The Nsukka School, after 50 years celebration is emblematic of an artistic phenomenon that occupies an inimitable position in contemporary art practice in Nigeria. It also brings together an interesting array of multifarious art styles which pay homage to a common ideological and creative ancestry. At 56, the Nsukka School has come a long way and boasts of a rich and vibrant art culture.
Although the department was established in 1961, unarguably, it is its post Nigeria civil war art tradition which developed in the early 1970s that has significantly impacted on the aesthetic contours of modern Nigerian art. The idea of appropriating traditional uli art as a creative resource in studio practice and its subsequent synthesis into new modes of artistic expression formed the focal point of this emergent artistic sensibility. Over time, the creative identity of the Nsukka School has become inextricably linked to the uli idiom.
This anniversary exhibition highlights the experimental vigor and intellectuality of the Nsukka School brand. Following in the footsteps of Uche Okeke who found in uli art a viable medium of exchange in transacting the natural synthesis ideology which he and other members of the Zaria Art Society advocated for in the late 1950s, the artists whose works are featured in this exhibition present us with their own personalized visions of the natural synthesis philosophy.
Adopting various modes of presentation/representation, the artists address the exigencies of existential realities through the mediatory channel of domesticated western/indigenous materials and media. The unique formalism and aesthetics embodied in the works attest to their conceptual depth, compositional ability and creative ingenuity.
It is quite obvious that Nsukka artists have come to the realization that appropriating the formal essence and iconographic symbolism ofuli art in studio work, as influential as it has been in forging a stylistic identity for the Nsukka School, serves a much bigger purpose; it validates the importance of the environment as a rich source of ideas, materials and forms. Nsukka artists, like the seeds of the oil bean tree, have been dispersed across the fertile landscape of contemporary art. From their respective zones of artistic effervescence, their art, like gallant and seasoned gladiators, has performed creditably in both national and international art arenas. In validating this assertion, this exhibition celebrates the Nsukka School as a bastion of creative excellence.
Dr Okey Anueyiagu Chairman, Brown Bromell