Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya
More discoveries, more beauty here. This linocut drew RT’s attention to the traditional Urhobo story that it illustrates, Ahwaire and the Dog, and to its creator, Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya. So far, RT has turned up little about the story, but he did find a Wikipedia article on BOO–in Italian. So then Google Translator came to the rescue (not the first time it’s helped RT out), and RT provides his translation of the artist’s biography below.
RT will pause to note that, although he considers himself fairly well versed in the field of art, it amazes him that a successful and talented visual artist of Onobrakpeya’s caliber has remained unknown to him until now. Is it just that creative souls living on different continents can’t expect to be familiar with each other’s work? Or can we hope that artists around the world can indeed come into contact with each other and share their gifts across the globe?
(and what about Ahwaire and the Dog and the other Urhobo legends? Does a translation into English even exist? Time to check Amazon.) RT
Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya (born 1932) is a Nigerian painter, sculptor, and carver.
Born in Agbarha-Otor in Nigeria’s Delta State, Onobrakpeya is the son of an Urhobo carver. Though raised as a Christian, he also learned traditional Urhobo religious beliefs.
Onobrakpeya’s family moved to Benin City, where he attended Western Boys High School and took drawing classes at the British Council Art Club. Early influences on his work include his art teacher Edward Ivehivboje and the watercolors of Emmanuel Erabor. After graduation in 1953, Onobrakpeya remained at WBHS to teach art, then taught for a year at Ondo Boys High School. In 1957, Onobrakpeya won a Federal Government Scholarship to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology.
While at NCAST, Onobrakpeya began evolving an art linked to Nigerian folklore, myths, and legends. In 1958, he became involved in the Zaria Arts Society (later, the Zaria Rebels), a group of NCAST students that met to discuss art and begin the “decolonization” of Nigerian visual arts. Onobrakpeya has stated that while NCAST helped strengthen his technical skills, it was ZAS that shaped his perspective as a professional artist and gave him the courage to seek his own mode of expression.
At this time, Onobrakpeya attended seminars on printing techniques in Ibadan, Oshogbo, and Ife, and at the Haystack Mountains School of Crafts in Maine. In 1959, his first exhibition was held in Ughelli in the Niger River delta.
Onobrakpeya’s work incorporates stylistic elements and compositions rooted in the decorative arts and traditional African sculpture. He elongates his figures, ignores perspective, and evokes the supernatural through the ambiguities of decorative elements. Onobrakpeya has contributed to the revival of contemporary Nigerian consciousness. He taught for many years at St. Gregory’s College, Lagos.
Over the years, Onobrakpeya has helped manage many arts events (including the Amos Tutuola Show, Lagos, 2000), and organizes the annual seminar Harmanattan in his hometown. He is the founder and president of the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation. Active since 1999, the foundation helps artists acquire technical skills and raises awareness of African art.
During his career, Onobrakpeya has exhibited in the United States, Canada, Zimbabwe, Germany, Britain, and Kenya. Major exhibitions have taken place at the Tate Modern in London; the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC; Malmö Konsthall in Malmö, Sweden; and The National Gallery of Modern Art in Lagos.
Linocut: Ahwaire and the Dog; Author: Onobrakpeya, Bruce Obomeyoma. NARA; Harmon Foundation. WikiCmns; Public Domain.