Tag Archives: Nigeria

Ben Enwonwu: His Art and Legacy

Nigeria has a long history of influential and important artists. Ben Enwonwu is regarded as one of these, and has continued to inspire both art fans and contemporary artists with his sculptures and paintings long after his death. It is testament to the importance of his work that his name is still mentioned as one of, if not the, most highly regarded Nigerian artist in his field.

Originating as a member of the Igbo people in South East Nigeria, Ben Enwonwu moved to England in the 1930s where he studied at Goldsmith College in London, before moving on to Ruskin College in Oxford. Following on from this he graduated from the Slade School of Fine Arts before moving to the USA where he completed a postgraduate course in Ethnography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University. In his time at the Slade School of Fine Arts in Oxford, the Queen sat for him as he produced a famous sculpture which is now displayed at the entrance of the Parliament in Lagos, testament to his skills.

Tunde FolawiyoWith such a rich background in both African and European cultures, Enwonwu took the controversial approach of melding both styles. He was highly vocal about the dangers of limiting artists from Africa by expecting them only to work within the traditions of their own cultural artistic heritage. He believed that there was an inequality in the treatment of artists from Africa in that they were encouraged to stay within one style, while artists from other parts of the world were not expected to limit themselves in this way. He therefore promoted the idea of expansive art where different styles could be amalgamated to produce new forms.

After teaching at several colleges and Universities, he continued to focus on the development of his own art works, and the continued fusing of African and European techniques. This can be seen clearly in his most famous work, Anyanwu, which means “Eye of the Sun”. This sculpture is displayed on the exterior of the National Museum in Lagos, and beautifully combines African traditional sculptures with a contemporary European aesthetic of the time. Enwonwu himself states that the sculpture represents the rising of Nigeria as a modern state, born from the fruit of its traditional past.

Art lovers from around the world, including Tunde Folawiyo, continue to be mesmerized by Enwonwu’s work and the impact it has had on Nigerian culture. For more information on Nigerian culture and Africa in general, visit Tunde Folawiyo’s YouTube page.


Abdoulaye Konaté: one of Africa’s finest artists

Art enthusiasts such as Tunde Folawiyo will be familiar with the work of African artist, Abdoulaye Konaté. Born in DIré, Mali in 1953, Konaté studied painting in Mali’s capital, Bamako, followed by seven years’ study in Havana, Cuba. He later combined his talent for painting with installation work, composing powerful commentaries on environmental and political affairs. Abdoulaye Konaté’s work is popular the world over with African art collectors such as Tunde Folawiyo (the Tunde Folawiyo information page provides further reading on this African philanthropist and businessman).

When canvas and paint were unavailable to him, Konaté began working with Malian cloth. The large scale of his pieces mean that not only does Konaté support his local economy by using textiles manufactured in Mali, but he continues a long West African tradition of using textiles to communicate and commemorate. Konaté’s work is a social commentary fusing current day politics with traditional craftsmanship. Though his work explores weighty topics affecting Africa today, the overriding message in his art work is one of hope.

This award winning artist has returned to Mali, and lives and works in his home city of Bamako once more. In 1993, Konaté was appointed Director of Bamako’s Palais de la Culture, and is now the Director of the Conservatoire for Arts and Media in Bamako.

Konaté has covered many grave topics in his work, including the effect of AIDS in Africa, both to individuals and society as a whole. 75,000,000 people in Africa have contracted the illness, and more than 1,000,000 children and adults die from AIDS/HIV every year. The virus has had a devastating effect on Africa’s population. As an African artist and social commentator, it is easy to understand why Konaté feels compelled to examine the subject.

Tunde FolawiyoAnother plight close to Konaté’s heart is the desertification of The Sahel in West Africa. The dry lands are inhabited by a staggering 25% of the world’s population who depend upon the area for their livelihood. The vegetated areas are rich in species such as gazelles and desert partridges. Where the area is rich in vegetation, little soil erosion occurs. However, where deforestation and decimation of the vegetation has occurred, soil is quickly eroded by desert winds, meaning that The Sahel is rapidly shrinking. With so many people reliant on the area for food, not to mention the catastrophic effect losing The Sahel would have on the ecosystem of Africa as a whole, it is easy to understand why Konaté is so passionate about saving it.

A bio of the Nigerian artist Yusuf Grillo

Tunde FolawiyoYusuf Grillo is one of Nigeria’s most renowned painters; he is someone that most art lovers, including Tunde Folawiyo, will have heard of. He is famed for the inventiveness of his work, as well as his preference for the colour blue, which features heavily in almost all of his paintings. Grillo sources his inspiration from the actions and behaviour of humankind, but is particularly intrigued by Yoruba culture, and much of his artwork tends to merge western and Yoruba art techniques.

Raised in Lagos, Grillo received both a Fine Arts diploma, and a postgraduate education diploma from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology. In 1966, he moved to England to attend Cambridge University, after which he spent several years travelling around the USA and Germany. He eventually returned home, after he was appointed as the Head of Yaba College’s Department of Art and Printing. He retained this role for over 25 years, during which time he continued to paint, exhibit, and serve as the president of the SNA (Society of Nigerian Artists).

Although he has never been the most prolific of painters, the quality of the work which he has produced over the course of his career has led to Grillo being named as one of the most important artists in Nigeria. Grillo himself has acknowledged that it can often take him several months, or in some cases, even several years, to complete a painting. With this being said, he has, over the past few decades, produced a few hundred pieces of art, including not only portraits, but also statues and monuments.

Those who are familiar with his work, such as Tunde Folawiyo, may know that Grillo has expressed an aversion to photo-realism; rather than aiming for lifelike creations, he instead prefers to elongate and stylise the figures. This technique, which produces graceful, elegant human-like forms, makes his work instantly recognisable. His choice of colour tones and his compositional decisions have been praised by many, including Kunle Filani, a well-known art critic. In an essay about this artist, Filani noted that whilst many have attempted to mimic Grillo’s style in their own work, none have managed to achieve the same skilful combination of complimentary hues and perfect spatial balance.

For those highly interested in the work of many other African artists, find out more at the Tunde Folawiyo African art blog.

Tunde Folawiyo | The work of Nigerian artist Nnenna Okore

Nnenna Okore is an artist from Nigeria, who is currently based in the USA. Born in 1975, Okore took an interest in art from a young age, and after finishing secondary school, chose to study this subject at the University of Nigeria. Although she is now famed for her sculptural pieces, Okore focused on painting whilst studying at this institute, and only began to explore three dimensional surfaces during her postgraduate years. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in 1999, she went on to study at the University of Iowa, and it was here that she earned both her MA and MFA.

Tunde Folawiyo As an art lover, Tunde Folawiyo may be aware that Okore is known for favouring discarded materials; items such as newspapers, magazines and fabric feature heavily in her work. She uses a variety of methods to re-shape and assemble these items, including sewing, waxing, weaving, tearing and fraying, aiming to create forms which mimic the intricate designs often found in nature; the finished pieces are often made up of an array of textures and patterns. The use of found objects serves as a nod to the wastefulness and excessive consumerism which plagues society, whilst the organic quality of the materials symbolises aging, death and decay.

Okore’s work has been exhibited in several spots in London, including the October Gallery, and Channel 4’s headquarters. In addition to this, her pieces have also been displayed in New York, at the Museum of Arts and Design, and at the Goethe Institute in Nigeria. The latter is a venue that most Nigerians, including Tunde Folawiyo, are probably familiar with.

Some of her most successful solo shows include ‘Textile’, which was hosted by the Blachere Foundation Art Centre, ‘Reflection’, which was held at the Contemporary African Art Gallery, and ‘Affrika West’, an exhibition hosted in the UK at the Oriel Mostyn Gallery. Okore has also participated in several group shows, which have been hosted at the Tang Museum and the Middlebury College Museum of Art.

In 2012, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, which enabled her to spend a year working on her art in her homeland of Nigeria. She has also been featured in a number of well-known art publications, including an issue of the famous Sculpture Magazine. Currently, Okore works at North Park University as an Assistant Professor of Art.

Tunde Folawiyo | The career of the Nigerian artist Benedict Enwonwu

Benedict Enwonwu was a sculptor and painter, who many consider to be one of the pioneers of modernism in Africa. Art fanatics like Tunde Folawiyo might know that Enwonwu’s work also played a key role in increasing international awareness of African Tunde Folawiyoart in general. The majority of his most famous paintings and sculptures can be seen in the Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian Art, as well as in the Lagos National Gallery of Modern Art.

Born on the 14th of July, 1921, Enwonwu was raised in the Nigerian city of Onitsha. His mother worked as a cloth trader, whilst his father was an employee of the Royal Nigeria Company. He too was also passionate about art, and created sculptures in his spare time.

Enwonwu decided to follow a creative path, studying art at the Government Colleges in Umuahia and Ibadan, where he was mentored by Kenneth C. Murray. He had his first art show at the age of 17, at the Glasgow Empire Exhibition, and six years later, moved to London, in order to study at Goldsmiths College. He then decided to continue his studies in Oxford; first at Ruskin College, and then at the Slade School of Fine Arts. After graduating, he moved to the US, where he attended Louisiana State University, and the University of California, taking classes in ethnography and anthropology.

From 1959 until 1968, Enwonwu worked as an artistic supervisor in Nigeria; after leaving this position to focus on his art, he began to hold exhibitions across the US and Europe. Following three years of painting and exhibiting, he took up a temporary role at Howard University, as a Visiting Professor of African Studies. Shortly after this, the University of Ife in Nigeria offered him the job of Professor of Fine Arts, which he accepted.

In 1975, he decided to retire from teaching; however, he continued to create art, and over the years, was commissioned to create several portraits of well-known public figures in Nigeria. In addition, he also illustrated a book called The Brave African Huntress by Amos Tutuola. As a lover of African art, Tunde Folawiyo may be aware that throughout his career, Enwonwu maintained close ties to the city of London; he kept a studio in the capital, and was a member of the Royal Academy of the Arts, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Tunde Folawiyo: Dedication to Schooling

Tunde Folawiyo has long utilised his years of education to bring forth new opportunities for Africa’s youth and overall economic advancement. An esteemed graduate of the London School of Economics, Tunde Folawiyo spent years studying the fields of law and business. His everlasting commitment to Africa’s growth is continued through his involvement in various business, educational and philanthropic efforts throughout the region.

With a strong desire to acquire an broad education, Tunde Folawiyo received his Bachelors of Science degree in Economics, from the London School of Economics in 1980. His specialisation in industry and trade paved the way for his future work as a leading entrepreneur in supporting the economic advancement of his native Nigeria. After earning an undergraduate law degree from the London School of Economics in 1984, Tunde Folawiyo concluded his formal education with a Masters in Law degree in 1985.

In addition to serving as Group Managing Director & CEO of the Yinka Folawiyo Group of Companies, a dynamic conglomerate with various business interests across the globe, Tunde Folawiyo is currently Vice-President of the Nigerian Association of Indigenous Petroleum Explorers and Productions (NAIPEC). His dedication toward expanding Nigeria’s lucrative petroleum sector is fostered through Folawiyo Energy Ltd, a subsidiary of the Yinka Folawiyo Group, who currently processes approximately 30% of premium motor spirit in today’s Nigerian market. Through these and his work as a board member of the likes of MTN Nigeria, a developing and emerging organisation, Tunde Folawiyo continues to support Nigeria’s economic advancement.

Tunde Folawiyo is an honourary citizen of the city of Houston, and was appointed Honourary Consul of Barbados, an important role in strengthening ties between Barbados and Nigeria. Through these and his esteemed 2010 African Business Leadership Award, Tunde Folawiyo solidifies his role as an ongoing proponent of his country’s advancement.

Tunde Folawiyo’s dedication to his country provides an ideal platform to continue his mission in contributing to the growth of education throughout Africa. As a member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s World Fellowship, Tunde Folawiyo also serves as a revered director of the African Leadership Academy, a leading institution encouraging the developmental success of today’s young African leaders.

Tunde Folawiyo | Education in Africa

As a proponent of the advancement of education throughout Africa, Tunde Folawiyo continues to serve his native country Nigeria as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and leader in education Tunde Folawiyo has always harboured a passion for educatTunde Folawiyoion. As a graduate of the London School of Economics, Tunde Folawiyo then went on to gain a master’s degree in law.

As Group Managing Director & CEO of the Yinka Folawiyo Group of Companies, an established Nigerian conglomerate with businesses across a range of industries, Tunde Folawiyo continues to support the exploration of new energy sources throughout Nigeria. With his position as Vice-President of the Nigerian Association of Indigenous Petroleum Explorers and Productions, Tunde Folawiyo furthers his mission toward expanding the country’s petroleum sector. He is also a board member of MTN Nigeria, and his role within other thriving companies.

In addition to his business accomplishments, Tunde Folawiyo’s dedication to improving education throughout Africa is conveyed through his involvement with various institutions. He currently serves as an esteemed member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s World Fellowship, a distinguished world-wide network of philanthropists whose focus lie in youth development. Tunde Folawiyo provides a strong voice in promoting the success of the country’s future leaders through these and other school leadership boards throughout Africa. As a member of the Global Advisory Board of the esteemed African Leadership Academy, a key role in coaching Africa’s young scholars, Tunde continues to drive efforts toward improving the education system throughout the land.

Tunde Folawiyo was awarded an honourary citizenship of the city of Houston, as well as the title of Honourary Consul of Barbados, a position holding great weight in strengthening relations between Barbados and Nigeria. With these honours and as a recipient of the 2010 African Business Leadership Award, Tunde Folawiyo solidifies his role as a committed leader in furthering Africa’s advancement.