Ben Enwonwu

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Benedict chuka Enwonwu (July 14, 1921) is a Nigeria sculptor, painter and academic who his known for is pioneering effort in promoting art in secondary schools and his various commissioned and personal art works including an official statute of Queen Elizabeth II.(1)

Life

As a young boy, Enwonwu exhibited an interest in carving as he worked with the available toys he had. He was then encouraged by his father to pursue art. His father, Odigwe Enwonwu was himself a sculptor who left his earlier work in boat engineering to carve. The young budding artist went to St Joseph's Elementary School and the Holy Trinity Primary School in his hometown of Onitsha, he then attended St Mary's School in Port Harcourt, the Government Colleges in Umuahia and later in Ibadan. After finishing secondary school, he was encouraged to further his training abroad with the advice of K.C. Murray, a British art teacher who discovered his talent in making wooden figures. He got a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art, London where he was exposed to western training. (2) In 1938, he exhibited some of his works in Glasgow and London and then briefly became a secondary school teacher from 1938-1943 and taught at his alma mater the Government College, Umuahia and in Edo College, Benin.

In the early 1950s, he began giving a one man show or exhibit of his works at Howard University, Washington, New Weston Hotel, New York and the Vassar club in New York. He was aptly supported by many African American scholars during the period.

Some of his works includes a Sango figurine which was at the office of the National Electric Power Authority in Lagos, and works exploring the spiritual side of Igbo masquerades. More of his works can also be viewed on the Virtual Musuem of Modern Nigerian Art; [1] a virtual gallery powered by the Pan-African University, Nigeria.

In the mid 1950s, he was an adviser to the government and later retired to teach at the University of Ife and at Howard University, Washington.

References

  • (1)"Nigerian Artist: Benedict Chuka Enwonwu", Africa Special Report, 3 (1958)
  • (2)African Artists Shows His Work In London, Chicago Defender Oct 16, 1948 p.7