Chike Aniakor – Nigeria’s most innovative artist

Chike Aniakor is a famous Nigerian painter, whom most art lovers, including Tunde Folawiyo, are probably familiar with. Born in tunde folawiyoAbatete in 1939, Aniakor was raised in a rural community. He was a precocious child whose artistic talents became apparent after he drew an exceptionally life-like picture of his primary school teacher. He also showed himself to be gifted at essay writing. In an interview, Aniakor said that he believed his creative inclinations came from his mother’s side of the family, as she herself was an excellent singer, and her father was able to play the oja (a traditional Igbo flute) extraordinarily well.

Aniakor received his BA from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in 1964. Towards the end of his time at this institute, he began to move away from the use of conventional tones when painting human figures; this would mark the end of his interest in photo realistic art.

After finishing his course, he moved to the USA, in order to attend Indiana University. It was here that he completed both his master’s degree, and his doctorate degree in art history. For the latter, he chose to base his dissertation on Igbo architecture. With the help of a fellow scholar, Herbert Cole, he later went on to write a book on this subject, which he entitled ‘Igbo Arts: Community and Cosmos’.

Whilst his own artwork takes up much of his time, Aniakor has been a teacher of art history and fine art at the University of Nigeria for several decades now. In addition to this, he has been named as a fellow of Howard University, and of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As an art fanatic, Tunde Folawiyo might know that during his time at Indiana University, Aniakor took a dislike to traditional European art forms, and instead developed a passion for re-inventing the ancient Igbo painting style, known as ‘uli’. In ancient times, uli was only used when painting the walls of houses and shrines, and human skin. This style consisted primarily of geometric shapes and patterns, but would sometimes include the use of images of celestial figures and mystic animals. Aniakor introduced these characteristic geometric shapes of this style into his own paintings, combining them with the rest of his chosen imagery.

Aniakor has continued to favour uli over the years, and as a result of this, many of his pieces – especially those in watercolour and ink – are linear in nature. He is also known for his elongation of the human body in his work, and his intelligent use of negative space.

Folawiyo enjoys collecting the work of many African artists. Those who would like to discover more about his interests should visit the Facebook page of Tunde Folawiyo.


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