Nigeria has a long history of visual arts stemming from its many ethnic groups, each with its own traditions. In the years leading up to and after independence, Nigerian artists rebelled against British colonization by incorporating African elements into their work. This cultural awareness in Nigerian art was only heightened in the 1980s after a war when artists experimented with ways to incorporate traditional symbols into their work. This set the stage for the contemporary art scene in Nigeria.
The country’s growing wealth is fueling the contemporary art scene in the form of investors, grants, patrons, and buyers to drive a flourishing trade. Wealthy Nigerians are scrambling to buy up work from local artists.
Here are some of the top contemporary artists from Nigeria.
1. Victoria Udondian
Victoria Udondian, born in 1982, trained as a painter, tailor, and fashion designer. Her interest in textiles is evident in her works which use fabrics such as burlap and second-hand clothing. She weaves the textiles together to create artworks with themes of cultural contamination and the continuous interaction between contemporary and traditional values.
2. Adamu Waziri
No we aren’t talking about the Nigerian minister of police affairs! This Adamu Waziri is an animator who has taken it upon himself to re-animate African cartoons for children. His cartoons such as “Bino and Fino” show positive images of Africa instead of primitive, jungle depictions often seen in cartoons.
3. Wura-Natasha Ogunji
Wuru-Natasha Ogunji uses performance to create a spectacle out of the mundane – like when she braided three performers together by their own hair to show the relationship women have with each other through their hair, or when she had masked women walk the street with water jugs tied to their ankles.
4. Marcia Kure
Marcia Kure is a painter who was born in Kano but lives and works in the U.S. Her paintings and collages address motherhood, pop culture and violence against women. The images have an ethereal quality that contrasts with the often harsh messages.
5. Otobong Nkanga
Otobong Nkanga was born in 1974 in Kano. She works in a variety of media including photography, performance, and painting. Her works have a narrative quality to them that prompts speculative conversations from viewers. Nkanga lives and works in Europe.
6. Nnenna Okore
Born in Nigeria in 1979, Nnenna Okore lives and works in the U.S., teaching sculpture at North Park University, Chicago. Okore is known for taking found objects and transforming them into works of art with beautiful textures and colors. She draws inspiration from her childhood in Nsukka and the many manmade dwellings she saw contrasting against the natural environment. Her works speak of transformation, aging, and decay.
7. Adaku Utah
Adaku Utah is a dancer, performance artist, and social activist. She uses dance to take on themes of sexual health and women’s rights. Utah is also the founder of the website SoularBliss which provides “recipes, remedies, rituals and resources to healing ourselves whole.”
8. Lucy Azubuike
Lucy Azubuike uses media like photography, collage, and performance to question the way we see our everyday environment. For example, she takes close-up pictures of trees so they are transformed to look like intimate folds of human skin, or makes collages resembling the layers of old advertisement posters found on Nigerian streets.
9. Karl Ohiri
Karl Ohiri is a Nigerian-British photographer who lives and works in the U.K. His photographs deal with themes of identity and cultural identity. Many of his works feature his Finnish wife, who poses in traditional Nigerian clothing or staged scenes of daily African life.
10. Emeka Okereke
Emeka Okereke works with many art forms including poetry, performance, and painting, but he is known primarily for his photography. His images juxtapose the ordinary and extraordinary. There is a socio-political aspect to his work in his portrayal of poverty and violence.
Source: Carri Willbanks, AFK Insider