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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nigerian art ambassador visits with Monett students

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ibiyinka Alao, art ambassador to the United States from Nigeria, points out the Christian elements in his painting "Can You See It?", indicating the fisherman casting his net on the right side of the boat, much as Jesus told Peter and his companions James and John to lower their nets, whereupon they caught a huge number of fish on the Sea of Galilee. [Times Photo by Melonie Roberts]
Monett High School art students were treated to an art and cultural presentation featuring Ibiyinka Alao, the art ambassador for Nigeria to the United Nations.

Alao was named art ambassador to the United Nations in 2001 after he won an international contest held in New York.

"I represented Nigeria in the International Arts Competition in New York," Alao said. "I won first place and then was named ambassador for Nigeria." Alao is also on the Peace Commission.

Alao now travels all over the world bringing his message of peace to students in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges and universities.

During his travels, Alao has met authors, actors and musicians. He said that in Nigeria, art is believed to be frozen music.

"We never separate dancing, music and art," he said.

Alao's art is filled with vibrant colors, primarily depicting various scenes from his homeland. Alao, raised a Christian, said he also uses Christian symbolism throughout the canvasses bearing his art.

"That is true for everyone," Alao said. "We have universal stories among all of our religions. They show up in our art.

"There is mystery in every good work of art," Alao said. "Look for that mystery."

In his award-winning painting, Alao depicted the lifespan of a girl child through being a youth, a young woman, a mother and a grandmother. The canvas shows each phase of the girl's life through the illustration of what she would be facing or doing in that time frame.

He compared the stages of that painting to his own life.

"When I was a child, I had a very big dream," Alao said, "to become an artist. I was going to build a mansion and use all of my money to buy candy."

As an adult, Alao said although he still likes candy, it is no longer his dream to spend all of his money buying it. "Things change and people change," he said. "The child does not see things as an adult would. That does not mean the child is wrong, it just means he is at a different stage in his life."

Alao said that he listens to the world through his paintbrush, and paints the stories he hears and stories of his country.

"An artist is a person who has a hole in his heart that is equal to the universe," Alao continued. "The only thing that fills that hole is to paint. Whether your art is writing or teaching or becoming a physician or an athlete, it is the only thing that fills that hole in your heart."

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