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Published On: Tue, Jul 31st, 2018

Bahamas Government and University unveil statue created by renowned sculptor

Sculptor Mike with Calypsonian statue unveiledBy Alfred Harley

PHILIPSBURG/THE BAHAMAS–What motivates this African born ‘Sculpting King’ to exceed every level of excellence previously attained, is in his words “the joy of sculpting history’s heroes.” Known to everyone locally as “Africa,” Michael Ikechukwu Maghiro, was recently bestowed some of the highest praises, by the Bahamian Government. Maghiro was invited to a special ceremony on July 19th, in Nassau Bahamas where he unveiled the statue depicting one of the country’s most loved musical legend calypso “King” Eric Gibson inside the recently inaugurated ‘Legends Garden’ at the University of Bahamas.

Maghiro has been commissioned to create several statues, which will be erected inside the Legends Garden, located near the Keva M. Bethel building at the University’s Oakes Field Campus.

When the project is completed, the garden would contain the single most extensive collection of statues honouring heroes and heroines in the Caribbean. The three statures created so far, are of Bahamian musical Icons, the legendary Berkley “Peanuts” Taylor, calypso “King” Eric Gibson and Ronnie Butler. Two of the Bahamian heroes are no longer alive but lived long enough to see their sculptures being unveiled at the garden. The third, Gibson, was present at this year’s unveiling of his stature and expressed his amazement at the accuracy and detail of the lifelike statue of himself. Maghiro’s stature of Gibson was intricately designed and showed his artistic and creative ability as it captured every aspect of the well-loved calypso legend.

Maghiro, who is well known for his work, has created some of the most outstanding statues throughout the Caribbean, including the Ellis Thomas portrait in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands’ local hero Sir Oliver George. During the ceremony, Maghiro was praised for his exceptional artistic ability, by government officials including former Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie.

It is not uncommon for Maghiro to be whisked away from his home base in St. Maarten by patrons of the arts. He has travelled to many countries, including the United States, to produce sculptures. However, this is the first time he has been commissioned for such a massive project as the Legends Garden in the Bahamas. Maghiro says it is quite a challenge, but it is more of an honour to be able to help capture some of the people’s history because they have made significant contributions to the society.

Sculptor Mike with statues

When asked how he received the task of building the fifty statues Maghiro explained that Bahamian philanthropist Mr. Craig Flowers, contracted him to create the Legends Garden with the intention of “honouring living heroes before they are gone.” Flowers had been on St. Maarten five years prior on a business trip when he stumbled upon Maghiro’s Front Street art gallery and fell in love with some of the sculptures on display.

Maghiro spoke of his encounter with the philanthropist Mr. Flowers during his speech to attendees at the University of the Bahamas. At first, when Flowers approached him, Maghiro said he thought very little of the meeting. It was not until Flowers brought him to the Bahamas, 72-hours later and showed him what he had in mind, that Maghiro realized he had been given a genuine and unique opportunity to capture some of the Caribbean, and the Bahamas’ most treasured history.

Maghiro also spoke of his passion for creating great art and told the attendees about the joy he derives from seeing how people appreciate the moments of history he captures through his art. According to Maghiro, it would not have been possible to complete the work done thus far for the Legends Garden, without the confidence shown in his artistic ability by Mr. Flowers who has financed the project. The Legends Gardens will be one of the most significant undertakings of Maghiro’s illustrious career. The statues are prominently displayed at the University for all to see, and this accomplishment is a fete he told the attendees he is most proud of.

Maghiro thanked the University and the Bahamian government allowing him the opportunity to showcase his creative talents.

The Nigerian born, award winner who came to St. Maarten in 1997 actually heading for Antigua when he fell in love with the island, has also produced some excellent work on the island including the bust of Emilio Wilson at the Emilio Wilson Park, One-Tété Lohkay and the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) the National Bird of St. Maarten.

A Bio of Maghiro written by well-known writer Fabian Badejo describes the Nigerian Sculptor as a man filled with passion and abiding faith in God. These two are the two things that drive Maghiro both in his professional work and private life. Maghiro is a very passionate artist who openly exhibits “passion for life, passion for the arts, passion for sculpting and passion in its pure and unadulterated form. He said he loves to see the good in people and enjoys bringing that good out artistically which he believes is a testament to the power of God. He lives by his grandfather’s adage: “Always pray as if hard work is never necessary and work hard as if your prayers are not answered.”

Also stated in his Bio was his love for the Caribbean with St. Martin as his base, where he founded Ikemba African Gallery some 20 years ago and has been curating since. Maghiro has projected his work to many other parts of the region. The Pan American Health Organization PAHO recognized him for his geographical reach and talent which the organization described as “sterling, significant, continuous and creative contributions in the area of sculpting in the region.” He has received numerous other awards and recognition locally, regionally and internationally.

Steeped in the tradition of the Benin masters, his bronze sculptures can be found all across the Caribbean – gracing the two gateways to St. Martin: the harbour and the airport – and in the US, his native Nigeria and several African countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Malawi where he also has a studio.

Maghiro comes from a family of artists. “My sister, Peace, is an award-winning fine artist. And from small, we are taught to be independent businessmen and women. So, I guess, for me, art and business are not mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, complementary.”

Whether he is teaching children African dance, or erecting one of his signature monumental sculptures, Maghiro lives by that principle that President Nelson Mandela enunciated: “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in our hands to make a difference.”

Statues made by Sculptor Mike