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Eva Obodo: The New Nsukka School

Eva Obodo: The New Nsukka School - Omenka Online

From 25 February – 11 March 2021, Kó, Lagos will present The New Nsukka School, a solo exhibition of recent work by Eva Obodo. This exhibition is the second of a three-part series, which re-examines the conceptual and material practices that characterise the art department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

The Nsukka School is a term used to distinguish artists who have studied and taught at the Fine and Applied Arts Department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in Southeastern Nigeria, and who share a critical engagement in both their visual and theoretical fields. The formal and aesthetic codes of the Nsukka school draw primarily from the art school’s creative ideology which places emphasis on experimentation as a critical aspect of the creative process. An important centre for art education in Nigeria, the experimental trajectory of the post-Civil War art department at Nsukka was spearheaded by Uche Okeke and Chike Aniakor in the early 1970s and has subsequently been led by prominent artists including Obiora Udechukwu and El Anatsui. Historically, stylistic trends in the Nsukka school have largely been driven by the enriching influence of art teachers whose pedagogical footprints and artistic sensibilities have had a crystallizing effect on the Nsukka art school’s stylistic identity. The Nsukka School is best known for the revival of Uli, an Igbo art tradition that was historically used for body art and wall murals, placing this visual language into contemporary art discourses.

As a descriptive label, the Nsukka School references a stylistic heritage whose formal and aesthetic codes draw from a creative ideology that is conceptually idealized, experimentally driven and intellectually grounded. Nsukka artists leverage this ideology in creating contemporary art through the exploration of ideas, materials and forms sourced from the environment. Many of these artists are known for a stylistic regime that critically engages with the materiality and metaphoric value of both natural and man-made objects. The core thesis of Nsukka school art centres on the use of indigenous knowledge to interrogate local and global spheres of art practice.

The New Nsukka School exhibition series re-examines the conceptual and aesthetic concerns of the Nsukka School through three contemporary artists, who all currently serve as lecturers or professors in its art department. Although sharing commonalities in technical approaches and the use of commonplace materials, the differing formal language employed by these artists highlights how they each engage the potentialities and materiality of their chosen medium. In this context, actions like piercing, tying, stringing, suspending, perforating, cutting, firing, dyeing and roasting, among others, are used as metaphors that explicate the temporariness, permanence and liminality of the human condition.

Eva Obodo focuses on fibre and charcoal as conceptual mediums, creating relief paintings and free-standing sculptures that are created from processes of wrapping, tying and bundling. Incorporating discarded materials such as charcoal and jute fibre, Obodo creates visual narratives that evoke the complex socio-political and economic structures that frame contemporary culture.

Obodo’s charcoal works reference issues of natural resources and development in Nigeria, while his fibre works utilise nylon threads that are tied, rolled and wrapped to create colourful visual metaphors. Together, they speak to the connections between individuals and their social relations woven against economic and political backgrounds, connected by community, nation and the global economy through the trade of goods and ideas.

Eva Obodo holds an MFA and a PhD from the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He serves as a Senior Lecturer in sculpture and art education at the same university. He was formerly a lecturer at Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, where he taught art history, sculpture and drawing for several years before joining the University of Nigeria. Eva Obodo held two solo exhibitions with Arthouse-The Space in Lagos, including Ngwugwu (Packages) in 2019 and Line.by.Line in 2015. Obodo has participated in several international group exhibitions in addition to his solo shows, including the Osaka Trienniale (Japan) and DAK’ART (Senegal). In 2013, Obodo was the recipient of the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Award.


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