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FORMS AND SYMBOLS - A Quest for Visual Identity in Nigerian Modernist Art

picture of Yemisi Shylon museum
Feb 27, 2024

The development of modern art in Nigeria was accompanied by a search for a visual identity that could encapsulate the essence of African culture. The early stages of this journey had a high point with the work of Ben Enwonwu and his interest in the concept of Negritude. It gained momentum through the Natural Synthesis experiment conducted by Uche Okeke and his colleagues at Zaria, which subsequently became a prominent mode of expression in the Nigerian art scene for many years. This deliberate effort to establish a visual identity rooted in African heritage within the context of the modern art world was a pursuit undertaken by these artists. They aimed to create distinctive artistic legacies that set them apart from their Western counterparts and contemporaries.

This exhibition presented by The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, explores this idea of visual identity search through the works of modernist artists such as Ben Enwonwu, Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Simon Okeke, Yusuf Grillo, Gani Odutukun, Jerry Buhari among others. The exhibition spurning from works in the collection of the museum will display over 80 works that express this journey of visual identity search in Nigerian art modernism.

The Exhibition now showing was curated by Charles Udeh and can be seen on the first floor of the museum building.