Nigerian art schools started with Aina Onabolu (1881-1963). Onabolu is regard to as the father of art, he was a self-trained artist who later considered art in England in the mid 1920s. On his arrival, he didn’t just keep painting, he began teaching art in a few secondary schools over the Western Region. He was instrumental in the completely rounded art training got by the next generation of artist—Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Uche Okeke, Ben Osawe etc., who practiced colossal impact in what became contemporary Nigerian art.

The term ‘Art school’ here refers to a gathering of artists who share a typical way of thinking, perfect, and style. While the proper Nigerian art schools are named after art department of institutions in the nation, the pioneers are generally members from the Zaria Art Society—set up by students of Nigeria’s first art school, Nigerian College of Arts and Science Technology, Zaria (presently the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria). Here are the leading art schools, their key artists and famous works.

The Zaria School

The dismissal of all types of European artistic knowledge by certain students of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria changed the course of our visual history. The Zaria School artists concentrated on Nigerian cultural themes and experiences.. Their works depend on the fantasies and legends of the people. Their Landscapes, for the most part, mirror the grassland and savannah vegetation of the North.

The Yaba School

Yusuf Grillo, a member from the Zaria Art Society, formed the Yaba School. The Yaba style depends on an excellent comprehension of colour, which Grillo is acclaimed for, and it is unmistakable for its practically precise reasonable portrayals—photorealism.

The Nsukka School

The Igbo Uli painting tradition forms the premise of this school pioneered by Uche Okeke, a member from the Zaria Art Society who turned into an art lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The style is centered around calligraphic Uli art and utilization of Uli straight structures to show radical socio-political and social topics.

The Ife School

The Ife School created from the Ori-Olokun Workshop, an informal workshop built up to develop the artistic gifts of Ife indigenes. The Ife School artists were trained to utilize materials from their prompt environment, which can be found in their terracotta, granite and bronze works. This style displays examples and designs peculiar to the rich artistic culture of Western Nigeria

The Auchi School

Colour is the most important element of art to the Auchi School. The style, pioneered by Ademola Adejumola, emphasizes strong colour and vivid strokes while subject matter is rather simplified and abstract.

The Barber School

This is an informal school of artists who trained under Abayomi Barber. Its inspiration is based on the classical Ife bronzes. Working in a style similar to Barber’s, this group is distinct for its surrealistic-naturalistic art that is part invention, part realism.

The Oshogbo School

This is an informal school that developed from The Oshogbo Experiment—a series of workshops held in Oshogbo and Ibadan in the early 1960s. The workshops were opportunities for indigenes without formal artistic training to produce art that is not regulated by formal art education. The style is steeped in African tradition and its focus is on traditional Yoruba culture, festivals and other cultural activities.


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