In pre-colonial Nigeria, art served both political and social functions. It was made to service the royal courts and documents significant activities. It was also used as a tool for social criticism and societal integration. In the early 20th century, Nigerian artists created naturalistic paintings - particularly portrait painting of the Nigerian elite in Lagos, dignifying the Nigerian elites and entrenching a nationalist consciousness. This modern art pioneers’ preference for realism was revolutionary, a fight against European imperialists’ perception that all Africans are inferior in status and in kind, which informed their policies and actions. Following the wave of independence experience in the 1960s, Nigerian artists established a unique visual Language for modern Nigerian art based on a judicious amalgamation of indigenous and Western aesthetic models. Also, artists responded to the political turmoil of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, creating art in protest, laden with political satires and social commentary.
The exhibition in this gallery therefore explores the ways in which Nigerian artists engaged with social ideals and historical realities. Whether through traditional media or moving images, abstraction or figuration, militancy or detached observation, the artworks in this exhibition highlight aspects of the social reality in which they were made.
Thus artists like Dele Jegede, Obiora Udechukwu, Ben Osaghae, Jerry Buhari, Kainebi Osahenye and Ndidi Dike among others whose practice includes social and political commentary will feature in this exhibition.
The curator for this exhibition is Iheanyi Onwuegbucha.