Scramble for contemporary Art from Africa

Anyawu by Ben Enweonwu at the National Museum Lagos

Art house contemporary art auction ended Monday with “Anyawu” a 1955 work by Ben Enweonwu closing the evening with 54,000,000 naira breaking auction record of the most expensive piece ever sold in Nigerian auction. The piece which its original gracefully adorns the entrance of the National Museum of art Lagos is one of Enweonwu’s earliest pieces and still remains a landmark work in the history of his entire career.

Chike Okeke Agulu, a popular U.S based historian describes the piece in 2016:

“Anyanwu’s formal significance lies in its dramatic combination of movement and stasis, realism and abstraction, anthropomorphic and vegetal forms, grace and power. Though anyanwu literally means ‘the sun’ in the Igbo language, this bronze is of a 6ft 10in woman dressed in the royal regalia of the Bini people: a ‘chicken-beak’ headdress, heavy coral necklaces and bracelets. But nothing in Bini or Igbo traditional sculpture explains Anyanwu’s distinctive body. A Nefertiti-type neck – seen here in Anyanwu – is a clear indication of feminine beauty in both cultures, yet her skinny, near-emaciated limbs are reminiscent not so much of traditional representations of powerful female deities as modern-day haute-couture models.”

In the 1960s, the United Nations’ Anyanwu’ was commissioned by the Nigerian government, giving the work more prominence. The value of Enweonwu’s works have risen tremendously over the last decade. It would be recalled that in July of 2004, at the 10th anniversary of the death of the artist, 55 of his works were valued and insured for a Hundred million naira “100,000,000” .

Speaking to an eye witness of the auction mr Chukwuma Cowries Okoye, he said:

“It went well, there is hope for Nigerian Art, and with its demand internationally (for) most of the collectors are foreigners. (Even though) the harsh economy played down on the sales expectations” he concluded.

Proving his point;

Sotheby’s held its first auction of modern and contemporary African art on Tuesday, where 83 pieces by artists from Cameroon to South Africa sold for a total of nearly $4 million. The star of the sale was the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s sculpture made from discarded aluminum bottle caps and copper wire that went for about $950,000. (source NYT, May 20, 2017)

The Arthouse auction also sold an el Anatsui wood panel for 13,000,000 naira taking second place after Enweonwu.

We could also remember Ndjideka Akunyili Crossby’s work “The beautiful ones” sold at a whooping amount of 2.5 Million Pounds at Cristies in March.

crossby beautiful ones
The beautiful ones by Njideka Akunyili

CHIKA OKEKE-AGULU on May identified the beauty of this new improvement, he said:

“This is very good news for the African modernists who will benefit from the increased visibility. They were, some say, the postcolonial avant-garde, who set out to create new art for independent Africa during the mid-20th century. African contemporary artists have also moved beyond nationalism and are more likely to sound off about globalization and complex identities.”

But he also pointed out the implications of this new trend:

“The continent’s masses will be the biggest losers. They will be denied access to artworks that define the age of independence and symbolize the slow process of postcolonial recovery. That’s because whole countries in Africa cannot boast of a single art museum of any renown. On other continents, you might expect to see at least one public art museum in any city big enough to have a sports team. But good luck trying to find a museum in Lagos, one of the world’s largest cities, that displays the work of a big-name Nigerian artist. A child there is even less likely to learn of the art in the classroom.” (Source NYT)


These raises some questions; are Africans collectors afraid to invest in their own? And do you think it would be right for posterity to demand the return of these works to Africa after now?


National Art competition for children 2018.


Theme: “The Nigeria of my dream”

Eligible participants:

Students in JSS1-SSS3 classes in Nigerian secondary schools


Format: Painting, drawing, mixed media, poster

Medium: poster colour, oil colour or acrylic, pastel, pen & ink, gouache, pentil etc.

Size– not exceeding 60*45cm (posters only)

Colour– free style.

Note– Photography is Prohibited.

Please supply the following information the back of each work:
i.Full name
iv. School
v.Tittle of work
vi. School stamp and principals signature
vii. Phone number of student, Art teacher and parents.

Entries Should be addressed and submitted to:


Policy, Government and public affairs Chevron Nigerian limited. 17, Hon, Justice Mohammed Bello street Asokoro, Abuja

Federal Ministry of Education.
Federal secretariat phase III. RM 8.08(2nd floor) Abuja.

Policy, Government and public affairs, Chevron, Nigeria Limited. 2, Chevron Drive, Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lekki Peninsula, Lagos.

Policy, Government and public affairs, Chevron, Nigeria Limited, Km 4, Warri New Port Expressway, Warri, Delta State.


Chevron Liason Office, Major oputa street, By Chief Amange street, GRA, yenagoa Bayelsa state.

Deadline /closing date

July 30, 2018.

For enquiries please contact

Joy Oziomaaka
Phone (01-2772222) Ext:68210

American embassy sponsors 12 artists for a upcycle art workshop.

12 artist was selected from different parts of Nigeria to participate in the IICD 3 weeks upcycling art workshop which ended today, Thursday the 3rd of May 2018. The workshop was sponsored by the American Embassy. Mr Nduwhite the curator of the show commended the artists for their cooperation and their ability to work as a team without squabbles.

Speaking to guests at the event, Mr Larry Socha (Cultural affairs officer, Us Embassy) said the purpose for this project was to focus on the entrepreneul aspect of recycled art, to enlighten the society and to partly celebrate the world earth day.
See pictures below.

A Chandelier made from waste

mr Dada one of the fascilitators

Two guests taking a pose with a work

mr Larry addressing the public

Izu Muoneme’s upcycled art.

phillips Nzekwe addressing the public


It was November of 2017 that my cousin, Chinonso, visited her friend in the city of Owerri. She had discovered in her friends room, an old dusty painting with the tittle:” TUTU by Ben Enwonwu” boldly written on it.  She snapped the work with her phone, knowing my love for art, sent it to me saying ” look what I found”.  But she did not know, it was the most sort after painting by an African modernist. She did not also know the worth. To cut the long story short, I was disappointed it was print; I was ecstatic about the fact that it was TUTU, I really felt like I found it.

3 months later, TUTU  was discoverd by Giles Peppiatt, the director of modern African art at the auction house Bonhams.

 And I ask:

What was an African legendary painting doing in a London flat?

why do we have all the prints littered in our country, and not the original ? (I hope someday we find one original here)

why should it be estimated to worth less than a million pounds?

Simple Facts about TUTU

-TUTU is a Ben Enwonwu’s 1974 painting of the Ife princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, known as Tutu.

-It is a national icon in Nigeria, with poster reproductions hanging on walls in homes all over the country.

-It was painted around 1973,  3 years after the civil war, and so it served as an icon of  peace and National reconciliation.

-it is also regarded as the Mona Lisa of Africa.

-It is estimated to be worth £200,000 to £300,000

– Tutu has been slated to sale at Bonhams in London on 28 February and is expected to sell for between £200,000 and £300,000. 

– Tutu is regarded as his greatest masterpiece.

– Two other versions are still missing.
Since  the sale will also be broadcast live to bidders in Lagos, The Nigerian Government should be sure to buy the work as opposed to living it in the hands of an individual collector, while the search for the others continue.

To Live a Legend; To be Remembered as one.

(Image source: Bruce Onabrakpeya Foundation)
Yesterday 7th of of November 2017, Ace Artist prof Bruce Onabrakpeya was conferred with the National Merit Award by the Presidency, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

We would also recall that earlier this year, he received  a  honorary Doctorate Degree from the Delta state University, Abraka.

He is the second winner of Nigeria’s Creativity award, which has only been awarded to Chinua Achebe, as well as been named LIVING HUMAN TREASURE by UNESCO in 2006.

Read also: Simple Facts about Bruce Onabrakpeya that you may not know

Bruce Onabrakpeya award did not come unmerited, even at 85 he had worked- and keeps working- to remain one of the most influential and inspiring artist from Africa.

We wish him more feathers to his hardworking cap.

Anambara born student wins National art competition.

​Nwadike chizoba David From Anambara State, a Jss3 student of Redeemed people’s academy Jos, yesterday became the first prize winner of the national art competition for secondary schools that was organized by Chevron; NNPC; and ministry of education Nigeria with his painting titled : Civic Duties. 
“He also won first prize in sculpture during the children days art competition in JOS as organised by NGA” a close source revealed.

His teacher has described him as a bundle of talent and as one who has great passion for art.

The first price winner will get 100,000 naira per year as scholarship All through his school year.

 Congratulations to him.

Dike Chukwumerije breaks record: Makes more than One Million naira in one Night with poetry.

Few years ago, there was nothing like the comedy industry. There were just random guys who followed their passion to entertain and make people happy. Years later into their hard work, the comedy industry boasts of big names like AY,Ali Baba, Basket mouth, and others. Infact the industry is the one competing side by side with the Music Industry.

Dike and his crew @ the made in Nigeria show. Photo credit-Minabj.

Today, the poetry industry in Nigeria just grew from a baby to a teenager. Dike CHUKWUMERIJE becomes the first poet in Nigeria to make over a Million Naira in a single Night of poetry performance, with his Made in Nigeria brand getting bigger and bigger. The show was held at Merit House, Abuja on the 1st to 2nd of October, celebrating the story of Nigeria in Hundred years in theatre. It also marked Nigeria 57th birthday. His Tickets sold out. We would remember he had a nation wide tour with the brand this year. History would remember his efforts, and this would encourage other poets in Nigeria never to give up.  

The news came today when he took to his official Facebook page to express his joy. He boasted:

“This is how we did it. So, let me tell you, if anybody ever asks you if you know any poet in Nigeria with a collection of 20 poems who has in one night of reading made up to N1m in sales, tell them you do. This is not a boast. It’s just a recognition that no one is telling my story. So, here I am telling it. Keep walking. This is what I tell myself. For I have not yet executed my vision perfectly. And so, and so, it keeps calling me. Keep walking”

There are other Nigerians who are working hard or had worked hard to set the stage for the dawn of the next entertainment genre in Nigeria. There are the Likes of Sage Hassan who was doing spoken word in the 80s. There is the War of words stage which is the biggest poetry competition currently in Nigeria, organized by 12x media. They planned for war of words Africa with a cash price running to millions, but never achieved it this year. There are other organizations working hard to make it happen.

This year alone had recorded proliferation of poetry stages and shows, bringing poets to limelight.

Change is coming. Congratulations to Dike. But one question comes to mind:

Are we getting to the point where we would have recording deals, poets as brand ambassadors, poetry videos streaming live on our Tvs?