Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Lagos Art Scene is thrown into mourning

Peter Areh, We will always Remember You. R.I.P

On the afternoon of thursday the 2nd of July I sat in the studio of La source du Lion in Casablanca talking to the artist Hassan Darsi whilst he completed a work for a forthcoming solo exhibition. After a week of horrible flu I was feeling well enough to call and talk to a few artists but I thought let me check my mail quickly. The first few were the usual routine stuff. Then i opened that of my colleague and friend Ijeoma Okeke after the usual preamble the last sentence asked if i had heard what happened to Peter Areh early that morning that he had been stabbled and was dead. I screamed Oh my God. Hassan asked if it was bad news but I could only reply Oh my God! Oh my God. I became weak and handed him my laptop which was on my lap and the tears came streaming down uncontrollably. The pain was too much that such a nice person was no more. After several minutes I gained my composure and picked up my computer again to re-read the email just in case i misread it. I stared at the words over and over and over again so that it could sink in. So that I could believe the unbelievable. I caught a few friends on facebook and gmail and the story was confirmed. Luckily my flight for Lagos was that evening. In Lagos more stories of the unfortunate incident was relayed. What a tragedy, what a loss.

I can't remember when I met Peter but it is most likely to have in 2000 when I did my first project in Lagos - a series of talks featuring international guest speakers. But it seems he has always been there. Since my return to Lagos we always meet either at the exhibition opening of his Pendulum Gallery or at other exhibition around Lagos. Peter always seemed elusive - wheeling and dealing - part of the artworld yet apart from it. In 2000 he opened Pendulum Art Gallery and has actively supported a large number of Nigerian artists both young and old through his activities. Although Peter was a serious businessman, his interest in art went beyond making a fast buck to supporting and being a collector and art philanthropist. He supported in many ways several individual artists and artists groups and collectives. He encouraged critical thinking and educational activities and publishing. I really respected his activities.

Before I left for Casablanca I spent 3 days straight in his company - a feat in itself for this busy young man. On one of the days he came to CCA,Lagos because he wanted me to talk to one of his staff who he felt he wasn't get through to and maybe he might listen or understand me better. We later had lunch with his business partner from London on the balcony at CCA. The next day I saw him at the opening of Nnenna Okore's exhibition. Afterwards a group of us all went looking for a bar/restaurant where the guys could watch football. We settled on bogobiri and hung out there till late in the evening talking about the business of art. Peter was always teasing me about being a non-profit organisation and I teased him about being profit orientated. Then we talked about bringing our skills together. In that one evening I learnt so so much about the thinking of the average nigerian collector or art buyer, about the business of art in Nigeria. It was a fascinating exchange. The next day we met again with some friends just to chill out again at Bogobiri and continued talking. That was the longest and closest time I have spent with Peter and I found the learning experience exciting and looked forward to continuing the conversation and hopefully working on a project together when i returned from Casablanca. Alas it was not meant to be. A promising, enterprising, generous, friendly and always smiling young man was wickedly taken from us. I have said it and written it before and I do so again. Peter I will never forget your smiling face. Rest in perfect peace in the bosom of our Lord. May God grant your wife and family the strength to bear the loss.

Sun Re O, Sun Re O Peter.

Bisi Silva

Tributes continue to pour in and many have passed through my mailbox which the writers have not objected to me sharing here.

Na wa oooooo. Peter Areh? My shock at his passing was like that of Michael Jackson's. It is absolutely unbelievable! What would he have been struggling with anybody? Well wetin man no know, God know am. May his soul rest in peace.
Bruce Ugiomoh

As I reflect on the news of Peter's death, I interrogate the concept of violence in Africa and elsewhere. I interrogate violence in Africa because of the multiple dimensions violence has assumed in this continent. Ranging from large scale, collective ethnocidal violence to various forms of organized individual killings and extending to what Appadurai describes as "extreme forms of political violence against civilian population," I get crossed at the rate of the escalation. Although you cannot divorce these kinds of violence from other continents but the contention here is the alarming senselessness which Africa’s own has assumed. I get worried that the terrains of my country are becoming more dangerous with the passing days. Things keep on degenerating without visible attempt by the so called government to address them. As a matter of fact, without being utterly pessimistic here, I have never seen or heard of any assassination case in Nigeria whereby the culprits were ever apprehended. What is actually happening? If you think of any advanced and developed society you can count on Nigerians as one of the most successful groups in any field of human endeavour. But if you come back to Nigeria it would seem as though hell has been let loose. I don’t intend to use this space to cast aspersion on my beloved country but sometimes it makes me think sh*t when I remember the state of things in a country which should be one of the richest countries in the world. Don’t misunderstand me as this write-up comes as a sudden emotional ejaculation to the death of Peter. Yes it’s true one cannot cry over spilled milk but let it be known to the world that the milk was most insensibly and brutally spilled that one cannot help crying out loud. Adieu Peter! Jee nke oma. Okey Nwafor.

from Busayo Lawal memory of Peter Areh

Forever Young

by Renee 'nay' Kristen Kristen
Trapped in the glorious years
within the memory of belief, lost of all grief.
Take the reasons,
which once seemed so clear,
but never mind, you have nothing to fear.
For you my fried will be, forever young,
Forever in the heart of memories.

Lost in the glory of all time,
the wisdom was there within that smile,
You see you could have told us,
there within lies the mystery.

So shed a smile, and grin a tear,
For you my friend, will be,
Forever young, Forever young.
Forever in the heart of memory,
We see not through or misery.
Forever young, forever young.
There's a new angel tonight.


We regret to announce the death of MR PETER DUBEM AREH who was an active foundation member of VASON. The sad event took place on Thursday 2nd of July, 2009.

We wish to condole the family of the deceased and make a donation to them.

A VASON condolence register will be opened at Mydrim Gallery 74B Norman Williams Street, S.W. Ikoyi Lagos from tomorrow, 8th of July, 2009.

Members are kindly requested to send their donations by cheques payable to VISUAL ART SOCIETY OF NIGERIA and forwarded to the Treasurer Mrs. Ogunsanya at Mydrim gallery or to the Executive Secretary (VASON) Mr. Ekpo Udo Udoma.


Ekpo Udo Udoma

Somethings can be left undone.
Some words can be left unsaid.
Some feelings can be left unexpressed
BUT Peter Areh fatally stabbed 3am Thurs 2July 2009 cannot be left UNAPPRECIATED IN NIG ART WORLD!

Oyinke Okoro, the immediate past Chairman SNA Abia State

I first received the sudden sad news of Peter Areh's death from Chuka, then followed by Kunle Adeyemi and Ufuoma Onobrakpeya. And I asked is this for real? Why? Why? Why? At 38, the ex banker and art dealer touched lives within and outside Lagos. To us as SNA he was a patron, a cheerful friend, and philanthropist donating generously when ever we called on him. I met him way back and in Senegal at DAK'ART 2OO6. where we started getting close . I recall the Abeokuta experience too where SNA honoured him with an award he received in person during Mr. Kolade Oshinowo's tenure . We further interracted this year in March with him at Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya's studio in Lagos where we discoursed SNA partnershiping with Pendulum-his gallery . How I wished he lived to fulfil this dream of ours. Our dear artists, gallery owners, and most especially the Society of Nigerian Artists will surely miss him greatly. We pray God to give his family the grece to bear this sudden loss. Amen.

Uwa Usen,National President, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA)

Words will fail us all to pour out our heart felt sympathy with the family, friends and colleagues who are thrown into mourning at this time. Untimely, gruesome...what may we say. He will be missed. I only met him last year at ARESUVA, but his actions and activities has gone ahead speaking greatly about him.
Adieu Peter.
I Bisi could collect all these and we can make a memoria publication about him.
Steve Folaranmi

Members of Culture and Creative Art Forum (CCAF) and International Association of Art Critics (AICA Nigeria) equally lend our voices to the gruesome murder of one of the youngest and serious minded art partons and gallery owners in recent time. Peter Areh was almost everywhere where art was being discussed. His gallery had played host to major art events which included exhibition and symposium in celebration of 70th birthday anniversary of Uche Okeke, collaborated with Krydz Ikwuemesi and NGA to organise a Symposium on 20th Century Nigerian Art and exhibition during the 2006 Dak'art Biennale in Dakar, Senegal, participated in ARESUVA in September 2008 and many more that space would not permit here. Nigerian artists, art scholars and art viewing public will surely miss you. We commiserate with your family and we also pray that God will give them the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss your untimely death has caused them. May his genle soul rest in perfect peace. Amen.
Dr. Ademola Azeez
For CCAF & AICA Nigeria

What a sad news!
Who could have done this?
But why Peter Areh?
This is sad
So sad,
really shocking!
What a lost to the arts
and to the nation!

May God grant his family & associates the fortitude
to bear this great lost of a great mind.
May is soul rest in PEACE.

Babasehinde Ademuleya Ph. D
Artist and African Art Historian
Department of Fine & Applied Arts,
Obafemi Awolowo University,
Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

This is sad. I could not believe this. you remembered just two weeks ago of the Nigerian match we watched together... how can one explain the uncertainty of human life. This is sad... very difficult to swallow...

It’s a lot concern when we cannot stop and ponder over tragic issue such as the case of Peter Areh, not to purse and think of “our” mortality. It seems to me that we have lost our emotion, our sensitivity to tragedies. We are too quick to forget, and too selfish to care; a worrisome development in Nigeria. No wonder we are no longer moved as we see dead bodies on the street, not touched by accident scenes, not traumatized by tragedies. Someone should help this generation!

PeternAreh’s death came as a shock, more than a shock! I’m yet to recover. Who wants Areh dead? Who benefits from his death? ... it is very sad.

We will remember him for his various contributions to art development in Nigeria and beyond, his determination to promote Nigerian artists internationally, his love for PACA. He was not one of the many parasitic gallery owners/art promoters all over the places. He was humble, simple and amiable, characters that are lacking among many who are gold-diggers in the art sector and who have no respect whatsoever for the artist from whom they earn a living. I miss him dearly.

Ayo Adewunmi

Sorry about Peter Areh, he made a connection, touched one's soul!

My first shock came from a old relation. "Is it true what I am hearing that Peter was stabbed by some assassins or armed robbers late morning? Please can you help confirm?
I have not been so well lately. So I called a few people, and as usual when you really want to get across our darling mobile fone providers would just then say like our leaders, "Not AVAILABLE" Or something as incoherent as that..
So i am in a retreat and praying for Nigeria and for our dear fragile planet that have so many arrogant people.
Our hearts should be with Peter's family. We should cary on from where he left. May his enemies be found. Amen!!

Jerry Buhari


Blogger Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

It seems to me like I've always known Peter but in reality I got to know and interact with him more closely during my father's 70th birthday. Before that our paths crossed when I was working at the African Foundation for the Arts founded by Miss Angela Onyeador. I found him a very likable and warm person. he used to tease me a lot as well. We didn't see a lot when I moved to MUSON but he was involved as a consultant during the 2004 MUSON Festival art exhibition.

He formed a close relationship with my parents during the planning and organisation of my father's 70th birthday exhibition at the Pendulum Gallery. My father trusted him with his most priced possessions, his paintings. And my parents came to look upon him as a son. His death has affected them both very deeply.

My sister called me on the morning of July 2nd, I will never forget that day. She just cut staright to the chase and told me 'I have some news about Peter, he was stabbed to death this morning'. My first thought was 'which Peter is she referring to'. And then a feeling of suspension and then denial.

I started crying and my colleague in the office out of concern went to bring another colleague to help her comfort me. I felt robbed, angry, helpless and so so terribly sad. I will never forget that feeling.

I still could not believe it so I sent an email to Bisi. But I knew it was true because my sister was the one that gave me the news. But I hoped like my sister said when she called me, they had hoped he was critically wounded and taken to hospital but he was already dead when she called.

Peter was not a saint but he was a decent and caring person who did not deserve this kind of end but I try to find solace in my faith that god will not allow whoever was involved in this dastardly act to have any peace in their lifetime and the hereafter. Their generations will continue to be blighted by what they did.

I know Peter is resting in peace with the Lord and I pray that his wife, parents, siblings and relations will find the fortitude to bear this great loss.

I know he will always be missed in the art community and beyond. But he has left a legacy for us to build on and in that way, upholding and honouring his good work we will continue to have him amongst us.

Go in peace my friend.

14 July 2009 at 09:37  
Blogger Femi Lijadu said...

Peter death was shocking. May his soul rest in perfect peace. I pray that his family will find some comfort in the fact that he made such a positive and indelible mark on the art world. He was always generous with his time and his vast knowledge. A few weeks before his death he had come round to see me and had, upon running through my catalogue of works, helped me to positively identify two Uche Okeke engravings and three Okpu Eze paintings that I had not been able to catalogue properly. He truly loved modern Nigerian art and contributed significantly to it's development and to increasing awareness about it's richness and depth throughout the world. Pendulum Gallery has made it's name as one of the foremost galleries for Modern Nigerian sculptures and paintings. Looking back at Peter's legacy I realise that in some ways he, himself was an artist. Not in the conventional sense but in an equally tangible sense, through his creativity and aesthetic sensitivity and the seeds that he has sown. This is important because, in many ways, true artists never die ... they live on through the work they have left behind. The pendulum is still swinging...

23 August 2009 at 13:29  

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