Prof. Uche Okeke (Nigerian, 1933-2016) Adam and Eve
Lot 26*
Prof. Uche Okeke
(Nigerian, 1933-2016)
Adam and Eve
Sold for £56,250 (US$ 75,248) inc. premium

Lot Details
Prof. Uche Okeke (Nigerian, 1933-2016)
Adam and Eve
signed and dated 'Uche Okeke / 1965' (lower right); inscribed 'Uche Okeke/ Enugu 1965' (verso)
oil on board
121 x 90cm (47 5/8 x 35 7/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Private collection, Nigeria.

    Exhibited
    New York, Museum of Modern Art PS1, The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994, February 10 to May 5, 2002. Cat. no. ?

    Literature
    C.Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria, illustrated p.269.

    This painting was part of The Short Century exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor in 2002. The show was partly conceived as a 'biography' of Africa following the Second World War. The years between 1945 and 1994 were characterised by the continent's transition to independence. In 1945, the 5th Pan-African Congress gathered in Manchester to make their case for self-rule. The Negritude movement also spoke out against colonialism and cultural assimilation, encouraging black Africans to take pride in their heritage. As a swathe of African countries achieved independence in the 1960s and 70s, artists became increasingly preoccupied with developing distinct national styles, inspired by ancient African traditions as opposed to those of their colonial oppressors.

    Uche Okeke was at the forefront of this artistic movement. Previously, talented Nigerian artists had travelled to European academies for training. Okeke however was a home grown talent, studying at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria from 1958 to 1961. Much of his work is grounded in Igbo folklore and mythology, depicting spirits and masqueraders. The fluid, broad brushstrokes of his compositions owe to the linear uli designs of the Igbo people.

    This painting, Adam and Eve, is unusual in Okeke's oeuvre in that it depicts a scene from Genesis. However, the representation of the first man and woman in Eden departs from the conventional iconography of Christian art in a number of respects. The curvilinear foliage in the foreground is a riot of colour and movement. The snaking dark tree branches on the left cut a stark contrast with the vibrant blue sky. The scene communicates life and the power of nature first and foremost; Adam's attempt to cover his genitals is the only signpost of the painting's Biblical source. Okeke's colourful re-imagining of the Garden of Eden is an attempt to offer a uniquely Nigerian interpretation of the oft-painted scene.

    The work has been exhibited at the Villa Stuck in Munich, the House of World Cultures in Berlin, and MoMA in New York.

    Bibliography
    O.Enwezor, The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994, exhibition catalogue, (2002) pp.2-5.
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