Demas Nwoko (Nigerian, born 1935) Rickshaw Ride

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Lot 12*
Demas Nwoko
(Nigerian, born 1935)
Rickshaw Ride

Sold for £ 81,250 (US$ 101,574) inc. premium
Demas Nwoko (Nigerian, born 1935)
Rickshaw Ride
signed and dated 'DEMAS 1970' (lower left)
oil on canvas
89 x 61cm (35 1/16 x 24in).

Footnotes

  • Demas Nwoko (b. 1935), a leading figure in Nigerian modernism, is best known as a founding member of the Zaria Art Society, a student group at the Nigerian College of Art, Science and Technology, Zaria that became key players in the development of postcolonial modernism in Nigeria in the early 1960s. The group's significance lies in its insistence on developing a new art based on Nigerian and African traditional aesthetics, forms and processes, but with a modernist sensibility similar to that of the European avant-garde. This idea, theorized by his friend Uche Okeke as Natural Synthesis, defined Nwoko's work as a painter, sculptor, teacher, theatre director and designer, and architect. In the late 1970s when he founded the journal New Culture and as the presidential candidate of his own national political party in 1992, Nwoko continued to espouse the centrality of indigenous African cultural and socio-political systems in the making of modern, progressive society.

    As an art student, Nwoko developed a painting style based in part on his adaptation of the palette and colour attitude of the Parisian avant-garde, especially the Fauves, and an idiosyncratic, expressive figuration. By selective disfiguring of facial features, as well as hands and feet, his human figures frequently seem like caricatures and convey a sense of wicked humour, regardless of his subject matter (Beggars on a Train, 1959; Nigeria, in 1959, 1960). But unlike in his sculpture (in wood and, more famously, terracotta) and architecture where, in the spirit of natural synthesis, he systematically explored and reinterpreted stylistic elements of Igbo, Edo and ancient Nok art and design, his painting had no such definitive commitment to any particular African artistic tradition. That is, whereas in sculpture he successfully articulated a postcolonial modernist style with an undeniable connection to indigenous Nigerian artistic heritage, in painting his primary concern was the development of a unique mode of pictorial satire.

    On graduating from Zaria in 1961, Nwoko received a nine-month scholarship to study scenography and fresco painting in France. Besides creating stage design for a Mozart piece at the Theatre Lyrique in Vichy, he produced several paintings that were presented in a joint exhibition with Uche Okeke at the Galerie Lambert on Rue Saint-Louis en I'Ile, Paris in May 1962. Over the next decade, Nwoko developed a figural style associated with Igbo cosmology and aesthetics, but often depicting scenes of European metropolitan life or Judeo-Christian narrative. These works reflect the complex transculturalism at the heart of his theory of natural synthesis.

    We would like to thank Professor Chika O. Okeke-Agulu, Princeton University, for his assistance with this catalogue entry.
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