Tradition and postcolonial modernism in the work of Obiora Udechukwu

In his contribution to a 2013 edition of Art Bulletin, exploring the idea of “tradition”, the Nigerian painter and poet Obiora Udechukwu (born in 1946) describes his deep connection to Uli traditional body and mural art of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. Uli, he noted, provided him the aesthetic grounds from which he developed his own aesthetics and visual language. Trained in the art department at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and conversant with the work of European modernists from the early years of the twentieth century, Udechukwu was aware of the enduring claim for a self‑conscious break with tradition in order to forge a radically new aesthetic. According to Udechukwu: “In the same spirit that European modernists borrowed from African sculpture and Japanese woodblock prints to revitalize their work and, by extension, their tradition, I am open to using ideas or media from anywhere to advance my own.”

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