Onobrakpeya is arguably Nigeria’s most influential artist. He was an early proponent of synthesis – which was, at its core, simply a call for cultural independence and choice. A decision to contextualize Nigerian contemporary art in Nigerian cultural experiences.
He has continued to evolve over the decades as an artist, an art teacher and a focal point for Nigerian art evolution.
Abayomi Barber is a surrealist painter, sculptor and teacher.
He is probably one of the most influential contemporary artists in Nigeria. He has, over the years, thought and influenced a generation of Nigerian artists.
Barber was born in Ife in 1928. As a child he was attracted to the Ife sculptures in the palace of his uncle, the then Oni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi. By his early teens the precocious Barber had started to create artworks from whatever material was available to him. His early pastels were made directly from coloured chalk soaked in water and kitchen charcoal.
Barber moved to London in 1960. For a brief period he took art classes at the Central School of Arts and Craft, London. Mostly though, he visited Museums and galleries and wandered the parks of London. He eventually joined the studio of Mancini and Tozer. From there he moved to the studio of Oscar Nemon. He would work with Nemon on a variety of Winston Churchill busts. Nemon had become intertwined with the art of Churchill and had become, in a sense, Churchill’s art biographer, creating some of the most enduring images of the British politician. Barber upon his return to Nigeria would have the same relationship with Awolowo.
Barber returned to Nigeria in 1971 to teach art at the University of Lagos. Many of his students would follow his surrealist leaning. They would become known as the Barber school and would carry on his tradition of dedication to detail and a liberation of the imagination.
Asidere was born in Lagos in 1961. His father was a sailor with the Elder Dempster company while his mother ran the household. The early influence of his mother would play a significant role in his art – his depiction of women as strong, powerful, wise figures.
His passion for art started in Secondary school in Lagos. He enrolled in the art department of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, then flourishing under the guidance of Gani Odutokun. Learning in the intellectually vibrant atmosphere of the ABU art school encouraged his aversion for conformity. He graduated in 1988 with a 1st class degree and stayed on to do a Master’s degree in art.
His next stop was The Federal Polytechnic Auchi. He joined the school’s art department in 1990. Along with Ben Osaghae and Sam Ovraiti, Asidere would play a major role in putting Auchi firmly on the Nigerian art map. The Auchi artists worked together and influenced each other The result of this osmosis was a group that gloried in colour. For them colour subjugated form, structure – everything else. It was to be enjoyed, celebrated. His art would blend the intellectual curiousity of Zaria and the exuberance of Auchi.
In 1995, Asidere returned to Lagos where he has remained. Gregarious, opinionated, impulsive. Painting, drawing and dragging other artists along when he can to create art about Lagos and its inhabitants.