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Nigerian contemporary art woos Koreans with color

Untitled by Gbenga Ogunshakin. (Total Museum of Contemporary Art)
Untitled by Gbenga Ogunshakin. (Total Museum of Contemporary Art)
A total of 49 pieces showing the current trends in Nigerian art are on display at the Total Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul through Sunday.

Jointly organized by the culture ministries of Korea and Nigeria, the event, “A Friendship over Decades,” highlights oil paintings, traditional masks and other works of art by African artists owned by the Nigerian National Gallery of Arts. Also, 20 works by Korean contemporary artists are on display at the exhibition.

“Nigeria is artistically rich and her cultural legacy is significant and unique in Africa. The country’s traditional sculptures and craft traditions have survived the ravages of modernity,” said Kunle Filani, the curator of the NIVATOUR, the original Nigerian tour, in an introductory note to the catalogue.

“Contemporary art in Nigeria seems to have also developed along ethnic lines considering the fact that each ethnic group in Nigeria has peculiar artistic traditions that are enduring,” he said.

By looking at the art work one can easily spot the beauty created by the mixture of simple lines and vivid colors on canvas, boards, mixed media and other elements. The sculptures are abstract and dynamic but at the same time have a stern and solemn atmosphere about them.

“Onye Nmanya” by Tony Enebeli. (Total Museum of Contemporary Art)
“Onye Nmanya” by Tony Enebeli. (Total Museum of Contemporary Art)
“Contemporary art in Nigeria has demonstrated that there are tangible ‘visible lines of continuities’ that justify the maxim that ‘culture is a continuum’ As the various ethnic groups mix and interact with each other, cultural barriers are being broken and more national identity and art forms continue to emerge.

“Contemporary Nigerian artists have demonstrated, both at home and abroad, that as heirs to divergent and dependable creative patrimony, they can assert their individuality as well as their collective identity in a globalized world where modernity is being gauged by occidental canons,” Filani said. Among the several ethnic groups of Nigeria are the Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa, among others.

“A Friendship over Decades” is being held to mark the Korea-Nigeria treaty on cultural and educational collaboration, which came into effect on July 25. At the opening ceremony on Monday afternoon Korean Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryong and his Nigerian counterpart Edem Duke as well as high-ranking officials and art insiders attended to appreciate the as yet unfamiliar world of Nigerian art in Korea.

“Contemporary Nigerian art is not only deep and brilliant, it is cumulative of the diversity inherent in the creativity with which the practitioners have proficiently produced their works,” Duke said before the opening ceremony.

“Nigeria is also a culture-driven country with her generously endowed people surviving and thriving on the strength and unity in the diversity of their culture,” he added.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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