By Sonia M. Wignall
In celebration of Nigeria’s extensive art culture, we begin our series with Nigerian Artists, Sanjo Lawal and Ibeabuchi Ananaba . These two mixed-medium artists represent the extraordinary level of work, and creativity that exemplifies “The Global Contemporary African Diaspora Renaissance”, and the specific contribution from the Nation of Nigeria.
In reviewing the contemporary art landscape in Nigeria, Sanjo Lawal is most definitely an artist who merits the attention of the art world. His work is densely rooted with African iconography and spirituality. The depth of his masterful work drew my interest with the intensity of his creativity which expresses a certain level of spiritual maturity beyond his young age of 25.
As a fine art photographer living and working in Lagos Nigeria, Lawal’s work is deeply influenced by his environment. Nigeria is inhabited by the largest demographic of diverse ethnic groups in Africa” with over 525 native languages spoken. His appreciation of Nigerian culture heightened his curiosity to experience continually and to explore the vast nuance of cultural differences of the Nigerian people.
His particular artistic style and use of hues and high contrasting colors, came from his incorporation of his mother’s keen sensibility of colors which was reflected in the fabrics she wore and the flowers she cultivated in her garden. This influence can be seen in the new and recycled materials he uses in combination with his photography to create a raw realism that commands attention to his innovative craft, spirituality and structure.
Since 2014, Sanjo has been capturing and documenting scenes from his environment using his apple phone. His exploration and discovery of art started with scribbling and drawing/illustrating on paper. This led to his artistic journey in photography and developed his passion and creativity for the art. For Lawal, every color has a central detail and there is a story in every photograph. His daily life and activity creates additional inspiration, which allows him to mix paint colors with photography masterfully.
Mix media and installation artist Ibeabuchi Ananaba , is an established Nigerian art master at “mixing it up”.
His artistic style is impressionistic, colorful, urban, bold and persuasive. His work reminds me of the soulful and creative energy of “The Harlem Renaissance” and the powerful diversity of art performances that came from the “Apollo Theater” in New York.
Ibe brings the root of his Nigerian culture and ancestry to bear poetically into the modern atmosphere of his work with “a deep and soulful” expressive essence.
In looking at his work one can feel the rhythm, blues, and jazz tones of music rising in each of his pieces and feel the slow sensual rhythm of his iconic style. His creative mastery allows his work to breathe and to rise to a high level of spiritual and meditative consciousness.
The depth of his creativity is on full display. He is an absolute master in the infusion of rhythm, soul, root and sensuality in the creation of Contemporary African Diaspora Art. The creativity of his installation work is a masterpiece, moving the viewer’s curiosity from inside to the outside of the installation. In the long run, Ibe’s work represents a rare, magnificent, and imaginative energy.
As part of the “Smithsonian Library Collection”, his mastery of mix-mediums and his unlimited spear of creativity has distinguished Ibeaubuchi Ananaba as an important contemporary artist coming out of the Nigerian Diaspora.
By: Sonia M. Wignall
****Image used with full permission of Ludlow E. Bailey