Master artist and father of Nigerian modernism, Uche Okeke, would have turned 86 this year had he not passed away on January 5, 2016.
On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, the Ugoma Adegoke-led Bloom Arts in concert with the Asele Institute and Iwalewa Books gathered artists and thinkers, art collectors and enthusiasts, as well as writers and creatives of various stripes in honour of the master artist at the well-appointed Bloom Art Studios in Victoria Island.
The 2–in-1 event witnessed the presentation of Uche Okeke’s seminal book, Art in Development – A Nigerian Perspective just re-published by Iwalewa House. It was first published in 1982 by the Asele Archives. Toni Kan, who reviewed the book, provided insights from the book while artists like Victor Ehikhamenor and Chinwe Uwatse, shared memories of their encounters with the master artist.
Ugoma Adegoke declared open a small exhibition of limited edition prints by Uche Okeke which she curated. They were mostly drawings which featured in his 1971 book, Tales of Land of Death: Igbo Folktales. The exhibition will run from April 30 – May 19, 2019 and can be viewed on appointment.
A poet, painter, artist, theorist, teacher and prophet, Okeke was a leading light of the Zaria Art Society and a tireless advocate for a new aesthetic paradigm especially in the post-colonial era. His theory of “Natural Synthesis” was a guiding principle and he appropriated Asele, the mythical Uli artist as his “patron saint” with the earth goddess, Ana, as fountain and creative forge. His practice was influenced by his Igbo tradition which also informed his ethno-aesthetics.