Wood and Metal Experience

Chris Afuba

Actually my initial shot at metal, was as a student of art at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu. In 1988, as a second year student, we had no lecturer for metal sculpture. Having read about it in Sculpture: Methods and Materials by Richard Rich, and some other books, the zeal to experiment with mild steel was ignited. With nobody to teach me the techniques at school, the only option was a local metal fabricator popularly known as "welder". His name is Sam Utukpor. His former Master, Mr. Okoye, helped me, too.

With a welding machine from our departmental store I started to join pipes and other pieces of mild steel together. Our lecturers were impressed by what was coming up. They started motivating us with assignments and encouraging remarks. Harrigan Ebere, my only classmate, was also interested. Our head of section, Mr. Anene Obianyido, was particularly interested. He went a step further by urging me to experiment with bronze casting. That was what sent me to Benin to study the art of bronze casting for "Methods and Materials for Sculpture" subject.

Although some minor commissions on metal fabrication and some major ones in bronze came up, it was not until 1988, after AKA Circle of Exhibiting Artists had begun in 1986, that serious, visual exploration in metal sculpture began. Because of the fact that members of AKA were challenged with the spirit to always produce something new and unique, the thought of moving relief sculpture away from the rigid, conventional, visual format of squares and rectangles came up. The first attempt in that direction resulted in "Akala Aka" (Destiny) in metal. A look at my palm and subsequent drawing of the lines on it with metal did the job. The result was very interesting, because it had a multi-dimensional concept and format. First interpretation was close to the wall.

The second work that emerged is "Akala Igwe" which translates as (Lines of Force). It is architectural. The interesting thing about it is that, like "Akala Aka", Igbo traditional design elements were employed. But unlike "Akala Aka" which is basically organic in interpretation, "Akala Igwe", which literally translates as: (lines of metal) is essentially geometric. While using traditional elements of design, contemporary architecture was in my mind. So, that .accounted for the attempt to create perfect lines with metal to echo the geometric interpretation of our modern buildings. But as the work was lifted to the wall, another dimension appeared - a fourth dimension!

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