New Form of Rock Painting in Nigeria

The universal role of art as an important means of communication has ushered Nigerian politicians new ways of communicating to the public during campaigns. Today, it is common to be driving on major roads connecting Nigerian cities and see portraits of Nigerian politicians on rock-surfaces found on either sides of the road. This kind of art is necessitated by the desire to communicate as well as make the political aspirant popular during election period. This type of rock painting is remarkably different from the ones discovered in Tassili in north Africa and other places in the world.

While the ancient rock paintings were products of the early men who were probably responding to pure express instincts, the new form of rock paintings in Nigeria are done by refined men of this age with the purpose to influence a candidate's success in a particular election. Characteristically, the new form of rock paintings are usually executed in a manner that defies certain rules of design. For example, there is gross misplacement or inappropriate use of design principles like composition, balance, color harmony etc by the makers (artists) of such artworks. The pictures of Alhaji Ahmed Yerima, which can be found along Kaduna – Zaria road at many rock surfaces, exhibits these routes. The lines are sometimes drawn using black paint. The artist then paints on the rock surfaces using raw colors. The view of such paintings are well enhanced from a distance but at close range, one will hardly come to term with the likeness of the image of the person depicted.

The dominant style used by the artists is realism and the reason is obvious. All the artists in their sincerity do really want to depict the realistic picture of the political aspirants for the public to see and recognize them. However, in most cases they end up not really getting the resemblance of the face they are trying to portray. If one should take time to take photographic images of one political aspirant as differently painted on different rock surfaces, he or she will observe that, there is no corresponding compliance in any one of them.

The underlying factor in this inconsistency of images of one person is that, the paintings are works of different artists most of which do not receive formal art training or even apprenticeship. One of the timid artists approached recently after I saw him painting the face of one senator said "sometimes when we draw the person and the face is not looking exactly like him, we write his name under to tell people that he is the one". When asked about his art training background, the artist continue: "I do go school, but I sabi draw" which means I have not gone to any formal school but I know how to draw. It means that even the rock paintings' contracts are not given to professional or qualified artists.

One fact, however, remains that if these rock art (paintings) ever exceed the harshness of weather and survive for the next age see it, they will be highly regarded and cherished. Why not? They will become antiques of historical value to people of the next age.