Contemporary art likewise implies modern art. Nigeria was celebrated for her abundance of traditional sculptures of Benin, Ife, Igbo-Ukwu, and so forth before the coming of modern art. Modern art came to Nigeria in the mid twentieth century when Nigerian artists were exposed to modem systems and subject matters because of the contact with European art. The contact came in three ways:
(i) Some Nigerian artists traveled abroad, acquired the modern art techniques and returned home to practice the techniques. In this category are Aina Onabolu, Akinola Lasekan and others.
(ii) Some artists acquired modern art through formal training in Nigerian tertiary institutions like Yaba college of Arts, Science and Technology, University of Ife, (now OAU), Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Some products of these schools are Bruce Onobrakpeya, Solomon Wangboje and Erhabor Emokpae.
(iii) Some local artists were exposed to modern art through informal workshop training composed by the European artists. Some of these informal schools are: Mbari Mbayo at Osogbo, Catholic workshop at Oye Ekiti, Ulli development at Nsukka and Pottery school at Abuja. A few product of these informal schools are Lamidi Fakeye, Ladi Kwali and Jimoh Buraimo.
Nigeria Contemporary Artists
1. Aina Onabolu
Aina Onabolu was born in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State of Nigeria in 1882, Onabolu was regarded as the forerunner and father of Nigerian contemporary art. After his primary education, he worked with the Nigerian government in the Marine and later in the Customs where he started practicing art before he traveled to England for further training In 1922, Aina Onabolu returned to Nigeria and started teaching Art in some important schools in Lagos. He also initiated a draft, syllabus on Art Education and prevailed on government to include Art in the schools curriculum. He died in 1963. Some of his paintings are:
(i) The portrait of a Chief;
(ii) The portrait of Right Rev. O. Oluwole;
(iii) The portrait of Mrs Spencer Savage; as well as
(iv) The study in the nude
AKINOLA LASEKAN, (Painter and Cartoonist) Akinola Lasekan was born in Owo, Ondo State of Nigeria in June, 1916. After his primary and secondary education, he taught briefly in a lower primary school in Owo between 1932 and 1935. He later worked with different companies, participated in exhibitions and published his first book of cartoons before he traveled to the United Kingdom for further studies in an art school. On his return in 1964, he opened his art studio in Lagos, he worked on part-time basis as graphic designer and produced cartoons daily for the then West African Pilot. One of the cartoons led to his one month imprisonment by the Federal Government, in 1966. His works include compositions such as market scene, Nigerian dancers and the shrine of lIe-lfe. He died in 1972. Some of His paintings include:
(i) Yoruba girl; (ii) Hausa boy; (iii) Nigerian constable; (iv) Nigerian soldier; (v) Chief Obafemi Awolowo; (vi) Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe; and (vii) Herbert Macaulay.
Ben Enwonwu, (Sculptor/Painter), was born in Onitsha. Anambra State, on July 14,1921. He learnt the art of wood carving from his father. Enwonwu . attended Government College, Ibadan, where he was encouraged by his Art teacher, Kenneth Murray, who organized exhibitions for him in London and Glasgow in 1937 and 1938 respectively. He won a scholarship to .study Art at Goldsmith College and Slade School of Fine Art in 1947. On his return to Nigeria, he was appointed as the government Art Supervisor and later Art Adviser to the Nigerian government. Ben held several exhibitions and executed a number of sculptures such as: (i) Risen Christ (wood) at the Chapel of Resurrection, University of Ibadan. (ii) Anyanwu (Awakening) bronze, National Museum, Lagos. (iii) Queen Elizabeth II(Bronze), Lagos. (iv) Sango (Bronze) NEPAbuilding, Lagos (v) NnamdiAzikiwe (Bronze), Enugu. His paintings include African dances series and many portraits.
Solomon Wangboje ( Graphic designer painter and art educator) was born in Abiosi near Benin City, Edo State of Nigeria, in 1930. He received his secondary education at Edo College, Benin City. He studied Art at former Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria (now ABU), Michigan University and Cranbook Academy of Fine-Art. He has worked as an Art Supervisor for Nigerian Television Service, lecturer at the university level both within and outside the country, and later he was promoted as a professor of Art. Wangboje has written many textbooks on Visual Arts, among which are New Course in Art series.
Ladi Kwali hailed from Kwali area of Abuja where pottery tradition is still commonly practiced. Ladi became famous as a traditional potter at an early age of nine (9). Her pots were decorated with common creatures like spider, crocodiles and chameleons which were fired and coloured in traditional method. This impressed Michael Cardew who opened a pottery training workshop in Abuja, in 1952. Ladi was invited to work with him for sometime. There, she was introduced to the use of modern equipment in pottery as well as modern glazing techniques. Her works were exhibited in many countries in the world and she became famous. These earned her an Honorary Doctorate Degree (PHD)from the Ahmadu Bello University of Zaria.
Bruce Onobrakpeya was born in Agbarha-Otor (Delta State), in 1932 to Urhobo parents, Bruce studied Art at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria where he specialized in Graphic Design and Painting. He explored the art of deep etching techniques and invented his own style which he called “Plastograph”. His first one-man exhibition, held at Ughelli in 1959, was followed by numerous others in Africa, Europe, America and India. The themes of some of his works are drawn from his cultural background reflecting Urhobo proverbs and other cultural components. He exhibited and executed numerous commissions such as the etched glass mural at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, and a host of others. He has taught Art at different schools in Ondo, Benin City and St Gregory College, Lagos. He has his private art studio (OVUOMARORO Gallery) in Lagos where he exhibits and trains young generations the art of etching techniques.
Lamidi Fakeye (Wood Carving) was born to a family of wood carving tradition in lIa-Orangun, Osun State of Nigeria, in 1925. He later trained under Bamidele, the son of Areogun, from where he joined the Oye-Ekiti Catholic workshop under Father Kevin Carroll in 1955. Here, he was trained to adapt the traditional wood carving techniques to express modern themes; especially the Biblical stories. In 1962, Fakeye won a French government scholarship to study stone carving in Paris. Lamidi has executed a lot of very important commissions, among which are: (i) Door panel for Catholic churches in Ondo, Ibadan and Lagos; (ii) Veranda posts at the Institute ofAfrican Studies, University of Ibadan; (iii) Edena gate house of Ooni’s palace in lIe-lfe; as well as (iv) Oduduwa statue at Obafemi Awolowo University, IIe-lfe.
Yusuf Grillo (Painter) Mosaicist), was born in Lagos state of Nigeria in 1934, Yusuf is a product of the former Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He has taught Art at tertiary institutions, among which is Yaba College of Technology where he finally retired having taught generations of students the art of painting and mosaic. He has traveled to different parts of Europe and the United States of America where he exhibited his works. Some of his outstanding works are: “The Family” Drummers return”; “The Evangelists: and The mosaic mural at the Independence House, Lagos He has traveled to different parts of Europe and the United States of America where he exhibited his works. Some of his outstanding works are: “The Family” Drummers return”; “The Evangelists: and The mosaic mural at the Independence House, Lagos.
Jimoh Buraimoh is a product of the Osogbo Mbari Mbayo Art workshop. He was formerly an electrician with Duro Ladipo The Company for stage lighting. He join together the 1964 summer session of the workshop where he was exposed to contemporary painting medium. He also introduced a variety of African materials like cowries’ shells and beads. He has executed a lot of commissions such as bead I mosaics at Conference Hall, University of Ibadan, and Ikoyi Hotel in Lagos.
Erhabor Emokpae was born in Benin City in 1934. He attended Western Boys High School, Benin, and Technical Institute, Yaba. He worked with the Ministry of Information, Enugu, as a graphic artist and at Lintas West Africa Limited. He carved several wood masks and figures in African traditional styles. He designed the relief works on the building of National Theater, Iganmu Lagos, and the Eyo masquerade in Lagos.
Professor Uche Okeke was born in Nimo near Awka inAnambra State of Nigeria on 30th April 1933. After his primary and secondary education, he was influenced by the works of Akinola Lasekan and ‘others to study Fine Art at the former Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria. He later traveled abroad for further studies. The themes of his works are derived from the Igbo folklore inspiration. He has executed a lot of commissions both in Nigeria and abroad. He has also illustrated several novels such as Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka. He was employed as a lecturer at the Fine Art Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he rose to be the head of the department.
Susan Wenger (Adunni-Olorisa)
Wenger, an Austrian and a native of Vienna, was born in 1915. She studied art at Graz and Vienna. She later traveled to Italy and Switzerland where she had exhibitions with top world artists at Des Baux, Zurich. In 1949, Susanne Wenger went to Paris where she met Ulli Beier, a German linguist, who accepted a position in West Africa. They got married, and in 1950, they arrived Nigeria. From Ibadan, they moved to Ede. At Ede, Susanne fell in love with Yoruba culture and religion. This was where she met Ajagemo, a powerful Obatala priest, who initiated her into the religion and the world of Orisas. In 1962, Mbari Mbayo workshop was organised by Ulli Beier, Georginal Bets and Susanne Wenger at Osogbo to train local artisans I’. and drop-outs. With the help of Adebisi Akanji, a local bricklayer, and Kasali Akangbe, Susanne Wenger was able to transform the Osun groove into an international center through her numerous gigantic sculptures based on Yoruba concepts. Apart from sculptures, Susanne . also distinguished herself in painting and batik. Through her efforts, the Osun Osogbo groove was declared UNESCO world heritage site. Her works include; Iyamopo, Sanponna, Ela and Ajere. She died on Monday, January 12, 2009 and was buried in Osun groove,Osogbo.