Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) 'Ogolo'

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Lot 78
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E
(Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Ogolo'

Sold for £ 67,300 (US$ 87,116) inc. premium

Africa Now

21 May 2014, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Ogolo'
signed and dated 'AGBOGO - MMUO / Ben Enwonwu / 1992' (lower left)
oil on canvas
102 x 79cm (40 3/16 x 31 1/8in).

Footnotes

  • This work demonstrates the impact of the cultural shift on Enwonwu's art in the decade of independence (1960 - 1970). Yet, it is also a deeply personal work which the artist produced acknowledging his brother's tragic death.

    One the one hand Ogolo encompasses Enwonwu's response to the new challenges of postcolonial identity and his reformulations of Pan-Africanist ideologies and indigenous aesthetics. His art thus became devoted to nationalistic ideals and deployed symbols drawn from significant cultural motifs of several indigenous ethnic groups within Nigeria. He particularly focused on Igbo masquerade performance and dance forms which spilled into sculptures and portraits in a variety of media. However the death of Enwonwu's brother, Ike Francis Enwonwu, painfully impacted the artist, and this work is also deeply sentimental. The masked spirit represents his inability to entirely comprehend the mystery and actualization of this sacred rite.

    Following the death of his sibling, an increasingly superstitious nature manifested in Enwonwu, leading to his isolation from public life. The burial of his brother was a major event in Onitsha. In traditional burial ceremonies, a pantheon of Onitsha masquerade groups including Agbogho, Mmuo and Ogolo come to pay their respects to the dead in a ritualistic and noble ceremony. The spirit masking traditions of Africa place the masquerader in a state of grace and it is a complex, repetitive and perfomative process which brings together the physical and spiritual forces. The masquerade and the performance ensemble of its community (drummers, dancers, musicians and the general audience), intensely focus on the spectacle, creating a palpable energy field, which Enwonwu acutely captures in his work.

    Enwonwu's masterful technique and superb colour handling, captures the essence of the refined and distilled Ogolo performance. It is a visual metaphor for the complexity of the human existence and the actual dance symbolises the transitory sojourn of humanity, fleeting though vigorous. The gentle movement of Ogolo which is accentuated by Enwonwu's almost kaleidoscopic fusion of bright colours, represents the masculine aspect of the Mmonwu pantheon, specifically celebrating the beauty of male virility.

    Between 1988 and 1994, Enwonwu produced more than fifty drawings, paintings and sculptures that focused the masquerade theme. This intense preoccupation with invoked in performance, masking and the communication between gods, ancestral spirits and human beings is suggestive of Enwonwu's confrontation with his own morality.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY
    S. Okwunodu Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), pp.200 - 203
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