NOW YOU no longer have to travel thousands of kilometres to Africa to explore its art. You can just go to the Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wai Chai to learn more about the fascinating subject. Under the Unesco-Aschberg Bursaries for Artists programme, Nigerian artist Uchechukwu Onyishi took up a three-month artist-in-residence position in the SAR in August. The programme aims to provide local art lovers with an opportunity to experience Nigerian art and culture. 'Going beyond what you see' is how Onyishi describes African art. 'African artwork goes beyond the physical and into the soul. We use symbols and motifs to depict what we see. People may be shocked when they see the artwork,' the 32-year-old artist says. 'That's what art really is. It captures your attention and moves you, then provokes your thoughts.' Inspired by what he sees and experiences in Hong Kong, Onyishi has been working on pieces which will be displayed at a solo exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Centre later this week. One work, Ants, is based on Onyishi's perception of the Hong Kong community. He explains: 'People here are busy and work together unselfishly like ants. And they live in [densely populated areas].' In addition to creating artworks in the studio, Onyishi has conducted a four-day exchange and education workshop series - Black and White Connection - with 20 local students from Young Friends of the Hong Kong Arts Festival over the past two weeks. Featuring a tour and an open workshop at the Garden Plaza in Hong Kong Park, the programme gave Onyishi an opportunity to interact with local youngsters. Videos of Nigeria and his own artworks are shown to the Young Friends. 'Kids here are very enthusiastic, they are very eager to learn,' Onyishi says. The Young Friends took him on a tour of the city. Though they had to overcome the language barrier and cultural differences, they produced artworks which will also be shown at his exhibition. 'I prefer all of them to produce one work each, even if it is small. Everybody [should] produce something so that I can see what they can do, or how the workshop has influenced them individually,' he says. Every student has to think up their own ideas and produce original work to represent 'unity', the theme which Onyishi came up with in response to the series. He thinks that despite it being a big challenge for youngsters to produce artwork individually, they would enjoy it. 'I give them the idea of what I want them to do, then they go into their own inner mind and think up concepts and do it,' he adds. He also shows youngsters how to recycle everyday objects to create artwork. 'I don't like them to go and buy material. I like to show them you can make art with almost nothing. I'm talking about the financial aspect. You can make art without cost,' he says. One Young Friend, Kitty Fong Siu-man, 19, a student from the Hong Kong Institute of Education, thinks the workshops were a precious experience. 'We've never had the chance [before] to exchange and have contact with people who have a culture which is so distinct from ours,' she says. Kwok Pui-yan, 15, from Kowloon True Light Middle School, says the workshops gave her inspiration and showed her a new dimension in art. She says: 'His creations are so different from what we do. They are so closely linked to nature that they don't have any city feeling.' Busy City exhibition will be held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre's Pao Galleries from October 18 to 24. A meet-the-artist session at the Metal Studio of Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre will be held on October 27.