Maduka Chukwuma is a sculptor who enjoys building human and animal anatomy forms. The Anambra State-born artist said his education and interest in large sculptures (outdoor work) helped him see sculpture as a calling and a duty. He shares his love for human and animal anatomy work and why he would want to continue sculpting until he gets older.
By Taiwo Adeniyi & Aishah Saleeman
Ssculpting involves precision and detail, do you exercise fears before, during or after work?
At the time at the school of my OND at the Beaux-Arts, I saw sculpture as a means of expressing myself, after my one-year course in Mr Ekwenchi’s studio. And since then, no other artistic practice animates me but sculpture. Studying in this field of art has allowed me to accomplish any shape and size of sculpture. The challenges in this area make it all the more interesting that I no longer feel any anxiety before and after any work. It’s just fun all the way.
Tell us about this job that cost you sweat and blood?
The 13 foot statue of Saint Jude at Umungasi Aba in 2007. My first attempt at a colossal sculpture. My team worked in rain and sun for eight weeks, occasionally getting sick and falling from the wooden scaffolding. And after careful work, our client still owes us money. Nevertheless, sculpture is very lucrative in this country. While I give glory to Almighty God, the giver of inspiration and strength. I immerse myself in all the principles of good design to achieve a work that stands the test of time.
What interests you about human and animal anatomy?
There is a saying that art is life, and life is art. In life, everything you do is art, the style, the atmosphere, the suspense, in fact, all facets of life are glued to one art or another. It might interest you to know that the most thorough study of anatomy, both human and animal, even trees and insects, will reveal a number of those insights and knowledge that cannot be overstated. The deeper you go, the more interesting it becomes. In general, life, art and anatomy need to be revived, because many artists escape from it indirectly and find another art and call it a mere copy of nature, but the truth remains that one does not cannot do without a study of nature. I encourage artists to adopt this method and this style.
You said carving is lucrative in Nigeria, but there are still struggling carvers, what do you think they can do to improve their situation?
Artists and sculptors need to find their motivation in the field and do more study and creative improvisation, creating an avenue for their wider audience to fall in love with their style. Artists are invited to work on their inspiration and creative excellence.
To make a successful project in Nigeria where you have a high percentage of the elite, you have to capture the sense of beauty by engaging and producing what they like. In addition, it is necessary to attend workshops, exhibitions, educational competitions at all levels, advertisements on social networks and symposia to raise awareness of art. The consciousness of art has been paralyzed in the sense that one cannot think of the luxury of art when one has not eaten.
How would you describe the acceptance of carvers by Nigerians compared to foreign nationals?
It takes a civilized mind to understand the value and importance of sculptors in today’s societies. In the prehistoric Igbo era, carvers are believed to be the mediators between the living and the dead. They are seers and soothsayers. They were highlighted in the other religions of the community but recently the sculptors have become less important because of industrialization thus limiting the work of the sculptors and being replaced by machines as in foreign countries. Even though they still value the handwork and concept of a carver more than their works but in Nigeria for example some religious followers believe that it is not good to produce or imitate what God has fact, so they hate sculptors and sculptures.
What will those who want to become a sculptor say?
They must acquire some level of education as it will help them to have a chance to better understand the field and also studying many civilizations, their culture and beliefs, reading art journals and publications but above all that , they are expected to have skill, interest, courage, knowledge, determination and a spirit of hard work in pursuing the course. Also, they must have a mathematical inclination to be able to calculate and assimilate the ideas of a large format sculptor. A major attribute important for sculpture is craftsmanship, with this, the artist mainly makes sketches of planned sculptures, standard and objective drawings, parts and packages of sculptures. An artist must have studied and found a well-equipped studio and workshop to market their works.
What would you describe as the culmination of a sculpting career?
The culmination of sculpture is when the artist must have reached a level of international standards, then the artist himself will get the happiness and also the money attached to it. The pieces of an internationally recognized artist will be very well placed in museums and galleries, buying their works will cost a fortune. The only satisfaction of the artist’s version is not only the scarcity but the impression of his work in the sound of time which is its heritage. The artists of 500 years ago did not even enjoy such recognition when they were still alive, until their demise.
Sculpture has its challenges, can you explain some of them to us?
The number of challenges and hazards endangering the sculpture is a source of inspiration of helplessness. Finding a suitable concept for a project sometimes poses a threat to rapid production. Imperfection of workmanship and adequate dexterity are necessary when producing a work. Inhalation of gaseous substances, such as during the production of fiberglass and the fuse during welding, the manufacture of rods and the installation of safety kits to prevent accidents. Marketing sculptures is difficult in a country like Nigeria and organizing a solo exhibition and workshop can be a difficult task as some clients are tricky and try to cheat. Art schools and more museums should be provided by the government. There is no artist forum to discuss questions regarding artists and finally no standard tools and materials available for artists in the market. To meet these challenges, sculptors should spend more time studying both practically and theoretically and knowing the method and certain materials to make and execute their works. In sculpting, the harder you work, the luckier you are both in terms of awareness, technical efficiency, tool handling and hiring other sculptors to work for you, thanks to the many ongoing projects . Some clients are quite delicate, one can employ a lawyer to handle proposal terms and payments on their behalf, to counter manipulation of artists by clients. Art is a matter of science, and it should not be neglected by the government. The voluntary class should take care to provide sculptors with the necessary facilities such as galleries, tourist centers, theaters and founding art as a revenue distribution body. When all of this is provided, artists will bring their best. A sculptor must publicize his work on social networks.
When do you think you blossomed as a sculptor?
At 80, I want to produce works of art. Sculpture is a thing of the soul that comes with inner satisfaction during and after a project. I must say that the more works are produced the more the hunger rises, I believe that in my old age I know that I will have been internationally recognized by many artistic legacies and my work will be a reference for sculptors to come.
I would like to be remembered as our predecessors and contemporary artists. I would like to be known as an anatomist, both in metallurgy and in modeling and molding in the broad sense.