Monday, May 2, 2011


Meet Funke Ifeta, sculptress, educator and museum curator

Funke Christiana Ifeta, Head of Department (HoD) of Creative Arts at Tai Solarin University of Education (Tasued) was President, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) from 1996 to 2001. To date, Mrs. Ifeta, who holds a PhD in Art History; is the only woman to have held that office in the over 40-year history of the SNA.

Ifeta succeeded another sculptor, Opku Eze (now of blessed memory), as SNA President; and, practically stabilized the artists’ body, which had been racked by dispute for years. It could also be recalled that during her tenure as SNA chief, SNA’s annual conference took place regularly.

Ifeta took her first degree from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), where she bagged BA, First Class in Sculpture in 1978. She later taught at the College of Education, Ekiadolor, near Benin City before landing an appointment at The Polytechnic Ibadan, where she also rose to become HoD Fine and Applied Arts.

While teaching at The Polytechnic Ibadan, the lady concurrently pursued a Master of Art (MA) programme, which she completed successfully at the Institute of African Studies (IAS), University of Ibadan. At Tasued, Dr. Ifeta also doubles as Curator of the local Cultural History Museum.

She practically cut her teeth for that job in 1997, following a month-long sojourn in the United States, that took her to five cities; Washington DC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, San Francisco and Los Angeles, both in California as well as Baltimore, Maryland. In each of these cities, Ifeta toured virtually all local museums as part of an International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), sponsored by the United States Information Service (USIS).

Museums as interpreters of Culture was the theme of that year’s IVLP, and participants were drawn from some 17 countries across the world. As to her impression of that exercise, Ifeta declared it was very “educative and revealing”.

Speaking further on the impact of that programme on her, Ifeta mused: “It opened my eyes to so many possibilities”. However, her recall: “It was a month-long trip, but it virtually covered a year’s work”, simply means that this lady has not forgotten the rather hectic pace of the tours’ schedules. Nonetheless, this “labour of love” prepared her for the job of Curator, Tasued’s Cultural History Museum, which she currently holds.

The Senate of Tasued gave positive nod for the establishment of that institution’s museum in August 2007; and, barely two months later; the repository was formally launched with an exhibition to coincide with the school’s accreditation in October 2007.

That premiere exposition featured artefacts produced by the college’s Creative Arts Department over the years. Interestingly, a second exhibition quickly followed for visitors from University of Colorado, US; who were at Tasued as part of a Linkage Program.

During our visit to Tasued, we met the third exhibition mounted by the local Cultural History Museum. The theme of the display revolved around the life and time of Prof Afolabi Olabitan, the founding Chairman of the Governing Council of Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCOE), which metamorphosed into Tasued.

The Cultural History Museum at Tasued is housed within the OGD Modern Library block; and, apart from temporary exhibitions; the museum also boasts an impressive permanent collection, which includes traditional Yoruba textile, religious items and even drawings of the human figure as well as a sculpture representing Esu, the devil.

After many years, we saw Dr. Ifeta again in November 2008 at TASUED during a conference on Review of the Visual and Creative Arts Curricula. The conference, which revolved around the theme Designing suitable creative arts curricula for Nigeria's development in the 21st century; featured many sub-themes, including Museum Education Curriculum Ceramics Curriculum, Sculpture Curriculum, Photography Curriculum, Painting Curriculum, Textile Curriculum, Graphics Curriculum and Creative Arts Curriculum.

Dr Peju Olayiwola (University of Lagos), Dr Ken Okoli (Ahmadu Bello University), Dr Kunle Filani, Provost, Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta and Dr Barth Chukwuezi, Director, Planning and Training Services at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), each presented a lead paper on Creative Arts, Sculpture, Primary and Secondary Schools Arts Curriculum and Museum Education respectively. Other lead papers came from Prof Rom Kalilu of Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso (Painting), Prof PSO Aremu, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (Textiles), Mr. John Amifor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (Graphics and Photography) and Mr. Clement Emoda of the Federal Polytechnic Auchi (Ceramics).

Interestingly, the most telling revelations came from the sub-theme; Primary and secondary schools art curricula, which hinted at a tendency to place the cart before the horse as regards art curriculum design in Nigeria. The participants came away with a unanimous view that all the efforts targeted at enhancing the study of art at the tertiary level would be tantamount to building a castle in the air, without a solid foundation at the formative stages of one's education: the primary and secondary schools.

Given the huge success that summit turned out to be, one had hoped there would be follow-ups; however, it is doubtful this vital next step took place. One can reasonably presume that want of funding is responsible; however, countless attempts to speak with Dr. Ifeta on phone proved fruitless.


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