Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) 'Princes of Mali'
Lot 67*
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E
(Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Princes of Mali'
Sold for £92,500 (US$ 156,762) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Princes of Mali'
signed and dated 'BEN ENWONWU / 1976' (lower right)
oil on board
68.5 x 121.5cm (26 15/16 x 47 13/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Acquired directly from the artist in 1977
    Thence by direct descent to the current owner

    The above work draws inspiration from poet Leopold Sedar Senghor's 1945 work Femme Noire. Enwonwu joined African and African Diaspora intellectuals in evaluating the Harlem Renaissance Movement in the USA and defining its implications for Pan -African advancement in literature, music, theatre, dance and the fine arts.

    While in France, Enwonwu interacted with Leopold Sedar Senghor and the Antillean poet Aime Cesaire whose ideology of Negritude, described an emergent sense of black pride. The philosophy Negritude called for political action designed to overturn the colonial subjugation of continental and Diaspora Africans. Enwonwu adopted Senghor's ideas about Pan - African cultural emancipation and became a close friend to the future statesman.

    Senghor's Femme Noire is an ode to the black woman, but most importantly, it is a song of praise to Senegal, his country. Its veneration of the image of the black woman as an embodiment of African ideals coincided with Enwonwu's deployment of indigenous Igbo concepts of beauty and feminine power. For Enwonwu, Negritude did not necessarily imply adherence to specific forms but to ideas of black empowerment and emancipation, essentially the philosophical, political and aesthetic issues pertaining to Negritude, served as "the revitalization of African force".

    In this artwork, Enwonwu welds indigenous notions of power to political demands for black empowerment. The vibrancy and movement of the figures represents Enwonwu's accordance with the inherent philosophies of the Negritude philosophy: emancipation and celebration of the Africans and their land. The vibrancy of colour which collides to yield new forms, permeates the social and cultural fabric of African societies. This work expresses the present state of neo-African culture, which includes Enwonwu's heritage of indigenous Igbo and Nigerian art, his formal academic training and his transitional modernist practice, insights acquired from his analysis of European Modern art, and influences derived from his engagement with rhetoric of Senghor's Negritude.

    Femme noire by Léopold Sédar Senghor

    Femme nue, femme noire
    Vétue de ta couleur qui est vie, de ta forme qui est beauté
    J'ai grandi à ton ombre; la douceur de tes mains bandait mes yeux
    Et voilà qu'au cœur de l'Eté et de Midi,
    Je te découvre, Terre promise, du haut d'un haut col calciné
    Et ta beauté me foudroie en plein cœur, comme l'éclair d'un aigle

    Femme nue, femme obscure
    Fruit mûr à la chair ferme, sombres extases du vin noir, bouche qui fais lyrique ma bouche
    Savane aux horizons purs, savane qui frémis aux caresses ferventes du Vent d'Est
    Tamtam sculpté, tamtam tendu qui gronde sous les doigts du vainqueur
    Ta voix grave de contralto est le chant spirituel de l'Aimée

    Femme noire, femme obscure
    Huile que ne ride nul souffle, huile calme aux flancs de l'athlète, aux flancs des princes du Mali
    Gazelle aux attaches célestes, les perles sont étoiles sur la nuit de ta peau.

    Délices des jeux de l'Esprit, les reflets de l'or ronge ta peau qui se moire

    A l'ombre de ta chevelure, s'éclaire mon angoisse aux soleils prochains de tes yeux.

    Femme nue, femme noire
    Je chante ta beauté qui passe, forme que je fixe dans l'Eternel
    Avant que le destin jaloux ne te réduise en cendres pour nourrir les racines de la vie
    .

    BIBLIOGRAPHY
    S. Okwunodu Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu (Rochester, 2008), pp. 78-79
Activities
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Contacts
  1. Elizabeth Callinicos
    Auction Administration - African, Modern and Contemporary Art
    Bonhams
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