Professor Okeke-Agulu's New Book Examines Modernism in Nigeria
February 25, 2015
Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu’s new book Postcolonial Modernism (Duke University Press, 2015) chronicles the emergence of artistic modernism in Nigeria in the heady years surrounding political independence in 1960, before the outbreak of civil war in 1967, tracing the artistic, intellectual, and critical networks in several Nigerian cities. Zaria plays a particularly important role, because it was there, at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, that a group of students formed the Art Society and inaugurated postcolonial modernism in Nigeria. Professor Okeke-Agulu’s book demonstrates that their works show both a deep connection with local artistic traditions and the stylistic sophistication that we have come to associate with 20th-century modernist practices. He also explores how these young Nigerian artists were inspired by the rhetoric and ideologies of decolonization and nationalism in the early and mid-20th century and, later, by advocates of negritude and pan-Africanism, translating the experiences of decolonization into a distinctive “postcolonial modernism” that has continued to inform the work of major Nigerian artists. Drawing extensively on previously unexamined archival material, his book provides an expansive account of Nigeria’s pioneering modernists and opens a dazzling new window onto the complex evolution of global art history.