Celebrating the life of Ben Osaghae

Celebrating the life of Ben Osaghae

Leading Nigerian contemporary artist Ben Osaghae who passed away on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, at the age of 55, leaving behind an indelible print on the Nigerian art scene.

He was born on June 23, 1962 in Benin City, Nigeria, where he had his primary and secondary school education. He studied General Art at the Auchi Polytechnic and graduated as the best student in his class in 1986, earning the Rector’s Award for Excellence.

benosaghae-environmentalsanitationEnvironmental Sanitation, 1995, oil on canvas 85 x 110cm

Upon graduation, Osaghae was offered a position to teach painting, drawing and art history at his alma mater, a role he held between 1990 and 1995. He later moved to Lagos where he soon established an active studio practice.

Jess Castellote and Akinyemi Adetunji in their recent monograph Osaghae: Visual Chronicles of a Society in Flux described the artist thus: “Like most of the social realists of the 19th and 20th century, Osaghae has a high view of the mission of the artist – and his art-in society. He observes the world around him and gently tries to say and do something about it. But he is not a political reformer painting political propaganda… Osaghae’s works are in a different space, one not occupied by either ‘art-for-art’s-sake’ or ‘art-as-propaganda.”

thirstThirst, 1997, oil on canvas, 80 x 105cm

Much of Osaghae’s legacy is hinged on this engagement of the socio-political ills of his country, including extortion and injustice by the Nigeria police and judicial systems. Some of his paintings like Marriage of Justice (2001) Prey and Predator (2011), Unfair Sentence (2013), Cell Mates (2005) have won critical acclaim.

Through his works, Ben Osaghae inspired and touched many including a younger generation of artists, collectors, students and enthusiasts alike. He will be greatly missed.


Photo Credit: Hour Glass Gallery, Art21

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