Onobrakpeya discusses the development of his deep etching and plastocast techniques:
“In May 1968…I nursed the idea that I might be able to salvage the ruined Travelers plate by mending the unwanted holes with Araldite. So I bought the two-part glue and, digging up the plate, filled the holes. In the process, some random drips, which I did not bother to clean up, fell on the plate. The glue was allowed to set and cure. Then I used the engraving tools to reduce the patched portions to the level of the zinc plate. When a test proof was taken, the random drips and tooled areas revealed forms, textures and line possibilities.
“Working further on this plate, I used more glue to redefine the image, which followed, which were aimed at perfecting this three-dimensional print technique, I discarded the use of acid completely. This is the origin of deep etching technique, which I later named plastography. The results were very exciting but I did not even know that I had a breakthrough in a technique, which was later to play a very significant role in the development of printmaking as a major form in the contemporary art of Nigeria. Thus the hydrochloric acid accident, as it is now popularly called, started me on a new phase of printmaking.” (Onobrakpeya, 2004)
He advanced to preparing plastocasts from the used plates:
“The method is the same as the one employed by sculptors: a negative mould is made with plaster of paris, and into it a liquid form of the plastic is poured. It is allowed to set, pulled out and retouched.” (Onobrakpeya, 1973)
He describes Rain and cry at Otorogba as “an emotional expression of grief at a time of tragedy. It is built around an incident which took place while I was on a visit to my mother’s village Otorogba in August 1973. We were roused from a welcome ceremony…by a cry of ‘Johni wuru!’ In a drizzle, the dead body of John supported on a bicycle ambulance by close relatives was being pushed from Ogua Ovie where he died. John’s wives and other mourners followed. They beat their breasts and flung their hands over their heads as a sign of deep grief. On the umbrella is an owl a symbol of witches who are always held responsible for any death.” (Onobrakpeya, 1978)
B. Onobrakpeya, ‘Lecture to Museum Society, Lagos, 28 May 1973’ as quoted in Eze, Emmanuel Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya: a research into the print experiments of a contemporary Nigerian artist (unpublished B.A. thesis, University of Nigeria, Nsukka 1976)
B. Onobrakpeya, Notes and Comments on 46 Prints (August 1974-February 1978) (Lagos, 1978)
B. Onobrakpeya, ‘Reminiscences of Nigeria’s Master Print-Maker’ in the Daily Times of Nigeria, June 27, 2004.
Copyright:African Modern & Contemporary Art