Arts and Culture


Ever thought of art in Nigeria? Most artists don’t get the renowned fame and fortune, they deserve. Contemporary art and artists have left remarkable legacies in Nigeria.

Let’s go through a few of these contemporary artists;

Do you have a 20 naira note in your pocket? Pull it out and take a good look at the woman molding a clay pot she is a famous artist and potter named Madam Ladi Kwali. She learnt pottery making from her aunt to keep the family tradition alive. At a very young age, she was great at it her pots were sold off even before they were made. Her pots were put on show during the Nigerian independence in 1960, and exhibited in London, Berkley art galleries. Although she could never read nor write, she became a part-time lecturer and demonstrator at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and later awarded a doctorates degree from the university in 1977. She passed away 1984 in Minna, Niger state. Madam Ladi Kwali is the only female solely in the Nigerian currency.

A Contemporary Artist

Madam Ladi Kwali the woman behind the 20 naira note.

Another contemporary artist that paved the way for artists today after the time of Madam Ladi is Ben Enwonwu born in Onitsha 1917. He attended Goldsmith London College in 1944, Ruskin College, Oxford, from 1944 to 1946. A leading figure in African modernism, Enwonwu is instrumental in defining a new visual language for Nigerian art. This new aesthetic drew upon from Enwonwu’s Igbo heritage and his British art academic training. He was commissioned a bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II, he received an international acclaim when presented to the Royal Society of British Arts. Ben Enwonwu awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1955 and a national order of merit for his contributions to art by the Nigerian government.

Contemporary Sculpture Artist
Ben Enwonwu with Queen Elizabeth II sculpture.

A contemporary artist that brought Nigeria into the lime light of art is; Yusuf Grillo.

Yusuf Grillo is famous for one of his famous paintings titled ‘Girl in blue’. He studied extensively in Nigeria and UK. Grillo went on to become one of the most well-known painters in Nigerian history. Using the techniques learnt in the UK with a mixture of the Yoruba culture, to produce the most remarkable images. He always avoids photographic realism because he styles and elongates the features in the paintings, that can easily identified by their slimness. Which according to him, represents the contemporary ideal of beauty in an urban setting.

A Contemporary Painter.
Another painting by Yusuf Grillo.

The list is endless and art is forever beautiful. Nigerian art is a mixture of both culture, education and everyday activities that brings to life the aspect of our resources that we are yet to harness.

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