train graduates at National Diploma (ND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) levels. The first tier of the polytechnic Art and Design programme is National Diploma programme and it runs for two years. Its curriculum is tailored towards the production of creative, skilled general artists and designers for private and public enterprises (NBTE, 1991). The artists and designers trained in the programme are at the same time equipped to be self-employed. In other words, polytechnic art curriculum is an educational programme that stresses self-reliance. The extent to which the above goals are realised is largely dependent on how well the curriculum is implemented. The content of the curriculum was based on the increasing needs and aspirations of the country. It was specifically structured towards achieving the goals and objectives highlighted in the National Policy on Education (NPE), particularly as it concerns polytechnics and colleges of technology. The objectives therein emphasize skill acquisition for practical proficiency in the trainees’ areas of specialisation in other to help them perform well in their areas of employment. Thus, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) states that the course trains artists and designers for public and private enterprises and creates opportunities for self-employment (NBTE, 1991).
This paper focuses on National Diploma (Art and Design) graduates in entrepreneurial development. In other words, it evaluates the level of the graduates’ skills, relying on the quality of their creative works which is a pointer to their ability in delivering satisfactory products and services to their prospective clients, in order to determine how technically equipped for self-reliance they are in line with the NBTE objectives. Moreover, students’ performance in their places of Industrial Attachment under the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) was also evaluated.
Art and Design Programme: A Cursory Glance
Most of the polytechnics offering Art and Design are usually faced with the problem of low enrolment of qualified candidates into the programme. Several reasons may be seen as contributing to this dearth of qualified candidates for admission into the Departments of Fine and Applied Arts. Some of the reasons include non-teaching of fine art as a subject in many primary and secondary schools in the country as well as inadequacy and, in many cases, unavailability of qualified art teachers and educational facilities (Usman, 2011). Mbahi (1997) holds the view that traditional negative assumptions among teachers, students, parents and administrators about the value and role of art in the society constitute the major factor that militate against the teaching and development of art in Nigeria. This is supported by Oloidi (1989) who believes that the colonial concept of African art as negative has made some people deride art and consider the artist as somebody who has little ability for any serious intellectual pursuit or academic pre-occupation.
In other words, the artist was regarded as a dullard who trusted only in the ability of his hands and could not fit in well in other professions. This misconception has continued to create wrong impressions about art, especially in the minds of many who are uninformed about the abundant potential benefits the profession holds. These misunderstandings make some parents become sceptical about the gains inherent in the profession, and as a result, they discourage their wards from choosing art as a subject in school (Oloidi, 1989).
However, many people, particularly misinformed and uninformed individuals, whose disposition toward art is usually negative, clamour for courses they think have base in technology. This is because they are aware that the Nigerian Government emphasizes the need for technological development in the country with the belief that it is the clear route to a sustainable national development. But such individuals fail to realise that art is the foundation of technology. The word technology, according to Encyclopedia Americana (1979), is coined from two Greek words – “techne” (meaning art or craft) and “logos” (meaning word or speech). Practically, technology means design and design is art (Oloidi, 2011). The Nigerian Government stresses the crucial role of technology in national development in relation to its policies and commitment toward the training of manpower that can become self-reliant. Art and Design programme of course trains artists and designers who can become self-employed. In support of this, Oloidi (2011) aptly notes that:
Fine art graduates or practictioners can be self-employed, and, in fact, can be employers instead of being employees. … With little or no financial support or without any capital, a fine art graduate can set up a business infrastructure, in form of workshop or art studio which usually attracts heavy patronage (p. 71).
Incidentally, the Nigerian labour market is tensed up with lamentations by multitudes of unemployed youths who roam the streets every day. This has actually become a worrisome situation for the nation, particularly for the government which has launched a campaign to improve science and technical education for national development through technological advancement and industrialisation. Interestingly enough, Fine and Applied Arts echo industrialisation. Painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, graphics, textile and fashion designs coalesce into industrial opportunities that have potential for making a remarkable turnaround in the national economy.
National Diploma in Art and Design programme trains graduates who, apart from being qualified to work in industries that need the services of artists and designers, can become self-employed by setting up their own art/photography studios or art galleries. Some of them even employ studio assistants.
Review of Selected National Diploma Students’ Art Works
Works selected and discussed here cover the major areas of art practice that National Diploma students of Art and Design are usually exposed to in the process of their training. The areas include sculpture, painting, graphics, ceramics and textile. Works in this collection were chosen from the students’ class assignments and final year studio projects from the Departments of Fine and Applied Arts, Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu and Federal Polytechnic, Oko respectively. These two institutions are the notable polytechnics in the South East geopolitical zone of Nigeria that offer Art and Design.
Works analysed in this paper are ideas the students developed from their socio-cultural experiences and produced in various media. Selection of these works was based on variety of considerations which include themes, media, style, and content. The works are to help in giving some insight into the extent the goals and objectives of the National Diploma in Art and Design programme are achieved, considering the NBTE projection that the diplomates, at the end of their training, “should be able to: assist effectively in running art and design studios; analyse and solve simple problems related to art and design; and maintain, select and manipulate tools and equipment used in the profession …” (NBTE, 1991: iii).
Amailo Oluchukwu’s concrete sculpture (Fig. 1) is an ND practical project work portraying a woman probably coming home from farm with her three children. She is carrying some fruits on her head and a baby on her back. By her sides are her weeping children whose faces are dotted with drips of tears and mucus flowing from their noses. She holds the very tender one in her right hand while she supports the load with the left. The other child grips the mother’s wrapper as they walk along.
In the work, Amailo captured the misery that paints the faces of many rural dwellers, particularly those who failed to plan their families well. The woman is barely clad, in worn-out cloth, and her children are naked and pallid. In fact, wretchedness, poverty and frailty are depicted in the work in such a strong visual term that the viewer, on seeing the work, immediately realises the consequences of ill planned family. Although the work seems to lack proper finishing, it may, however, be argued that it is a ploy to agitate the viewer into seeing the roughness and paleness that lack of family planning brings.
Most societies preach against drug abuse. This is because of its devastating effect on both the individuals who abuse drugs and suffer the torments of addiction that it brings along, and on the society in which the addicts operate. Youths are usually more vulnerable to drug and alcohol addiction. This informs Okoye’s idea in mounting a campaign against drunkenness and hemp smoking using the sculptural image of a devastated young man (see Fig. 2). The work is slightly larger than life, and it was produced in concrete. It bears a bronze colour which the student achieved with enamel paints. Formally, he controlled the drapery and anatomy fairly well. The folds and creases of the jean trouser are appropriately rendered.
The message Okoye intends to pass across to the viewer is visually expressed on the face and on the rest of the body. Even the posture of the figure tends to be more revealing. In fact, one could really see a shadow of self-bewitchment and an agony of lost dignity persecuting the Drunkard who poses with liquor under his armpit and a cigar or hemp between his fingers. What perhaps used to be robust muscular forms of the drunkard seems to be giving way gradually to a pallid skinny frame. This is the apparent harmful effect many drinkers grapple with, and which the student has used the artistic skills he acquired in the course of his training to represent sculpturally.
The sculptures of Ezechi Chibuike, Chiaghanam Chukwuka, Victory Uzoechi and Maduabuchi Obinna (Figs. 3 – 6) are visual expressions of people and activities found in the traditional Igbo society. They are reflections of the students’ cultural experiences recreated in the round and in relief with concrete. While Chibuike (Fig. 3) portrayed a music maker performing in a frenzied manner with his horn, Chukwuka (Fig. 4) captured an exuberant young lady seemingly fired by a melodious tune as she takes musical steps. The dancer was presented in an appropriate traditional dancing costume. Her pose lures the view into an imaginative arena where skillful dance steps synchronise with pleasantly blending notes. In effect, the works highlight the fine points of music and dance as aspect of the people’s culture.
Victory Uzoechi and Mmaduabuchi Obinna (Figs. 5 and 6) depicted warriors. The two works were done in fibreglass and concrete/metal respectively. While Uzoechi’s piece is in the round, Mmaduabuchi’s The Warriors is in relief. Mmaduabuchi explored and managed his media well to the extent that demonstrates he is in control of his material. The work is a portable framed sculpture composition of about 120cm x 60cm x 7cm designed to hang on a wall like a piece of painting. It shows a scene of fierce fighting brought to visual crescendo by a suspended dagger clenched in one of the fighter’s raised right hand. In the background are helpless figures that seem to be wailing, cursing and waiting for the knife to descend. On the other hand, Uzoechi’s Warrior appears to be calling on his gods as he prepares for war. The work is bigger than life-size. However, the student’s skill in working with cement is not in doubt. His efforts as it concerns precision of anatomy and finishing are commendable.
It was observed that students were able to generate concepts and realise them based on wide range of experiences they have had within and outside the school environments. Their works demonstrate this. They have also proved that the students have the ability to initiate ideas and actualise them in art and design as well as appropriately select and manipulate tools and equipment used in art practice. Figs. 7 – 9, for example, are students’ projects which show how well the students can use both tools and materials to articulate their ideas in sculpture. In Fig. 7, Umeh Chukwuma sculpturally immortalized the foremost Afro-Beat musician, Fela Anikulakpo Kuti. With cement, Umeh captured the musician as he was playing on the saxophone which the student appropriated using discarded motorcycle exhaust pipe. The
production of the work did not only entail modelling, it also involved welding.
Fables are popular particularly among the Igbo traditional folks. They are usually told especially to children at homes, in schools and in some social gatherings to entertain as well as educate them. Akpunonu’s Errand Dog (Plate 8) is probably conceived from one of such tales that paint verbal imageries of dogs and their adventures. The student used concrete to capture a robust and active dog carrying away a piece of cloth. She exhibited a good understanding of proportion and anatomy in the modelling of the animal, which she finished with a befitting fur-like texture. The dexterity with which she handled the work suggests that she is able to analyse and solve simple problems related to sculpture, and that she is equipped with skills that can enable her assist effectively in running a sculpture studio.
It is also notable that in sculpture the students explored beyond the use of other media and methods such as clay, concrete and modelling. They equally carried out some experiments in welding and construction. Liberty (Plate 9) for example, is an ND II project work executed in metal. The work appears to be expressing freedom – freedom for women. Universally, women are increasingly mounting gender sensitisation campaigns and waging wars against what they call “marginalization” of their folks by men in politics and other facets of life. Their struggle has generated many different terms such as “women emancipation”, “women abuse”, “gender inequality”, “women empowerment”, “girl-child education”, and many more, which have formed different fronts in the campaigns for women liberation by various individuals and non-governmental groups. It is these struggles that the sculpture piece seems to stand for. The work depicts a vibrant young lady shouting and holding up a gun. Both her right and left hands are fitted with short lengths of chains, suggesting emancipation.
Formally, the work has well defined features. It was constructed with subtly creased metal sheets which aesthetically helped its textural quality. The texture was further enhanced with intermittent tack welding on some strategic areas. Her legs were crafted with iron rods and flat metal bars, which were arranged in alternating patterns. Some rods and bars were also brought in on parts of the clothes to create raised decorative designs. These were complemented with the perforations made with welding rods on the metal sheets, and the negative spaces created in the process of welding together the component parts. Finally, the work was given a patinated aluminium colour effect with enamel paints. Thus, the student demonstrated an appreciable level of skills and knowledge of welding techniques.
As a means for public enlightenment campaign in the promotion of government and private programmes, the students also explored techniques in poster design and production. Fig. 10 advocates for child immunization as a key way of fighting infant mortality and saving the future generations from deadly diseases and their consequences. On the background of the poster is a faded image of a healthy baby, probably looking and hoping for a better future. But in front of him, on the foreground, is a silhouette of a disabled child supporting himself with braces and clutches as he limps. In the poster, created with gauche on cardboard paper, the art student perhaps wants to inform the viewer that it is through vaccination that man can kick poliomyelitis and other severe infectious diseases out of the way of children for tomorrow’s healthy work force.
Fig. 11 is a design produced for the promotion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The designer exhibited some proficiency in handling the brush work and colour application. The poster tends to get the viewers to think about the world soccer event along different lines. For instance, besides thinking that the youth in the poster has positioned himself for heading the ball in the air, a viewer may also reason that the young man is gazing at the ball and meditating on the prospects of engaging it in a spectacular display.
Fig. 12 is an attempt by an art student to advertise a brand of fruit juice drink called Udara. In the colourful poster, he embedded a bottle of udara juice in a splash of milk-coloured liquid made against the background. The bottle is juxtaposed with some well-ripened local apples (udara) which tends to stimulate in the viewers appetite for udara juice. In fact in the work, and of course in the other graphic designs, the students have demonstrated the relevance of creative designers in communication and dissemination of information.
Besides, the students’ works in printmaking reveal some evidence of proficiency in translating the students’ ideas into concrete imageries via creative printing media. Figs. 13 and 14 are monochromatic linocuts which the students produced using linoleum materials. Although the prints appear quite rigid, they readily convey to the viewer the concreteness of the figures and objects therein depicted in a manner that is characteristic of many successful prints.
The ceramic works in Figs. 15 – 20 show the students’ abilities in exploring clay for the production of utilitarian wares that exhibit formal aesthetic qualities. The vessels in Fig. 15 indicate that the students have acquired some level of proficiency which enabled them to manipulate ceramics equipment (potter’s wheel) to throw them. Fig. 16 and 17 are glazed, hand-built decorative vessels. The producers have displayed some proficiency in modelling them. In fact, in ceramics production generally, the students have not only explored clay and glazing methods; they have also produced works which manifest some convincing evidence that they were exposed to different ceramic techniques and processes. Ugo Ebee (Fig. 18), Sacrifice (Fig. 19) and Milk Maid (Fig. 20) are examples of ceramic-sculptures (terracotta and glazed wares) produced by the students. The works reveal the extent the students have been able to integrate aesthetics into functional products. Actually, the level of artistic skills the students have demonstrated in their ceramic wares shows the extent their contributions can be useful in the industrial sector. It also refers to the extent they can be self-reliant, when given the necessary support.
The students have also explored some methods and materials of textile design and production. They were exposed to tie and dye technique, batik making, weaving processes and printing on fabrics. Figs. 21 – 23 show some design patterns for textile production which the students made using gauche on cardboard papers. In the works, they employed locally found objects in creating design motifs which, in several ways, reflect their culture.
Figs. 24 – 26 are tie and dye, batik and prints produced by the students. They are variegated textile designs which took the students through experimentation not only in the techniques and styles of tying and dying fabrics, but also through the process of selection of good colour schemes. In weaving, the students also exploited different weaving materials and apparatuses which yielded textiles and crafts of good quality and which also afforded them the opportunity of gaining the fundamental skills in weaving technology (see Fig 27).
In all, the textiles are testimonies to the artistic skills which the students have imbibed and which the textile industries can harness. They are also evidence that the students have acquired some requisite skills that will enable them become self reliant upon graduation.
Mother and Child is a theme which many visual artists from different backgrounds have explored and exploited using assorted media. It has also captured the interests of many students who have variously explored it at different levels. Fig. 28, however, portrays a village scene where a woman is seen playing the motherly role of looking after the little kids. The student used gouache on embossed paper which gives the painting a canvas-like texture quality. Colours were laid in patches in some areas, and subtly blended in others. The same approach was employed by Adimora (Fig. 29) whose sky is a smooth combination of white and blue. The foreground was rendered with shades of browns which were lightened up at intervals with patches of brilliant sky blue. Although there is no consistency in the rendition of the figures (some are very elongated while others are not), the way the student engaged the figures with activities has activated the scene. It makes one to feel the pulse of the street, visually.
In all, the students demonstrated that they have acquired some necessary skills for manipulating their tools and materials. They exhibited good understanding of perspective and an appreciable level of proficiency in draughtsmanship, modelling, carving, throwing, painting and weaving. In fact their works are a testimony to the self-employment potentials being generated by ant and design departments, especially in Nigerian polytechnics. Students of the Programme in Industrial Attachment
The Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) is a skill training programme designed to expose students to industrial work situation, and as well offer them the opportunity of acquiring industry-based skills which their institutions may not afford them (Wodi & Dokubo, 2009). It was introduced to help the trainees of the programme acquire sufficient practical background skills in their fields of study, and provide students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge in real work situation, thereby bridging the gap between theory and practice (Information and Guideline for SIWES, 2002).
For the purpose of this paper, thirty (30) ND students on SIWES programme were traced to their places of industrial attachment for evaluation. Their SIWES log books were examined while the students themselves and their employers were interviewed to ascertain the level of the students’ performance. Analyses of responses by the ND graduates’ employers revealed that the employers overwhelmingly rated the graduates’ work performance highly satisfactory. They agreed that the graduates discharge art and design related responsibilities assigned to them fast and very well. The log books showed evidence of the students’ activities in their respective work places. Thus the analyses indicated that the standard of art works they produced was high enough as to enable them become self-reliant.
This paper has cursorily glanced at the major objectives of the National Board for Technical Education regarding the polytechnic Art and Design programme. It has also noted that though many people deride art as a profession, it still stands as one of the few courses that have multiplicity of employment potentials its specialised areas of painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphics, textiles and fashion design. Since the National Diploma in Art and Design programme produces skilled general artists and designers who, with little or no financial support, can set up a business venture and become self-employed, Governments, through ministry of education, should capitalise on this prospect to create favourable opportunities for more Nigerian youths to become self-reliant. It should do this by urging the polytechnics, which do not offer Art and Design programme, to mount it. Governments, individuals and relevant bodies that own and run polytechnics should adequately fund and equip the departments.
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