Calabash design by Bruce Onobrakpeya

Bruce Onobrakpeya calabash inspired desigh

Bruce Onobrakpeya calabash inspired design

It is the Yoruba of Nigeria who pay the tribute written and translated below

Bi Onirese ko fin igba mo

eyi ti o tin fin ko le parun.

If Onirese refuses to do more calabash decorations those he has done can never perish

The tribute is also apt in Bruce Onobrakpeya’s case even though he remains tireless in his artistic search

Cornelius O. Adepegba


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Onobrakpeya Obi Omonedo

Painting by Onobrakpeya 1965

Painting by Onobrakpeya 1965

Family tree




Onobrakpeya Obi Omonedo a patriach (Odion and Oka-orho), father, grandfather and great grandfather was born about 1887 at Oghara, one of the largest of the villages of Agbarha-Otor, a sister clan to Ogor, Ughelli and Orogun which constitute Ohwohwa section of Urhobo, Delta State of Nigeria. He was the last and only male child amongst the three children born by his mother, Ovuomaaroro. He was the 4th and also the only male amongst his father’s four childrern. He died of old age at 112 years on 15th October 1999, as the drums and fireworks were being rehearsed to herald the 21st century. He was still on his feet, mentally alert and full of humour. Pa Onobrakpeya Omonedo missed the new century by only 76 days.

His long life which nearly traversed three centuries, witnessed changes (sometimes very painful) that have built up into modern day Nigeria. Being able to adapt to the turbulent changes is the secret of his longevity. In the process, Onobrakpeya did not lose the sense of who he was nor did he lose his African soul. He was a quintessential Urhobo man – cultured. knowledgable, creative, industrious, accomplished. generous but firm and principled. Among his peers in Urhobo pantheon of patriachs, was the late Chief Mukoro Mowoe who was three years his junior. Pre- eminent merchants/patriachs of the time were Bedekeremo of Kiagbodo and Nana of Ebrohimi (lsekiri).

He participated in the palm oil industry in Urhobo land and else- where in the Niger Delta region which was the proverbial vineyard of the palm produce business that sustained British trade in the area. He grew up when the Royal Niger Company (now UAC) held monopoly of the trade in the then Oil Rivers Proctectorate. Coincidentally. the region also hosts the black gold (mineral oil) that is the main revenue earner of the country. (Incidentally. Agbarha-Otor district like the rest of Urhobo land hosts one of the richest oil reservoirs in Africa. Its field operated by Shell has been mined for 4O years and the oil and gas seem inexhaustible.Thc palm oil industry which was dominated by the Urhobo. yielded products that were the prime attraction to the British that led to their early colonial foothold in the Niger Delta and the proc- lamatiorr of the Oil Rivers Protectorate and the subsequent amalgamation of Southern and Northern Nigeria in 1914 Lord Lugard.


Onobrakpeya lived through the period of unrest and trauma created by resistance of indigenous people to colonial authority. There was the 1897 Benin massacre and the invasion of Agbarha-Otor and the respective deportation of both the Benin monarch. – Oba Ovonrarnwen and Agbarha-Otor king. Ovie Oweh to Calabar. Both mornachs died in exile. He was ten years old when these calamities occurred. He was among the helpless children who had to escape death by taking refuge in dense fearful forests. Onobrakpeya also survived the world wide influenza of 1918 and the revolutionary uprising against poll tax of 1927 led by Urhobo nationalist. He also lived through the first World War (1914 – 1919) and the second (1939 – 1945). He witnessed the Nigerian nationalist struggles, that culminated in Independence in 1960. He was 73 that year. Like other Nigerians, Onobrakpeya was affected by instability of the 20th Century, economic down turns, lack of safety of life and property, threats of disintegration and balkanization. The most truamatic was the civil war of 1967 – 1970. He often related how he narrowly escaped death when Biafran airforce planes bombed Oluku near Benin City during the war. No less unsettling for the man of peace was the long period of military dictatorship which occupied nearly the last 36 years of his eventful life. As if to say my eyes have seen thy salvation Onobrakpeya died within six months of Nigeria’s return to democracy under President Olusegun Obasanjo.


As was the practice amongst people of his age (and in some way still persists till today), Onobrakpeya had to leave Oghara in quest of farm- land when he attained manhood. His first port of call was Ikoro in Ovia Local Government area of present Edo State. He returned after two years and relocated in 1928 to Avbemore in Oke-Eruvbi river Valley which is only a few kilometres to Ugbowo campus of the University of Benin.

From there he came to Oghara, got married to Emetore from Oghere family in Otorogba and had a son named Obomeyoma (Bruce). He took his young family to Avbemore. A few years after, he went back to Oghara to marry his second wife called Etakamrere. Each wife gave him 6 Children.

The Bini among whom he stayed at Avbemore called him Obi. probably because they found it difficult to pronounce the name. His status as a migrant farmer (restricted to the palm oil industry) changed when he took the Odion title there. There after, he enjoyed the privileges reserved for the indigenes. permission to cultivate whatever crop he wanted, including cash crops like rubber trees.


Onobrakpeya’s peers respected him for his craftmanship as a carver who produced figurines for tutelary spirits and household utilitarian products. He was very innovative. he designed and produced a wooden shoe which, like a crash helmet. aided the feet while threshing palm nuts in a wooden trough called Oko-edi in Urhobo language. His artistic works were produced at a leisure time, which took place only on the traditional day of rest (market days). The earning from their sale was able to supple- ment his revenue from the farm and this helped him to look after his family and train his children at school. Although Onobrakpeya resided and worked at Avbemore in Oke-Eruubi Valley from 1928 onwards, he maintained an unbroken link with the home land which he visited regularly during important occasions or during bi- annual festivals. He never missed the performance of the great 15 metre- tall trinity masquerade called Ekene, a festival celebrated every 15 to 20 years. This festival brings to Agbarha town every Agbarha son and daugh- ter in diaspora. Onobrakpeya built a house at Oghara and when his farming days were over, he retired there in 1969.


Onobrakpeya did not go to school, because there were none when he was growing up. The first schools were opened in Urhoboland in 1914. By “missing” school, he escaped the foreign religious inductrination which was the price one had to pay for attending schools built by early missionaries who were agents of the Colonial Government. Throughout his life. his religious obligations were met through traditional theology which believes in Osonobrughwe (Almighty God) who can be approached directly by the individuals or through ancestors and other divinities. Consequently. there was no conflict whatsoever when as the oldest man in Oghara. he by right assumed the title of Oka-Orho, a spiritual father (with the power to mediate between the living and the dead). The Oka-Orho as priest King also presides over village community affairs. Age also conferred on him the priesthood of Osuovwah. a deified l7th century founder of his kindred to whom he was able to trace his ancestry.

Questioned during his last days. how he rated his life. he thanked Oghene (God) and his Erhi (guardian angel) for giving a life that was vcrv fulfilled according to Urhobo world view. He enjoyed good health (omakpokpo) and peace (ufuoma). he was blessed with male and female children (emete ve emeshare) and wealth (ldolo). These three achievements constitute the tripodal order of accomplishment in Urhobo society


Our father attained old age (Otovwe). He was one of the oldest of the Six bilhon people on planet earth. What else can one ask for” We. his children. grand children. great grand children. members of the Osuovwah and Emesirue lineage. Oghara people. Agbarha people. Nigerians. friends and well-wishers. wish him a deserved place of honour in the ancestral world/heaven (Ojduvwu Erinvbin)

Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya

January 2000

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Harmattan Artists at 2012 Dakar Biennale

Dakar poster

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The Sun Award

DSC_2219Prof Bruce OnobrakpeyaHRHDSC_2195

Artistic icon and living legend Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya on 22nd of February attended the Sun Awards, where he was a recipient of the Man of the Year Award given for Life time Achievement in the Arts. The Sun Awards celebrate Nigeria’s finest and recognize persons of distinction who have excelled in 2013. The Sun Award compiled by Sun Newspapers, one of Nigeria’s highest circulating dailies has also as its goal recognizing, celebrating and inspiring other Nigerians through the worthy accomplishments of those nominated for her annual awards.

The event was held at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Victoria Island in Lagos, Nigeria. Other recipients of the 2013 Award were the publisher of Vanguard Newspapers Mr. Sam Amuka; entrepreneur and Captain of Industry, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo; writer Koko Kalango, Elder states man, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark of Industry; and Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State.

The artist Onobrakpeya attended the ceremony with his wife Victoria in a custom-made white safari like outfit from the designer Mudi.

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NEW BOOK:ONOBRAKPEYA: Masks of the Flaming Arrows

COVER (masks of the flaming arrows copy

Edited by dele jegede

  • ISBN-13: 9788874396696
  • Publisher: 5 Continents Editions
  • Publication date: 3/30/2014
  • Pages: 400

“Onobrakpeya: Masks of the Flaming Arrows is a compendium of essays by noted authors, interspersed with an astonishing array of sumptuous color and black and white reproductions of drawings, paintings, prints, and installations by the artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya. Acknowledged as Africa’s master printmaker, Bruce Onobrakpeya belonged in the vanguard of the first generation of contemporary artists who were educated in colonial Nigeria, but who set the pace and standards for innovation and professionalism in a new, post-colonial space. Edited by dele jegede, noted art history professor and Onobrakpeya scholar, Onobrakpeya features insightful and critical contributions from scholars who include John Agberia, Osa Egonwa, Olakunle Filani, and Basil Nnamdi. Among the list of contributors also are Gani Odutokun, David Okpako, Pat Oyelola, and Frank Ugiomoh.

This book features an inordinate amount of works by the artist, in an assortment of media, which include pen and ink, etching, serigraphy, plastocast, additive plastograph, and oil or acrylic on dipti- or tripti-linen. In addition to a body of work in mixed media and installation, this book also features notes by the artist on his work, as well as some of the poems that he has authored over the years on sundry topics, among which is the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. There is a comprehensive time-line on the creative and professional activities of Onobrakpeya since his first solo exhibition at Ughelli in 1959, to his current annual Harmattan workshops at Agbarha-Otor, his home town. Onobrakpeya gives a comprehensive overview of the work of the artist over time, with interviews and incisive essays that provide analysis of the context of production.”

Dele Jegede,
December 2013


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Being an experi…

Being an experimental artist is a response to the urge for a continuous search necessary to put the artist ahead of his or her audience.

Prints are original artworks, they are not reproductions. some day collectors and galleries devoted to prints will emerge in Nigeria

November 2013

Bruce Onobrakpeya

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Abimbola Olashore on Positive Values In Society

Abimbola Olashore is certainly one of the brightest  in his generation of business persons. Recently he agreed to share with me some of his ethos as a business leader which in my opinion transcends him into the realm of leadership.  I hope you enjoy his insights as much as i have. Happy Reading



  • Positive values are standards and social principles that are accepted by an individual, a family, a group, or a society. The more positive our values are, the more positive our actions will be.
  • Some positive values can be found in most cultures, while others are prevalent in some cultures more than others. Search Institute has identified six positive values that are common in almost every culture



  • The six positive values in the Developmental Assets framework fit into two categories:


  • Caring
  • Equality/social justice
  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Responsibility
  • Restraint




  • Values come from two major sources:


  • Modeling
    • When adults and kids act on their values, they model them for everyone to see
    • People notice when someone stops to help another in need
    • People see the value of someone telling the truth—even when it’s hard
  • Teaching
    • When we teach positive values, and keep teaching them over and over again, kids learn that they’re important.



·         Lack of role models harms the society

·         Reduction in our cultural values

o   Some of the traditional values in Nigeria include

§  Honesty

§  Education

§  Morality

§  Respect for elders

§  Hospitality

§  Respect for fellow citizens and family loyalty

o   While some of these values have greatly reduced some have completely disappeared



·         Extreme pessimism among leaders and their inability to effect change

o   This pessimism and ineptitude stems from the following factors

§  Lack of vision

§  Lack of respect for the governed

§  Incompetence

§  Godfatherism

§  Nepotism

§  Extreme greed

§  Dishonesty

§  Strong tendency to cheat

§  Share naked arrogance

§  Megalomania




  • Must be full of optimism


  • Daring and taking gamble


  • And must also develop the following attributes
    • Who are your role models?
    • Make good friends
    • Be optimistic
    • Develop respect for others
    • Be devoted to your cause
    • Believe In Yourself
    • Be inspired
    • Strive to achieve something positive
    • Have a vision



Barack Obama

  •  Audacity of Hope
  • Back ground
    • African American (mixed blood)
    • Born of a Kenyan father who was a Muslim
    • Partially raised by a Muslim Step father in a Muslim country
    • Eventually raised by a single mother
    • Muslim names (shared one with Saddam Husain – U.S most hated enemy)
    • Married to full blooded African American
    • This background, in itself is a disadvantage in the USA
  • But Obama overcame these perceived weaknesses an rose to be the President of the most powerful country in the world by developing the attributes mentioned above

Malala Yousufzai

  • Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in history
  • Background
    • Malala Yousafzai was born into a Muslim family of Pashtun ethnicity in July 1997
    • At the age of 11/12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, and her views on promoting education for girls
    • The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region
    • Yousafzai began to rise in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television and taking a position as chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat
    • She has since been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and the Nobel Peace Prize
    • o     She is the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.
    • o      On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus.
    • In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to a hospital in the United Kingdom for intensive rehabilitation.
    • On 12 October, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill Yousafzai and her father
    • Malala had since recovered and currently in school in the United Kingdom


  • Given her background and her age, she was able to achieve what she had so far out of share determination and development of the attributes mentioned above

Victor Moses

  • Is a footballer who plays for Chelsea
  • Background
    • Born in Lagos Nigeria,Moses moved to England at the age of 11, after his parents were killed in a religious riot
    • He attended Stanley Technical High School in South Norwood, during which time he was scouted playing football in the local Tandridge League
    • This was where scouts from Crystal Palace approached him, with the club’s Selhurst Park stadium just streets away from his school
    • The scouts were so impressed that he was offered a place in the Eagles’ academy, which he accepted.
    • Despite originally hailing from Nigeria Moses initially chose to represent his adopted home of England, featuring for the under-16 team, in which he won the Victory Shield in 2005, and under-17 level
    • Moses was promoted to the under-21 squad at the beginning of the 2010-2011 Premier League season and made his debut against Uzbekistan in a 2–0 win
    • He accepted a call-up in March 2011 for Nigeria’s games against Ethiopia and Kenya
    • He was called up to Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations where he scored two penalties in their final group stage game against Ethiopia.
    • In 2013, Victor Moses became part of the third Nigerian team to win the African Cup of Nations – Nigeria’s first continental victory since 1994
    • Moses scored two goals in a crucial game against Ethiopia to push Nigeria through to the quarter-finals of the tournament
  • Given the death of his parents that prompted him to move to England, Moses LOVE for his country enable him to overcome vengeance  and played for his country



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