YOU would not miss the grey-bearded sage anywhere there is art, especially, discourses, appreciation of aesthetics and interrogation of concepts in creativity. He waltzed warmly with gusto and candour and held court like a Cicero would in a people’s forum.
Ola Oloidi, University of Nigeria, Nsukka’s emeritus professor of art history, was a scholar of scholars, philosopher and ‘teacher quintessential’. In his turf, he was as tall as a Gulliver while others were Lilliputians who he dwarfed in intellectual session easily and comfortably. Despite being not physically tall, he was naturally huge in mental faculty and cerebral by every ranking.
Most remarkable is how he demolished pre-established theses with refreshing planks of arguments and plausible contexts. He presented new perspectives of thoughts in even the most long-held ideas. In 2002, his brilliant but contrary-to-mainstream reactivation of the tag ‘Zaria Rebels’ placed by critics and art historians on the foreheads of the first generation of Zaria Art School graduates such as Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko, Uche Okeke, Okechukwu Odita, Simon Okeke among others, made art aficionados begin to appraise them as ‘Zarian Revolutionaries’.
In 2010, during the National Gallery of Art lecture, he presented one of the most engaging probe into a growing get-a-doctorate-degree trend that was (is) robbing the creative art industries of dexterity, innovations, studio steep, mentors and studio masters.
Some of the most incisive articulation and dissection of the early ‘Zarian artists’ Natural Synthesis studio creativity philosophy came with Prof. Oloidi’s by-line.
Indeed, Prof. Oloidi died in fairly advanced age, with grey hairs all-over, but he was a very young man by mien, curiosity and energy. He also courted young ones more than the older. No wonder, art students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) severally feted him as the most student-friendly lecturer. Encountering him in the aftermath of one of such recognitions, he said: “Chuka, can you imagine the students honouring me as their student-friendly lecturer, what do they mean by that?”
Though one of the most consummate and curiously peeky art history scholars of his time, and he worked a long while on the terrain (early 1960s to 2020) Prof. Oloidi’s very affable nature and capacity to make as well as keep friends without being hindered by ethnicity, faith, class or intellectual level is his major edge.
Perhaps, that was why the sage from Igede-Ekiti in Yoruba land, South-West, had some of his closest fans, followers and friends from Igbo land, South-East.
Prof. Oloidi was an awesomely warm and witty person. I cannot remember, seeing him in a dull mood in the three-and-half decade I knew him.
I herein send him a warm-handshake-goodbye like we used to pomp into each other when he was here, with the expression, “my friend” which he never got tired of calling me.