A Journey Into The World Of Nigerian Art
The history of Nigerian art is fascinating. The dawn of the 15th century saw an explosion inthe art scene. That century saw the death of Iyoba Idia (Queen Mother of Oba Esigie) which occasioned the carving of the famous figurine. The figurine became popular and placed the Benin Kingdom into the world of arts. Other ancient civilisations also came forth with their different art forms which included but not limited to painting, carving, sculpture and poetry.
The 19th century saw the prominence of arts from the Nok, Benin, Igbo Ukwu, Owo, Esie and Ife artworks. Today, these artworks energise Nigerian creatives to produce works within obvious traditions and practices. It has documented the history of Nigeria with art as that unifying factor that sells the country to the rest of the world.
Names like Uche-Okeke, Yusuf Grillo, Twins Seven-Seven, Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Aina Onabolu, Jimoh Buraimoh, Dele Jegede and Wole Lagunju to mention a few have redefined the contemporary Nigerian art scene. Laying a foundation for study and national development, these individuals have used their arts to promote the image of this country outside its shores.
The Nigerian contemporary art scene draws a lot of imagination and knowledge from tradition. Victor Ekpuk works with the Nsibidi art form. Nsibidi, dating back to the 400 to 1400 CE, is a system of symbols indigenous to the south-eastern part of Nigeria. Wole Lagunju draws his inspiration from traditional masquerades, focussing on the Gelede Masquerade. All this proves one point: art is in constant renewal and redevelopment.
With little or no intervention from the government and major private sectors, Nigerian art has survived against all odds, positioning itself as a force to be reckoned with in the global scene.
If supported and structured, the potential of the Nigerian art sector as a major source of income to the country’s economy is assured. Establishment of art centres for learning both theory and practice would give young talents a space to sharpen their craft and empower them to put their talents to good use. Provision of creative spaces will help emerging artists to create more artworks, study and also allow people in and outside the country to come and view their artworks.