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5 outstanding Nigerian artists and their most famous artworks

Art is one of Nigeria’s mediums of expression.

Ben Enwonwu and his artworks [TheGuardian]

These artists told stories with art and fully infused the Nigerian culture in their art pieces. Let’s walk you through some of these impressive artists and their notable works:

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Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a contemporary Nigerian artist renowned for her intricate mixed-media artworks that explore themes of identity, cultural hybridity, and personal narratives. Njideka Akunyili Crosby was born in 1983 in Enugu, Nigeria. She later moved to the United States to pursue her education and artistic career. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Swarthmore College and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University.

Crosby is known for her layered compositions that combine painting, drawing, collage, and printmaking. Her works often incorporate family photographs, traditional Nigerian textiles, and everyday objects, creating intricate narratives.

One of her notable works is a series titled “The Beautyful Ones” comprised of portraits of Nigerian children. One of the images is depicted below.

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This “The Beautyful Ones Series #7, 2018, shows a girl, arms folded, her eyes confidently meeting the viewer’s gaze, her bright yellow T-shirt echoing the vivid hue of the taxis that surround her.

Her personal experiences as a Nigerian living in the U.S. are often reflected in her works which have been exhibited in prestigious institutions and galleries worldwide.

Ben Enwonwu was a Nigerian artist who played a role in shaping modern Nigerian art. He is best known for his portraiture and his contributions to Nigerian cultural identity. Born in Onitsha, Nigeria, Enwonwu showed early artistic talent and pursued his studies both in Nigeria and abroad studied at the Government Colleges in Ibadan and Umuahia. Later, he earned a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he developed his artistic skills and learned European artistic techniques.

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Enwonwu's artistic style was characterised by a fusion of Western artistic techniques and Nigerian cultural themes. He drew inspiration from his Igbo heritage and incorporated indigenous African aesthetics into his paintings and sculptures.

One of his most famous works is the portrait titled "Tutu," painted in 1973.

This artwork features a Yoruba princess named Adetutu Ademiluyi and became a symbol of Nigerian unity and cultural heritage. The original painting was missing for decades but was eventually discovered and sold at auction in 2018 at a staggering price of $16 million.

Enwonwu was an advocate for the recognition and preservation of Nigerian cultural heritage. He was also one of the artists who sought to challenge the Western dominance in the art world and establish a sense of identity for Nigerian art. Enwonwu's work helped lay the foundation for modern Nigerian art. He was not only an accomplished artist but also a teacher and cultural ambassador, promoting the value of African art on the global stage.

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Peju Alatise is one of the most prominent female African artists in the contemporary scene. She was born in 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria where she grew up in a creative household, surrounded by artists, writers, and musicians. This influenced her artistic pursuits.

Alatise is known for using a wide range of materials, including wood, fabric, metal, and found objects in her works. One of her well-known pieces is "Flying Girls," which addresses issues of child trafficking and exploitation.

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This work shows suspended sculptures of young girls dressed in school uniforms, symbolising their dreams and potential.

Her works have been exhibited in Nigeria and internationally, connecting with audiences on a global scale. She was even selected to represent Nigeria at the 2017 Venice Biennale, a prestigious international art exhibition.

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Victor Ehikhamenor is a contemporary Nigerian artist, writer, and curator known for his multifaceted contributions to the arts and culture scene. He was born in 1970 in Udomi-Uwessan, Nigeria. He grew up in Nigeria and later moved to the United States for further studies and to expand his artistic pursuits. Ehikhamenor studied at Ambrose Alli University in Nigeria and later earned a Master's degree in Technology from the University of Maryland, USA.

Ehikhamenor's art is the incorporation of traditional Nigerian motifs, symbolism, and contemporary themes. He often employs mixed-media techniques, combining painting, sculpture and drawing to create thought-provoking pieces.

One of his most recognised works is "The Prayer Room," showcasing religion, identity, and cultural heritage. He is also known for his intricate and detailed drawings that blend patterns and symbols.

In addition to his visual art, Ehikhamenor is an accomplished writer and has contributed essays, poetry, and fiction to various publications. His writing touches on similar themes found in his visual art.

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Twins Seven-Seven, whose birth name was Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyelale Osuntoki, was a Nigerian artist and musician who gained international recognition for his artworks inspired by Yoruba culture, mythology, and his personal experiences.

Twins Seven-Seven was born in 1944 in Ibadan, Nigeria, and he is named "Twins Seven-Seven" due to being the only surviving child of his parents' seven sets of twins. He began painting and creating art as a child. He was largely self-taught, drawing inspiration from Yoruba traditions, rituals, and folktales.

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He often depicted scenes from Yoruba mythology, rituals, and everyday life and worked in a variety of mediums, including painting, drawing, sculpture, and textiles.

Twins Seven-Seven has exhibited his works in galleries and museums around the world, contributing to the growing recognition of African contemporary art.

Asides being a visual artist, he was a musician, dancer, and performer.

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