A Report from:                                                                   
The Urhobo Voice
A Newspaper Covering Events in Urhoboland and Offering Diverse Perspectives on Urhobo History and Culture

MAY 8, 2006


The Early Zaria Manifest: A Posthumous Art Exhibition for Rev. John Noserime Thomas, A Pioneer Urhobo Artist


By Charles Oviri



 Reverend Noserime Thomas

Rev. John Noserime Thomas



THE ongoing posthumous art exhibition for Rev. John Noserime Thomas is one platform that is indeed showcasing the works of the educationist, administrator, and God’s servant. From April 21, 2006 when the exhibition started at the Yusuf Arillo Gallery, Art Complex, Yaba College of Technology, art lovers have been pouring in to see distinctive art works that had been lying low in the archives. For some, it has been an adventure with many options to explore.


The exibition, titled: The Early Zaria Manifest, is a summary of the works of Rev. John Noserime Thomas, the pioneering graduate of the Zaria Art School. They are categorized into five distinctive sub-phenonena fields: figure study; lenoleum wood cut prints; graphic expressions, textile design and painting.


His1960 independence poster design is a mix of bright and bold colours, yet it is simple, while its lettering is easy to read. There are two works on display that show his deep understanding of textile design. The Fertile Soil is a surface fabric design with a light brown background, symbolic of the fertile soil. Uneven tiny circles, fairly large horizontal/vertical geometric shapes in black and white colours are juxtaposed, and some in simple overlapping formation.


There is squitting effect of white geometric shapes, balanced by black rectangles, and the overall compositional format exudes and impacts in us a flowing or kinetic illusion of celestial forces in the cosmos.


His linear expression are reminders of the charming old savannah days in Samaru, Zaria. He has a joyful finesse of line. These expressions through the medium range graphite testify to the sound, Zaria a formal visual scholium.


One can notice the spontaneity, good electricity in his application, and always enjoy capturing the mood of his models. A good example is his figure drawing I and II of a white (British) model (1961/1962) done in London. The female model, probably Maria, in Zaria reveals a female figure in a seemingly balanced visual equilibrium.


His commercial arts now called graphic design are of two folds, his linoleun prints and book illustrations. A good example of his wood prints are: Gourd and Mofifs, 1960; Ekpan (Uvwie) Mask, 1962; Fulani Milk Maid; The Agile Crocodile, 1988. The best of his prints is probably his lino-cut illustration for a book entitled: The Wusasa Mission 1961. The book narrates vividly the origin and work in the Northern part of Nigeria (Wusasa) Christian Church Society.


The church building of St. Barthobmew which stands near Wusasa Hospital, was one of  the earliest buildings put up in 1930. It is indigenous Hausa architectural style, made of mud (banco mansary) and palm wood. The lino shows, the isometric, side and frontal elevations. The colour used are cool, subdued and of restful zest.


In The British Fauna and Flora (1961-1962), the book portrays the pine-gross break, a very rare bird in Britain, whichs is sometimes seen in the winter months. The larch as an example of British flora is a tree that can grow to a very great height.  Also illustrated are the badger, the hedgehog, mullet fish, crucian carp, wood violet, the clouded yellow and the red admiral butterflies.


Two examples of his illustrations in pen and ink are NBC Schools Programmes, 1961 and Land of Britain, 1962. These works reflect the linear effect of the pen in representing minute penchant details, and in abeyance to the laws of measure, rule and composition.


There are two examples of his attempt at expressing his inner premonitions via painting. Two of those are in the permanent collection of one of Africa’s foremost art collector and connoisseur, Engr Yemisi Shyllon.


Urhobo Stilt Dancers, 1958 and Flora Feelings (Hibiscus flower),1965 are also on display. The works are rendered in gourche, exuding recessive (subdues) colours.


Divine Revelation, 1960, is a simple inter-penetration of geometric shapes (rectangular forms) rendered in grayish-black tones, with a polyphonic centre of luminous energy. The work is a symbolic depiction of the complex, confused and problematic situation man finds himself.


Alphabets, 1961, is a basic design composition with intricate juxtaposition of the alphabets. It has a grayish background and a colour “modulation” of black, viridian green, orange cadmium yellow, cobalt blue and a generous outlet of brown.


Rev John Noserime Thomas was involved in several exhibitions, including joint art exhibition in 1992 at Goldsmith College of Arts, University of London; as well as joint art exhibitions in 1964 under the auspices of the Nigeria Society of Arts, Lagos at the Federal Information Centre, Marina, Lagos.


Others were: art exhibition in 1976 with Kwara State Art Council; art exhibition (1989) by Ahmadu Bello University (ABU Alumni, Lagos State); Open Secret, Ahmadu Bello University Artists (1997), Russian Cultural Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos. He also had several publications, including a book entitled: The Operation of the Holy Spirit, October 2003.


Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Rukeme Noserime, chief lecturer atYaba College of Technology, said the late artist was preoccupied with the educational sector, which needed to train future artists and raw talents from primary and secondary schools, but later decided to go into the ministry of God, because as a teacher he was serious with religious activities.


“We now see this exhibition as an avenue to showcase some of the works that are older than us, to see and be able to compare to know whether we are in the right path, and also have opportunity to see what Papa has done, because we have to go into the archives to get some of his works out, and I think it is going to be a big honour to all the first graduates of Zaria school,” he added.


The exhibition, which kicked of on April 21, 2004 is expected to end on May 8, 2006.