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OJEMBA: A Fifty-Year Retrospective
Selected Paintings, Drawings, and Prints by Obiora Udechukwu, 1966-2016

August 17 - October 12, 2016

obiora udechukwu painting

Painting by Obiora Udechukwu


The Richard F. Brush Art Gallery is pleased to mark the beginning of the academic year with an exhibition to honor Obiora Udechukwu’s upcoming 20-year anniversary at St. Lawrence University.  The exhibition title, OJEMBA, is taken from the Igbo adage Ojemba e nwe ilo, or “A traveler to distant lands does (or should) not have enemies.” A variety of media is 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, the artist directly or indirectly addresses themes regarding humans, nature, and sociopolitical conditions in Nigeria during 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.

A year after Professor Udechukwu joined St. Lawrence in 1997 as Visiting Charles A. Dana Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts, the gallery mounted a solo exhibition of his artworks entitled Text(ures) of Memory – Paintings, Drawings, and Prints. Some of the works in the exhibition alluded to the harrowing incarceration of Udechukwu and other faculty members 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. The artist’s combination of written words and drawn or painted images was also of particular interest; such dialogue has continued and can be seen in recent works. Interestingly, depending on the context, the Igbo verb ide can mean “to write” or “to draw,” but in each case it refers to “making marks.”

Obiora Udechukwu was educated at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 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, Abuja, Nigeria; the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC ; the Newark Museum, NJ; and Iwalewa Haus, Universität Bayreuth, Germany.

Special thanks to the Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs, the Art & Art History department’s Jeanne Scribner Cashin Endowment Fund, Ugoma Adegoke, BLOOM Art, and Uche Nwokedi SAN for their support of the exhibition and lecture.


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