Monday, August 23, 2010

Nigerian Art - A Gathering Momentum

Finally it seems Nigerian art, especially modern contemporary Nigerian art, and indeed antiquities, are beginning to creep into their pride of place. What with the occasional auctions that are organized by a few private stakeholders, not to mention of course the now annual Lagos art expo put together by he association of gallery owners, etc. But in all of these and above all, it is worthy of mention that Nigerian art is after all going on the international art auction
Just recently, Bonhams, a British auction house put up an international auction of African art in New York, USA, in March this year. It is also cheery to note that given the five most expensive woks at this event, they were all Nigerian, in which a painting by the late Ben Enwonwu - depicting some of the artist’s characteristic dazzling dancers, went for $91,000.
Thence one will now begin to see the far sightedness and wisdom in the uncanny hobby or pastime that the few or tiny circle of ardent collectors we have in Nigeria today, have chosen to embark on from many years back, and even so for those who would be genuinely embarking on a similar journey even from now on. This tiny circle of collectors makes strong statements about the government caring very little about preserving this rich artistic heritage, and in the same vein share the cynicism of many Nigerians, who think the politicians are more eager to grab a share of the revenues of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producer. But the labours of love of these few dedicated patrons have begun to pay off as these collections are beginning to attract international attention as well as cash. And so, this is fast becoming a good place to spend some of the huge oil money that flow in a country that still has the majority of her bewildered and beleaguered general masses grinding and cringing in abject poverty.
Even with all of these, it is still generally strongly believed that Nigeria’s art is still very much undervalued, This sentiment is shared by many of those collectors who were at the auction, and even more so by Mr.Giles Peppiatt, director of contemporary African art at Bonhams. He states that prices are bound to go up. So brace up, for the journey it seems, has just begun,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Perfect Glasses – Fashion and Solution

It is not often that fashion and health are seen in association, but the creations and the attractive, even though simplistic flair that are exhibited by the products of an online eyeglass ‘boutique’ that specializes in catering for the visual health and I dare say, facial fashion of its customers – are worthy of note. It is also very rare to find recommended or prescription glasses that are actually meant for sight correction looking so elegant, complemental and regal on the wearer.

The site of this specialized on-line store greets one with an ambience of friendliness and subtle brilliance as could be found in the range of products. Paul Frank Sunglasses are as fashionable as they are in functionality. Byeby blues - Blueice are anyone’s favourite any day in their alluring calm colour and splendid style. So also are the Women’s Glasses and the rest of the prescription products and sunglasses such as Men’s Glasses, German Glasses, Kids’ Glasses, and Mustache Museum, etc.

The real attraction on the whole is really that prescription glasses and the rest of them all can actually be found in a one-stop on-line destination in a range replete with elegance, colourful appeal, and stylish creativity all at the same time. Yet all of these range of products come with affordable tags as well as friendly discounts and bonuses.

Morgan Nwanguma

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ben Enwonwu

Art personality

Let us take a look as we do a brief feature on art personality. The late Professor Ben Enwonwu easily stands out as a legendary figure on the landscape of contemporary Nigerian Art. As a fresh graduate just out of art school, Enwonwu had the singular rare honour of having the Queen of England visiting his studio and posing for a life-size sculpture.

In July 1937, Kenneth C. Murray exhibited the works of his pioneer students at the Zwemmer Gallery in London and this marked Enwonwu's first representation as an artist in the British Empire. Though not yet a professional, this exhibition earned him favorable recognition in Nigeria and England, as well as encouraging remarks from Rt. Hon. Ormby Gore, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, who performed the opening ceremonies.

Painting by Ben Enwonwu

 In 1938, Enwonwu took part in the Glasgow Empire exhibition and in 1944 he was awarded a Scholarship to study art in the United Kingdom. The Nigerian Colonial Government, the British Council and the Shell Petroleum jointly sponsored this scholarship which came about through a chance meeting with L. N. Harford, then Director of Shell (West Africa) at a one man exhibition of Enwonwu's works in Lagos in 1943.

Enwonwu attended Goldsmith College, London in 1944, Ruskin College, Oxford from 1944 to 1946, and Slade School of Fine Arts of the University of London, from 1946 to 1948. In these institutions, he studied Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, Aesthetics, and History of Western Art and graduated with distinction in sculpture. In 1946, on the invitation of Sir Julian Huxley, Director-General of UNESCO, Enwonwu participated in the Musee d'Art Moderne's International Exhibition of Modern Art held in Paris.

Enwonwu's participation in this exhibition indicates a high level of recognition of his art in the Western critical establishment. Such recognition can in part be attributed to the fact that he was perhaps one of the few African artists operating at that professional level in Britain during this period.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ikom Stone Monoliths

Today I am so excited to be taking you on a very interesting journey. Our journey will take us into the forests of the south-east of Nigeria; we shall also go into the origins of some of the traditional art practices or movements from these parts of Nigeria. Thus some of these are forebears of the modern art style that have become so relevant today. Now we go on a trip to the forests of Ikom to see one of the lesser known ancient cultures of Nigeria - the Ikom Stone Monoliths.

Ikom Stone Monolith

For close to 100 years, Alok, a sleepy community in Ikom Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State has been attracting scholars, tourists and the simply curious because of the local station of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) located there.

Alok's Open-Air Museums (AOAM) continue to lure many visitors even though its exhibits are all about the dead, or just about so. Alok's open-air museums hold Akwanshi, a local word, which translates as "dead people." Although Akwanshi stands for dead people, it also refers to a family stone circle in some context. These circles developed from the tradition of the people of Akajuk, Nnam, Nde, Nta, Nsle and so on. Whenever someone died in such areas, the survivors of the dead person would go and drop a stone in memory of the departed. For unknown reasons, the tombstones were dropped in such a geometric pattern that after a while a circle evolved, according to Chief Sylvanus Ekoh Akong, Head of Station of AOAM.

These ancient stone sculptures, also called monoliths, are sometimes referred to as Ikom Monoliths or Nkarasi Monoliths. However, such monoliths, usually arranged in circles could be found across Nnam land. Alok, Emangabe and many other settlements make up the Nnam nation, whose people speak various dialects of Nnam. The people of Alok speak Nnam, a dialect of Ejagham. Alok is a village in Nnam clan, which comprises 27 villages. Interestingly, there are 27 circles of Akwanshi or Akwansi in Nnam land. Nnam-an Nkunu is the generic name of the Nnam people, Chief Akong explained.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Gallery

'A jazzy affair' - watercolour

'A problem of water' - oil/canvas

'Precious moments' - watercolour

'Power of love' - watercolour & ink

'Mobile' - oil/canvas

'Somebody's home' - oil/canvas

'State of the union' - watercolour & ink

'Elation' - oil/canvas

'Face of Africa' - oil/canvas

'Where are the Prophets' - oil/canvas

Monday, January 25, 2010

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Art Movements, Styles and Terminologies

As we look at the various styles and art terminologies, we shall begin to see how and why such terms were derived. Sometimes the term of an art form or style is easily derived from its physical appearance. Thus the knowledge of these definitions should be especially helpful to the average art researcher or patron, artists, teachers, and students alike, and also considering the fact that art theory has become extremely useful in our current schools art curriculum.
Abstract art
An abstract genre of art whereby artistic content depends on internal form rather than pictorial representation. This is a concept or idea not associated with any specific instance.

Abstract art (watercolour painting by Morgan Nwanguma)

This has to do with the attribute of accepting the facts of life and favouring practicality and literal truth. An artistic movement in 19th century France marked by the striving of artists and writers for detailed realistic and factual description in their works.

This is art consisting of a design made of small pieces of coloured stones or glass.

This is a form of art requiring paste-ups made by sticking together pieces of paper or photographs. We also have photomontage, which is also a form of collage whereby photographs are placed side by side.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Art Schools and Movements in Nigeria

Over the ages art schools and movements have evolved on the Nigerian art scene. As a result of the strong traditions of some of the foremost departments of Art in some of the leading Higher Institutions of Learning, academic training in art has blossomed to the extent that the culture of movements and schools has yielded themselves from these Colleges or art Departments as it were. Also, there are traditional institutions and trends that have stood the test of time and therefore have qualified to be acclaimed as schools or movements of their own.

Zaria School

The Zaria art school can claim to be the first degree-granting institution in Nigeria, having graduated its first fine arts students in 1963. Prior to that, it was a diploma-granting institution, then known as the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology; its first set of diploma students finished in 1959, including in its number S. Irein Wangboje.

Painting by Gani Odutokun represents the Zaria School

The most illustrious of early diploma sets was the one of 1961, including Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko, Uche Okeke, and Jimoh Akolo. Today Ahmadu Bello University's art faculty is large with over fifty-five staff members and is divided into two departments: Fine Arts and Industrial Design. Some of the other notable Artists that have come out of this great training ground among so many include: S. A. Adetoro, Lucas T. Bentu, Rufus Fatuyi, Dele Jegede, Kolade Oshinowo, Yusuf Grillo, etc.

Benin School

Benin City has a long history of highly developed arts. With the establishment of the Faculty of Creative Arts, the University of Benin continues a tradition of training in the plastic arts, painting, graphics, etc. Among some of the notable figures that have been associated with the training of the vibrant products that have emanated from this school is Professor Solomon Irein Wangboje, C. Nelson Cole, etc. Among some of these exciting products however, include prolific and colourful painters like Okwoju Drag, etc.

Nsukka School

The Nsukka School of art has become closely associated with uli art, the traditional wall and body painting of the Igbo. It is very important to emphasise the impact of the influence of uli art on modern art. Uche Okeke is the key link in this contagious process, and he builds an art bridge between the old and new traditions. His mother is an uli artist and his own training as an artist led him to explore this visual repertoire. At Nsukka, where he taught, the experiment quickly took hold. And so many Artists coming out of Nsukka have carried on this great art tradition as adherents. Some of these are Tayo Adenaike, Oluchukwu Oguibe, Gbubemi Amas, etc.

Ife School

This is referring to the department of fine art in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, formerly known as the University of Ife. The tradition of this school is highly influenced by the Yoruba tradition and culture as well as the abstractionist tendencies of the popular traditional movement of Oshogbo, which is not too far in distance.

Yaba School

In 1952 the first formal art school was established at Yaba Technical Institute (now Yaba College of Technology); college art departments soon followed, and they in turn merged into the universities of the 1960s. Since then it has stood out as a very fertile ground for the training of contemporary Nigerian Artists.

Nike Okundaye - a product of the Oshogbo school

Auchi School

The Auchi School is also a tag carved out for the Department of fine art in the Auchi Polytechnic. This department has grown over the years and also developed a long tradition of rich art training and practice. The School is famous for its sculpture, especially metal sculpture, which has become a very familiar culture and terrain with the products of that institution. Also, the Auchi School is known to produce painters that are truly holding their own among their peers.  They are indeed colourists in their own right. This school has produced notable names like: Sam Ovraiti, Jonathan Lessor, Zino Orara, Alex Nwokolo, etc. 


Onaism, referring to an artistic movement initiated by a group of Yoruba artists based in Ile-Ife, derives from the Yoruba concept ona, which means decoration, embellishment, design, or motif. Ona relates to sculpture, patterning of textiles and many other art forms; it can also refer to artistic vision and aesthetics. Okediji illuminates this concept in the works of Yoruba artists reproduced in The Nucleus, the catalog of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Lagos. Some artists reveal onaism in their works more clearly than others. Gani Odutokun, for example, does so in the interplay of color; Abayomi Barber, a realistic portrait painter, shows a more subtle use of decorative elements but still falls within the category of onaism, as do the other realists -- Josy Ajiboye, Aina Onabolu and Akinola Lasekan. Other Yoruba artists represented in The Nucleus fall into mainstream onaism: Ayo Ajaye, Sina Yusuf and Jimoh Buraimoh. Okediji compares the stylistic range of onaism with that of ulism, finding the latter restricted to non-realistic styles while onaism embraces both realistic and non-realistic.


The Oshogbo school is actually an experiment that was born out of an informal workshop situation, with Ulli Beier, himself a key player. It started maturing however after 1970s, when the artists were on their own. It hitherto had been one of stagnation and repetition. The burst of creativity of the formative period (1962-1970) had waned and a kind of shakedown process came alive at work, sifting the enduring talent from the not so good and the imitators. This does not mean, however, that there are not still lots of activity and many works produced at Oshogbo, but the results are not as satisfactory. Twins Seven-Seven has become one of the major exponents and involved with other activities, particularly music. Rufus Ogundele, Muraina Oyelami, and Jimoh Buraimoh continue to experiment but with mixed results. The younger generations who attach themselves to the Oshogbo experiment are less successful and are cashing in on the tourist popularity of Oshogbo art. Oshogbo art itself has been variously characterized and described as folkloric, naive, innovative, dynamic, touristic and on and on.

All in Your Eyes