Head of Sale
£10,000 - £15,000
Head of Sale
Acquired by the current owner's family, 1958.
Lively in palette and free in brushstroke, it could be said that the present work reflects the subject matter that Benedict Enwonwu was responding to. Dancer employs a consistently thematic concept of movement that embodies some of the artists most successful works.
Painted by the artist two years prior to Nigeria's independence from the United Kingdom, we get a sense of Enwonwu's pride in his heritage and values of anti-colonial ideologies. The theme of dance could be argued to be central to the artist's oeuvre due to the access it provides to the pre-colonial ideals in that it signifies traditional West-African culture. Beginning the Africa Dances series while at University in the 1940's, this work could be viewed as a natural evolvement of the artist's project.
The Africa Dance series was created by Enwonwu in response to Geoffrey Gorer's 1935 'Africa Dances' book whereby the author followed François "Féral" Benga, a Senegalese cabaret dancer, through Western Africa. Féral Benga was considered an icon of the Paris cabaret and night life and a muse to artists of the Harlem Renaissance. It is very likely that Enwonwu could have witnessed a performance of even met Féral Benga given the body compositions that seems to reflect iconic images of Féral Benga done by artists such as James Richmond Barthé. The elongated form of the present lot and swooping gestural posture of the present work is reminiscent of the elegant posture of Benga. While Enwonwu was indeed criticising the book of Gorer's, he could have used the same subject to interpret his own views of Africa Dances.