Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria is ranked as one of the largest universities south of the Sahara. It is one of the oldest universities established in Nigeria which has contributed to the educational development of the nation in various fields: engineering, sciences, arts, etc. One of the factors that made the university so popular is the fact that it is located in the ancient city of Zaria which is historically one of the powerful kingdoms in Africa that was once ruled by a woman: Queen Amina. More importantly, the university is also seen as the foundational school for training contemporary artists in Nigeria. The Department of Fine Arts, ABU Zaria, is indisputably the oldest (formal) art school in Nigeria and probably among the first three early art schools in modern Africa.
The department is unique in that apart from the quality art training it provides to personnel on an annual basis due to the availability of competent and experienced teachers, it also has a ‘sculpture garden’ which consists (mostly) of works produced by graduating students, mainly from the sculpture department. Works in the Garden, in a way, reveal the quality of the alumni who have left the department over the years, as well as the creative diversity inherent in the artistic training offered to the artists in the department.
Within the sculpture garden, it is common to carry out beautiful works in styles such as cubism, realism, abstraction, and installation, as well as representations of various social topics such as religion, politics, culture, the army, and so on. Examples of works in the garden include “Ant Hill,” “Expectation,” and cubist sculptural portraits of some of Nigeria’s former leaders such as “Obasanjo,” “Gowon,” and “Buhari.” While in some places in the garden the bases of the sculptural works are used as benches, in other locations the carvings themselves are used as benches for visitors. The landscaped shed in the garden is complemented by the scattered trees which also provides the students with a comfortable place to sit and wait for the later lectures. There is also a cool spot in the park where soft drinks are sold. Near the cool place is a grilled meat (soy) joint. All this adds to the beauty and comfort of the park and its visitors respectively.
The Sculpture Garden is one of the high points of the university, such that if one visits ABU Zaria without visiting the garden, it is usually assumed that the visit is practically not completed. It is a source of pride not only for the department but also for the university community as a whole. One thing about the garden is that works in durable materials last while those done with non-durable materials tear and wear; And in the long run, they are replaced by new sculptures. This makes the park have new sculptures every year.