If you are interested in getting a better understanding of Contemporary Art in Nigeria, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to read these 35 books. If you know of better ones, please let me know.

B.A. ADEMULEYA, Akin ONIPEDE & Mike OMOIGHE (ed.) Creative traditions in Nigerian art, Culture and Creative Art forum. Lagos 2003

Cornelius O. ADEPEGBA Nigerian Art. Its traditions and modern tendencies. Ibadan, Nigeria, 1995. JODAD Publishers.

Agbarha-Otor 2000: the 3rd Harmattan Workshop Lagos: Ovuomaroro Studio and Gallery, 2000

Agbarha-Otor 2002: the 4th Harmattan Workshop Lagos: Ovuomaroro Studio and Gallery, 2002

John Tokpabere AGBERIA (ed.) Design History in Nigeria. University of Port Harcourt, 2002, National Gallery of Art and Association of Art Designers.

Chike C. ANIAKOR and C. Krydz IKWUEMESI Crossroads. Africa in the twilight. Lagos: The National gallery of Art 2000

Ulli BEIER Thirty years of Oshogbo art. Bayreuth: Iwalewa-Haus, 1991.

Jimoh BURAIMOH My life and Arts. Ibadan 2000, Spectrum Books.

Kevin CARROLL Yoruba religious carving. London 1966, Geoffrey Chapman.

Chinedu C. CHUKUEGGU Contemporary Nigerian Art and its classifications Abraka, Nigeria, 1998. Delsu Consult Publishing House.

G. G. DARAH and Safy QUEL (Ed.) Bruce Onobrakpeya. The spirit in ascent. Ovuomaroro Gallery. Lagos, 1992.

Clémentine DELISS (Ed.) Seven stories about modern art in Africa organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery; Paris; New York: Flammarion, 1995.

Paul Chike DIKE & Pat OYELOLA The Zaria Art Society: a new consciousness Lagos, 1998. National Gallery of Art, Nigeria

Paul Chike DIKE & Pat OYELOLA Uche Okeke and Modern Nigerian Art Lagos, 2003. National Gallery of Art, Nigeria.

Osa EGONWA African Art: a contemporary source book Benin City, Nigeria, 1994. Osazu Publishers.

Kunle FILANI Patterns of culture in Contemporary Yoruba Art Symphony Books, 2005

Kunle FILANI, A. AZEEZ & A. EMIFONIYE (eds.) Perspectives on Culture and Creativity in Nigerian Art Culture and Creative Art Forum. Lagos, 2003

Kojo FOSU 20th Century Art of Africa Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation, 1986 and Accra: Artist Alliance, 1993.

C. Krydz IKWUEMESI, Ayo ADEWUNMI (Ed.) A discoursive bazaar Enugu: Pan-African Circle of Artists 2001

C. Krydz IKWUEMESI (Ed.) The triumph of a vision: an anthology on Uche Okeke and modern Art in Nigeria Lagos: Pendulum Art Gallery 2003

C. Krydz IKWUEMESI, Emeka AGABAYI (Ed.) The rediscovery of tradtion: Uli and the politics of culture Lagos: Pendulum Centre for Culture and Development 2005

Sidney L. KASFIR. Contemporary African Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999.

Bernice M. KELLY & Janet L. STANLEY Nigerian Artists. A who’s who and Bibliography. London, New York: Published for the National Museum of African Art Branch, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Washington, DC, by Hans Zell, 1993

Nkiru NZEGWU Contemporary Textures: Multidimensionality in Nigerian Art Binghamton. The International Society for the Study of Africa (ISSA). 1999

Olu OGUIBE Uzo Egonu, an African Artist in the West. London: Kala Press, 1995.

Olu OGUIBE and Okwui ENWEZOR, eds. Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

Uche OKEKE Art in development: a Nigerian perspective / edited by Leclair Grier Lambert. Nimo, Anambra State: Documentation Centre, Asele Institute; Minneapolis: African American Cultural Center, 1982.

Bruce ONOBRAKPEYA Sahelian masquerades: artistic experiments, November 1985-August 1988 / edited by Safy Quel. Papa Ajao, Mushin, Lagos: Ovuomaroro Gallery, 1988.

Simon OTTENBERG New Traditions from Nigeria: seven artists of the Nsukka group. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.

Simon OTTENBERG (Ed.) The Nsukka Artists and Nigerian Contemporary Art. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

Pat OYELOLA Everyman’s guide to Nigerian art. Lagos. Cultural Division, Federal Ministry of Information, 1976.

Grace STANISLAUS (Ed.). Contemporary African Artists: Changing Traditions. New York: The Studio Museum in Harlem. 1990.

S. J. TIMOTHY-ASOBELE Contemporary Nigerian arts and Artists: A modern guide. Lagos. Upper Standard Publications. 1992.

Obiora UDECHUKWU Uli: Traditional Wall Painting and Modern Art from Nigeria Bayreuth: Iwalewa House, 1990.

Susan M. VOGEL Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art. New York, Munich, 1986.

AA. VV. The nucleus: a catalogue of works in the national collection on the inception of the National Gallery of Modern Art . Lagos: Federal Department of Culture, 1981.


FILANI on Contemporary Yoruba Art

Kunle Filani is a prolific writer on Contemporary Art in Nigeria. As a scholar and a founding member of Ona -arguably the group that articulated in a most clear way a theoretical discourse on contemporary Yoruba art- he knows what he is talking about.

A couple of years ago he published Patterns of Culture in Contemporary Yoruba Art. The book is a much–needed contribution to the thinly populated field of contemporary art history and criticism in Nigeria. For the past fifty years Nigerian and expatriate scholars have produced a considerable corpus of studies on the culture, aesthetics and philosophy of the Yoruba at home and in the Diaspora. But much is still to be done to study, analyze and document the practice and theory of contemporary artists that draw inspiration from Yoruba tradition and cultural practices. Filani and a few others have been writing for years, but their contributions are generally scattered as articles in journals or papers in conferences and symposia. So, obviously, there is a great need for publications like this.

The book has two main sections: a general overview of art in Nigeria for the past one hundred years, and an analysis of eight Yoruba artists: B. Oyadiran, A. Ajayi, T. Wewe, W. Lagunju, M. Oyelami, J. Buraimoh, W. Olajide and S. Adeku.

The first part of the book is a brief summary of an already well documented story and, as such, it doesn’t add much to what Filani himself or several others have previously written. The second part is of greater interest. By highlighting the commonalities and differences of these eight artists, he draws a view of how tradition and modernity, or permanence, continuity and change unfold in a broad section of contemporary Yoruba artists. Putting them together, an outline appears and the posit that that there is such a thing as “contemporary Yoruba Art” is validated. Nevertheless, Filani is careful not to take the part for the whole and conclude that all art produced by Yoruba artists is “Yoruba art”. Even a cursory look at the works of Grillo, Oshinowo, Olaku, or Muri Adejimi, will show this clearly.

The book is published by Symphony Books. Tough as we say in Nigerian common parlance “they have tried…”, the quality of the printing is unjustifiably poor for a book on the arts. Not so many years ago it was impossible to get acceptable locally printed material, but this is not the case today.

All in all, this is book to recommend as a general introduction to a subject of particular relevance in the Nigerian Art context. I hope Filani will develop it into more in-depth studies of particular aspects or artists.

With Chris AFUBA at Enugu

E. Gombrich once said that there is no art, only artists. If that is the case, then Chris Afuba is clearly one of them. Whether he is drawing on paper, carving wood, moulding clay, welding iron bars or shaping jute fiber mats he is always fully engrossed in each piece as if it were the only one or the last one.

 Chris and I

I visited him this week at his home/studio in Enugu. I arrived there with red dust on my body and a little cloud in my soul. After showing me what he is doing now, he brought two chairs outside the house, and under the shadow of a mango tree we conversed for some time. I am sure he was not fully aware of the “small pleasure” this is for those of us living in the “asphalt jungle”. I left refreshed by his contagious optimism.

Afuba always treats matter with passion and respect. He works iron with strength and wood with gentleness. He listens to them and lets them talk in their own languages. He puts them together and allows the black iron rods find their place around the quiet pieces of wood. He likes to compare some of these pieces with jazz improvisations.

Talking to Chris Afuba one soon realizes that for him an artwork is not a commodity to be produced, marketed and sold. Each of his works has a live on its own. Two things strike most in what he does: his commitment to social issues and his respect for igbo tradition. His works are deeply personal, they come from within, but they are also deeply engaged the present and the past.


He is an unassuming figure, and he has been exceptionally consistent over the years. There is in him a steady continuity mixed with an untiring zest for experimentation. Appropriately, Dapo Adeniyi called him recently “Mr. Experiment” in an article in POSITION, the arts magazine. He experiments, but he does it quietly, not making noise, never engaging in self-promoting gimmicks.

It is always refreshing to find a genuine artist, full of sensibility and a concern to find meaning and beauty, transcending the immanent demands of the market place. I was lucky to meet him again.