Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie on Art and Decolonization in 20th Century Nigeria

The pathfinder paradox: historicizing African art within global modernity

Review of:

Chika Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in 20th Century Nigeria, Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 376 pp., 129 colour ill. $29.95, paperback.

Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie 22/SOO1

Abstract: The increasing global visibility of modern and contemporary African art makes it imperative to determine how art history frames the emergent subject/context. How do emergent theories and analyses of modern/contemporary African art position Africa within global debates about cultural production in general? How do scholars narrate a history of modern and contemporary art in Africa that unfolds from the viewpoint of the African subject / subjectivity rather than from the viewpoint of its negation by Western discourse? What approaches to historical data and interpretation are suitable for such analysis and what kind of art history does it produce? I use Chika Okeke-Agulu’s Postcolonial Modernism to evaluate these issues in relation to the politics of academic writing.

Keywords: Postcolonial Modernism, modern African art, colonialism, postcolonialism, Zaria Art Society, Uche Okeke, Ben Enwonwu, Ulli Beier, Negritude, Kenneth Murray, Aina Onabolu