Thursday, October 3, 2013


Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh is a Dutch Post-impressionist painter who is highly noted for his use of colour (1853-1890). When it comes to Van Gogh paintings, almost all of his works are famous outside the art historian circles and often referenced in the popular culture. However, the Starry Night is probably one of the paintings most of us must have seen somewhere at some point in time. It depicts the view from Van Gogh’s sanatorium window situated in Southern France. But why was Van Gogh not appreciated at the time he worked, or was he simply ahead of his time, such that he lived only for posterity?
In a letter to his brother, Van Gogh explained that when he painted this picture he did not make a reference to religion or romance, but to the pure country nature, purer than the suburbs and the bars of Paris. The Starry Night has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 1941. This painting and the creative power of Van Gogh inspired Don McLean to write the song “Vincent” also known as “Starry, Starry Night” for its opening line.
It is recorded that the artist hardly sold any of his works during his life time and so did not make any financial success of his career. Could this have been the frustration that drove him to near insanity, and even leading him to slash off his ear? The irony of it all is that Van Gogh has sold so much and also at record breaking prices after his death, and even till this day. Could this not be seen as a mere mockery of this great artist, or is he really a creative genius?
By Morgan Nwanguma

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Print-making in Nigeria

Plastocast relief by Bruce Onobrakpeya

Modern Nigerian print-making as an art form can be dated back to the school in Zaria in the late 1950s, though here the emphasis was on print-making as a commercial medium. However, among the graduates of this programme are two of the most prominent of Nigeria's print-makers: Bruce Onobrakpeya and Solomon Irein Wangboje. While Wangboje is renowned for his wood cuts and lino prints, Onobrakpeya is world famous for his elaborate works in metal foil reliefs, plasto-cast reliefs as well as other mixed media techniques.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Chinua Achebe: The Exit of an Iroko

Professor Chinua Achebe the renowned Nigerian author has been rightly referred to in many ways as the father of African literature. It is unbelievable that this international giant of letters authored his world famous classic – Things Fall Apart in 1958 when the young writer was just 28 years of age. This particular work has so far been translated into over 50 international languages having sold over 10 million copies internationally.

Prof Chinua Achebe
Two years ago Achebe made headlines when he turned down a $1million offer from American Hip-Hop star, Curtis Jackson popularly known as 50 Cent, for permission to use the ‘Things Fall Apart’ title for a movie he was about making. The renowned essayist and political critic was serving as Professor of African studies at Brown University, Rhode Island. As a mark of his staunch political and principled stance on matters of integrity, and relating to his utter disgust at the manner of political leadership style back home in Nigeria, Achebe in the course of time had had cause to reject two national merit awards by successive governments, while decrying the state of affairs in the country.

“Things Fall Apart” which was illustrated by an equally renowned visual artist and childhood and bosom friend of the writer - Prof Chike Okeke, went on to become one of Africa’s most read novels around the world. The man who is fondly called the father of modern African Literature would rather be referred to as a “giant in world literature” by fellow Nigerian writer - Biyi Bandele. A revered member of the titled elders’ forum called Ichie, as well as an Ozo red cap chief of his Ogidi clan in Anambra State, Chinua Achebe will be missed by all manner of readers and admirers of his colourful prose crafted in the most eloquent mastery of story-telling.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Art Personality - Ndidi Dike

Ndidi Dike represents the very best and pride of the Nigerian female on the art scene and indeed a gift of the beauty of Nigerian art to the world. She is a full-time professional artist; she is multi-talented and easily identified as a sculptor, mixed media specialist, a painter, art consultant, cultural activist, ceramist, and textile designer. A 1984 graduate of the Fine and Applied Art Department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ndidi also has a diploma in Music Education. Her works, which are mostly sculptures rendered in woodcarving, are usually characterised by a combination of traditional Nigerian motifs and techniques, symbols and patterns to create profound political and social commentaries. 

Dike's Sculpture influenced by Uli design
Right from her training days Ndidi Dike has always been interested in exploring how different media can be incorporated into a traditional painterly style, and this is what has modelled her performance as a multi-talented artist working and expressing herself in diverse media techniques. On the surface however, Ndidi Dike's works draw a lot from the artistic styles of one of her mentors and lecturer at the Nsukka art school - El Anatsui. Her works of sculpture bear those marks of influence as she also employs the burning technique and the use of the chain saw to produce her works. But over the years, in her creative adventures Ndidi has carved a special niche for herself, establishing her mark as an authority in her genre and style of art.

By: Morgan Nwanguma

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Forgotten Great Civilisations (Igbo-Ukwu Culture)

History and archaeology have made it possible for us to remain in touch with lost or ancient (great) civilisations the world over through excavations and documentations. Sometimes, archaeology and ethnography which is the study of modern people in their natural settings can provide evidence that forces scholars to rethink the nature of the past. This was exactly what happened in the case when a site in the forest region of (Onitsha) Eastern Nigeria, Igbo-Ukwu, was discovered in the 1930s and 1940s, to contain the remnants of a complex, settled, agricultural society dating back as far as the 9th century AD. 
Igbo Ukwu Bronze Vessel

This was the discovery – led by Thurstan Shaw, of a lost ancient culture/civilisation that was advanced in its days, and as such is very important historical evidence as regards the richness and contributions of this part that is today a part of modern Nigeria. Of particular interest is the source of the copper and lead used to make the sophisticated bronze wares, which may have been Tadmekka in the Sahara, and of the coloured glass beads, some of which may have come from Venice and India, the latter via trade routes through Egypt.

It is possible that the inhabitants of Igbo Ukwu were able to develop a metal working art over 1,000 years ago. Though the topic still remains controversial, what is known is that on this site have been revealed hundreds of ritual vessels and bronze casting that are among the most inventive and technically accomplished bronzes ever made. Igbo Ukwu craftsmen are believed to be the earliest copper smiths in West Africa; they also practiced the lost wax-casting method in their production of bronze artefacts. These casters were among the best the world has ever seen. Within discovery reactions were high, some scientists and historians suggest the Igbo Ukwu were taught these techniques by foreigners. However thus far, the metals were mined from nearby areas and the use of scarification show local origin and cultural continuity with modern day Igbo cultures.

Where have we missed it; what is the missing link? This is what we ought to be looking at today as a people in Nigeria.

In the past, scholars believed that such societies had been absent from African forest regions. They also believed that centralisation of some kind or another needed to accompany the development of complex societies. This segment uses Igbo-Ukwu to demonstrate that complex societies did not have to be centralised.

Indeed, a combination of archaeological evidence and the study of modern Ibo peoples in Nigeria led scholars to believe that the people of Igbo-Ukwu ordered their society through a well informed system of self-governing villages headed by family leaders. Instead of the highly stratified social hierarchy of centralised kingdoms or city-states, the social order of Igbo-Ukwu emphasised common goals and group achievements even in culture, administration, and technology, etc. The discovery of Igbo-Ukwu and its sophisticated art forms have provided yet another model by which scholars understand how ancient people ordered their worlds.

By Morgan Nwanguma

All in Your Eyes