Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) 'Ogolo - Onitsa'
Lot 31
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E
(Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Ogolo - Onitsa'
Sold for £ 5,250 (US$ 7,294) inc. premium

Lot Details
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Ogolo - Onitsa'
signed and dated 'BEN ENWONWU / 1969' and inscribed with title (lower left)
watercolour
28 x 35cm (11 x 13 3/4in).

Footnotes

  • The city of Onitsa lies on the eastern bank of the Niger River in Southern Nigeria, it also became the city where Ben Enwonwu's brother, 'Ike' Francis Enwonwu, was buried after his death in 1978. Therefore this work, dated 1969, is a painful prelude to the ritual masquerade that would have been performed at his funeral nearly a decade later.

    This watercolour focuses on the figure of the 'Ogolo', the male spirit in Igbo Mmonwu worship. Enwonwu has depicted his Ogolo dancer in a typical applique yellow costume, complete with coral bangles, and uli inspired patterned fabric. The funeral masquerading traditions of Africa place the performer in a state of grace through a repetitive and performative process which brings together the physical and spiritual forces of the dancer and the dead.

    In this example the dancer appears in a state of corporeal and spiritual transformation, his body gently swinging low to the ground, his arms appear distorted - he could be in both pain and ecstasy: a visual metaphor for the complexity of the human existence, fleeting though exuberant.

    It was Enwonwu's general practice to depict the Ogolo in this state of dual transformation, the work shows the dancer in no fixed corporeal space, and their surroundings could be the earthly or the heavenly. Much like Enwownu himself, poised between his British artistic educations and is native traditions, the Ogolo exists in a liminal space between two worlds.

    This is an early example of the Ogolo theme which would pre-occupy Enwonwu for nearly twenty years, culminating in the early 1990s with large, emotive oil paintings such as Ogolo, which sold in these rooms last year (London, Bonhams, Africa Now, May 2014, lot 78).

    Between 1988 and 1994, Enwonwu produced more than fifty drawings, paintings and sculptures that focused on the masquerade theme. Enwownu's adoption of the traditional Igbo masquerade as a pivotal theme in his oeuvre allowed him to deepen his understanding of indigenous aesthetics. It therefore was a fundamental part of Enwonwu's response to the new challenges of postcolonialism, and his reformulation of a new African identity.

    Bibliography
    S. Okwundodu Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (New York, 2008), pp. 110-115.

Saleroom notices

  • The medium should read 'watercolour and bodycolour over printed base'.
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    Auction administration - African, Modern and Contemporary Art
    Bonhams
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