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50 Year Retrospective at SLU Gallery

St. Lawrence University’s Richard F. Brush Art Gallery will mark the beginning of the academic year with an exhibition to honor Dana Professor of Art and Art History Obiora Udechukwu’s upcoming 20-year anniversary at the University.

The exhibition, “OJEMBA: A Fifty-Year Retrospective,” opened on Aug. 17, and will continue through Oct. 12.

Chika Okeke-Agulu, associate professor of African and African diaspora art at Princeton University, will deliver a lecture on Udechukwu’s work at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, in Griffiths Arts Center 123. A reception will follow in the art gallery.

A variety of media will be featured in the exhibition, including gouache, ink, wash, watercolor, pastel, graphite, linocut, etching and acrylic on canvas and paper. Using the vocabularies of realism, stylization, and abstraction, Udechukwu addresses themes regarding humans, nature and sociopolitical conditions in Nigeria over the last fifty years, specifically pogroms, military dictatorship, war, refugees and kwashiorkor children suffering from malnutrition. Viewers can also make connections with current world events.

The title of the exhibition, “OJEMBA,” is taken from the Igbo adage Ojemba e nwe ilo, or “A traveler to distant lands does (or should) not have enemies.”

A year after Udechukwu joined St. Lawrence in 1997 as visiting Charles A. Dana distinguished professor of fine arts, the Brush Art Gallery mounted a solo exhibition of his artworks, titled “Text(ures) of Memory: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints.”

Some of the works in the exhibition alluded to the incarceration of Udechukwu and other faculty from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in early 1997. Another key feature of the “Text(ures)” exhibition was Udechukwu’s referencing of uli, a centuries-old tradition of abstract body drawing and wall painting by Igbo women of eastern Nigeria, and of nsibidi, the ancient pictographic writing found in southeastern Nigeria.

Udechukwu was educated at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he served as professor of fine and applied arts for many years.

A founding member of Nigeria’s AKA Circle of Exhibiting Artists, he has exhibited widely in Africa, Europe, the United States, Asia and the Caribbean. His artworks are in public collections, including the National Gallery of Art in Abuja, Nigeria; the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the Newark Museum; and, Iwalewa Haus, Universität Bayreuth, Germany.