Story By Chris OnuohaFor Mrs. Airat Olaide Abaniwonda Adeyeye, celebrating 75 is just a beginning of a milestone in her life. The youthful looking grandmother, despite attaining it, in both age and reality, looked radiant and full of life as friends and well-wishers from all walks of life trooped to celebrate with her on her special day, December 29, 2018 at the National Museum Onikan, Lagos. Mama Adeyeye as she is fondly called is a woman of many parts. She is a celebrated self- thought fine artist, trained as a typist and worked as a graphic designer with Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting Corporation, Lagos before climbing to Managerial level, but found more passion in her first love, art. In what she called a celebration of life, Madam Adeyeye marked her birthday with a two-week art exhibition of her old and recent works and a book presentation. The book tagged “Treasures of the Yoruba Arts, Traditional Cultural Heritage” is a compendium of art works and research carried by Madam Adeyeye during and after her retirement from active service with the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Corporation as Assistant General Manager and head of the Graphics section. She was also an active member of the Philatelic Club (Stamp collectors club). Back in time, Mama Adeyeye designed most of the prominent cultural and symbolic stamps used by the Nigeria Postal Services. Speaking at the event, the Mama Adeyeye, who retired from active service in 2002, shared her experience with the reporter at the ceremony. According to her, ever since she retired, she has been very active producing artworks. She was very elated at her birthday event and said; “I feel wonderful because I have been looking forward to this day. I am 75 in age but let’s put it aside, age is a number. For people who marvel at my youthfulness, I would advise the young ones coming after me to work very hard, that laziness do not pay.” Madam Adeyeye exhibited about 40 paintings, and speaking about the works she said, “I started this work since 2010 when I was in Britain taking care of my husband who was ill then.
I used to run a small gallery in Lagos and while waiting behind, taking of my husband, I have to do my paintings. I was a born artist which I didn’t know then. 65 years back, I love drawing and making sketches. I draw myself without anybody training me. Then in elementary school, I started drawing and when I went to UK, I developed myself as an artist. I was a trained typist by profession but that was not my calling. Speaking about art in the country, she said; “I appreciate work of art which I wish the young people will also enjoy and appreciate. Most people do not want their wards to do art which is a good profession. Children should not be withheld from studying art. Gone are days when parents would wish their wards to study the 3 major professions – engineering, medical and law. Now, art is a lucrative business and can also equate any other profession in terms of money making. Although, mama’s works are basically Yoruba cultural festivals and deities, she stressed that it is the culture she knows; “I have to choose Yorùbá culture because that’s my root. That’s the culture I was born with which I wanted to pass on to the generation after me. I may not be able to interpret all the Nigeria culture since I am a not a cultural scholar. That’s why I chose the one I am conversant with. In my work, I came up with only 24 deities in Yorùbá land out of over 101 deities in Yoruba land. Besides my painting, I exhibited designs made out stamp collection which I designed myself. I also exhibited a painting that tells where I started from – a compilation of a pallet, paints and brushes signifying how I started the art. For the stamps I exhibited, it is a collection of old colonial masters’ postage stamps which I designed while working with Nigeria Security Printing and Minting, including other artists’ collections formed in a collage. For mama Adeyeye, retiring from art for her is when God says come home. But mama was quick to interject that despite her youthful look, deep inside her she is getting old as she may no longer do active and strenuous activities anymore while advising the young ones to take anything they do seriously as she always reiterate, ‘Laziness doesn’t pay.’
“Take it easy with life, do what you know you can do, and don’t leave it to tomorrow because other things awaits you by tomorrow,” Mama Adeyeye said.