Nigeria / Roots

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Nigeria

The federal structure was an obvious choice for Nigeria, with over 180 million inhabitants, a surface area of more than 900 thousand square kilometers and, above all, more than 250 ethnic groups. There are 36 states in the Federation and there is pressure from different anthropological, cultural and religious groups (half Christians and half Muslims, with some residual animism) to create others. In this fragmented African universe Imago Mundi has collected the testimony of 210 contemporary artists on the small 10x12 cm canvases.

Shonibare Olatunbosun - Strength Of A Woman (2014)

“Nigeria – comments Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - has taken a big leap forward at an international level in recent years, now ranking 26th worldwide, with a good chance, according to Moody’s rating agency, of being among the 15 richest economies in the world by 2050. Driving this good news story of an economic growth that is making Nigeria one of the most dynamic states in sub-Saharan Africa, is still mainly – although no longer solely - the extraction of oil, a resource that qualifies the country as the leading producer on the continent, but which is also a source of serious social conflict and environmental damage in the Niger Delta.”

Tejuoso Olanrewaju - Untitled (2014)

Obayan Olusola Obafemi - Christ For All Nations (2014)

Okochaeze Lebechi Ugwunna - Embracing Culture (2014)

In a climate of vibrant creative energy, Nigerian contemporary art – adds Benetton – “plays its part, with an emblematic history regarding the relationship between Africa and the West, between naturalism and European avant-garde: revisiting and mixing the pictorial, decorative and plastic traditions of its many cultures. Just think of the refined bronzes of the Sacred City of Ife, mysteriously close to Greek classicism and of the naturalism, in contrast with the ‘primitivism’ so loved by our Cubists. The works in the collection evoke many of these historical roots, inscribing them in Nigeria’s vibrant contemporary cultural climate.”

Adeleye Adekunle Jeremiah - Fruits On Drape (2014)

Woko J. Aguru - Block Of Partners (2014)

Babalala Dane - Market Place (2014)

“Contemporary Nigerian art – explains art expert Ayo Adewunmi - has not been without constraints and challenges; topmost among them is the problem of art education in the junior schools. There are the challenges of inadequate art teachers and curriculum development for junior schools. A paramount problem besides the neglect of visual art by the government is the inability to harness the vast artistic resources of the nation into a sustainable art event of international repute which could promote contemporary art internationally.”

Francis Ikechukwu Okoronkwo - Netizen (2014)

Kelani Abass - Calender Series (2014)

Akeem Muraina - Olofofo Yera In Vow (2014)

Despite these difficulties, Nigerian contemporary art – highlights Ayo Adewunmi – “finds ‘unity in diversity’, the diverse traditional cultures of the nation serving as a common market place for shopping for creative resources for contemporary artistic expressions. When and where necessary, contemporary artists have boldly used their works to address the social, political and economic tragedies of the nation, and art has been used to suggest, criticize and evoke moods on issues of national interest. As has been since the pre-colonial periods, contemporary Nigerian art documents history and leaves a legacy for future discussion on contemporary events.”

Bassey Orok - The Wait (2014)

Eva Obodo - Dyed And Tyed (2014)

Amacho Ebenezer Sunday - Mentorship (2014)

“When viewing the Imago Mundi collection – explains the coordinator Moataz El-Safty - you will notice the artistic diversity in using different techniques. The works displayed also tackle various topics that represent Nigeria today, and reflect Nigerian contemporary art and futuristic art as well. Such artists need more care and support so that the Nigerian art movement can continue on its path. The most important aspect of the project is that it will help introduce Nigerian artists to the organizers of international art events. It will also facilitate access to Nigerian artists and create a direct contact with them. This catalogue reflects a live contemporary image of the nature of Nigerian art and its artists.”

Victor Busuyi Banjo - The King’s Portion (2014)

Igbenabor Uzornwanne - The Betrayal (2014)

Samuel Ezenekwe - Wooing (2014)

“Many of the works chosen – observes Oriano Mabellini, Executive Director of the Sarenco Foundation - have a composite style and bring together many different influences. In fact, Nigeria is a complex country with a rich and varied history, also cultural. In these last decades the European artistic avant-gardes have been studied and absorbed, and also recent trends in contemporary art have been rooted perhaps more deeply than in other African countries. So many small canvases feel the influence of this climate of cultural effervescence and different trends all brought together. Nigeria is like a microcosm that contains, in concentrated form, all the potentiality and contradictions of Africa. The Nigerian works for Imago Mundi bring together and summarize the best artistic ferment of the whole Continent. The excellence is in the diversity.”

Valentine Ani Buchukwu - My Helper (2014)

Nneka Odoh - When Money Talks (2014)

Francis Sanda Ademola - Catch Them Young (2014)

And in this diversity – sums up Luciano Benetton – “the figurative coexists alongside the abstract, the decorative alongside plastic forms, the conceptual alongside arte ‘povera’. All in the name of a tenacious and vital desire to put the world – life - onto canvas, to question, to try to understand, to find an explanation.”

Mufu Onifade - Momentum (2014)

Credits: Story

Project Management
La Biennale di Malindi Ltd.

Ayo Adewunmi
Moataz El-Safty
Oriano Mabellini

Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Ayo Adewunmi
Moataz El-Safty
Oriano Mabellini

Editing and translation
Simona Caldera
Emma Cole
Pietro Valdatta

Book design
Marcello Piccinini

Marco Zanin (Artworks)
Moataz El-Safty (Artists)

Marco Pavan

Chike Obeagu - (Facebook)

Peju Layiwola (University of Lagos)
Dominique Fancelli (Alliance Française of Enugu)
Ayo Adewunmi (Art is Everywhere Project)
Fondazione Sarenco Okechukwu Eze (Lagos)
Akin Onipede (Lagos)
Ayo Aina (Kaduna)
Kpodo Michael (Port Harcourt)
Chike Obeagu (Abuja)
Kent Onah (Auchi)
Ellis Oyekola (Ibadan)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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