The presumption of African art being one-dimensional is far from the truth. This perception stems from the idea that the continent has always been more primitive in comparison to Western civilization. However, with a new wave of African artists redefining their identity and culture to the art world, it is inevitable that the individuality and diversity of African art will finally be recognized as Africa rises on the global stage.
One of Africa's most prominent artists is Victor Ehikhamenor. A Nigerian multi-faceted artist who has all-around skills in drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, and installation.His work represents his upbringing in Edo State culture where he takes traditional patterns and iconography from local shrines to produce his own unique style. His style is recognized as gestural abstraction with script-like forms revealing faces and objects.
His work represents his upbringing in Edo State culture where he takes traditional patterns and iconography from local shrines to produce his own unique style. His style is recognized as gestural abstraction with script-like forms revealing faces and objects.
The dedication and precision in his work pay homage to the technical process of African craftsmanship, whereas symbolism and imagery are common themes throughout his work allowing space to reintroduce his evolving identity. Implementing his Nigerian roots in his practice delivers a strong impact on the viewer - opening dialogue in contemporary spaces about how traditions translate themselves in modern times.
Ehikhamenor has the ability to create fascinating visual experiences of vibrant colours and bold shapes influenced by spirituality. Communication becomes a vessel to connect with the viewer because honesty and authenticity provide a new outlook of his narrative. Interacting with Ehikhamenor's work is similar to following a story where the viewer indulges in the next work of art to unfold the content, history, and ultimately understanding his journey.
Memory plays an important role in his artistic process as he challenges himself to use materials that are from his local village, applying vmodern techniques and exploring linear abstraction. In addition to using nostalgic materials, he also uses materials that have a colonial history and reverts the meaning to exist in a non-conforming space. The duality in his work expresses African traditions intertwining with Western ideals, beliefs, and symbols. He approaches his artwork by asking himself, “how can I make the usual, unusual?”
As an art veteran, Ehikhamenor takes responsibility for sustaining his hometown and the thriving art culture where his efforts to protect natural and cultural heritage contribute to the long conversation of restitution of traditional artworks back to their homeland. Since reading books about Benin art, he discovered the global impact of Africa on the world and continues to support his roots.
His interest in returning the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria from various museums across the Western world, such as the British Museum and New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, motivates him to educate and protect ancient art in its rightful land. Ownership of cultural valuables gives the opportunity to carry along history and influence future generations to be innovative and contribute to the momentum of an Africa Rising. This commitment demonstrates one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on Sustainable Cities and Communities.
People tend to undermine Africa's ability to build infrastructures to exhibit these stolen items. The display of African art in Western art institutions takes away the meaning, culture and history behind it. With the support of artists like Victor Ehikhamenor, restitution can be a real possibility as the revival of African culture awakens.
You can see more of Victor Ehikamenor’s art, here.