Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu 92 x 21 x 14cm (36 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2in).

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Lot 97*
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E
(Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Anyanwu 92 x 21 x 14cm (36 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2in).
£ 100,000 - 150,000
US$ 130,000 - 200,000

Lot Details
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu 92 x 21 x 14cm (36 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu 92 x 21 x 14cm (36 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu 92 x 21 x 14cm (36 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu 92 x 21 x 14cm (36 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2in).
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Anyanwu
bronze
92 x 21 x 14cm (36 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    A private collection, USA.

    Literature
    S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), another version illustrated fig.4.3 and fig.4.4.
    B. Lawal, 'After an imaginary slumber: visual and verbal imagery of "awakening" in Africa', Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry, (Volume 26 number 4, 2010), another version illustrated p.423.
    O. Offoedu-Okeke, Artists of Nigeria, (Milan, 2012), another version illustrated p.57.


    Anyanwu is one of the artist's most accomplished and recognizable works. The word Anyanwu ('eye of the sun'), refers to the Igbo practice of saluting the rising sun in honour of Chukwu, the Great Spirit. The female figure is the powerful Igbo earth goddess Ani. For Enwonwu, the sculpture was a way of expressing his hopes for a nation on its way towards independence:

    "My aim was to symbolise our rising nation. I have tried to combine material, crafts, and traditions, to express a conception that is based on womanhood – woman, the mother and nourisher of man. In our rising nation, I see the forces embodied in womanhood; the beginning, and then, the development and flowering into the fullest stature of a nation – a people! This sculpture is spiritual in conception, rhythmical in movement, and three dimensional in its architectural setting – these qualities are characteristic of the sculpture of my ancestors."

    Enwonwu's depiction of the goddess, with her elongated body and stylised head, demonstrates his appreciation for Igbo artistic traditions, drawing on ancient wood carvings and Edo Queen Mother portraits. Enwonwu's father was a spiritual man, and had frequently carved images for the shrines at Onitsha. Memories of these shrines left an indelible mark on the young Benedict, and shaped his view that art and religion were inextricably linked. In Igbo tradition, sculptors were viewed as intermediaries between the human and spirit world. They worked in a trance-like state, inspired by intense surges of mental energy.

    Enwonwu later claimed that he had entered such a state when he created Anyanwu. The sculpture's form came to him in a vision early one morning as he hovered between dreaming and wakefulness:

    "A supple graceful female form arising out of the sun in a brilliant shower of light...she loomed towards him in a wide curvilinear arch...the classic Ethiopianized features of the face and the decorative horizontal slats of the lower torso that receded into the horizon, tapering off to a point..."

    The circumstances surrounding Anyanwu's creation – Enwonwu's spiritual inspiration – connects him with the Igbo tradition of the artist as spirit medium. Often referred to as the 'father of African modernism', Enwonwu was greatly concerned with form and stylistic experimentation. However, unlike his European contemporaries, he was not motivated by the principle of 'art for art's sake'. By engaging with the traditions of his ancestors, Enwonwu invests Anywanwu with a more complex social meaning.

    The first Anyanwu sculpture (1954-5), made for the National Museum, Lagos, received such acclaim that another was commissioned for the United Nations headquarters in New York (1966). The current lot is a smaller version, and likely dates to 1975. This version appears in several major public and private collections, often demonstrating a variety of patina, and small differences in the arms and length of the "chicken beak" coiffure.

    Bibliography
    N. Nzegwu, 'Representational Axis: A Cultural Realignment of Enwonwu', Contemporary Textures: Multidimensionality in Nigerian Art, ed. N. Nzegwu (New York, 1999) p.163.
    S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), pp.128-131.
    B. Lawal, 'After an imaginary slumber: visual and verbal imagery of 'awakening' in Africa', Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry, (Volume 26 number 4, 2010), p.422.
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