Bruce Onobrakpeya


Bruce Onobrakpeya was born in Agbarha-Otor in Delta State, son of an Urhobo carver. He was raised as a Christian, but also learned the traditional beliefs. His family moved to Benin City when he was a child. He attended Western boys High School, where he was taught art by Edward Ivehivboje, among other subjects.
He also attended drawing classes at the British Council Art Club in Benin City. He was inspired by the watercolour paintings of Emmanuel Erabor. After leaving High school, he was hired as an art teacher at the Western Boys High School (1953–1956). In 1956 he left for Ondo, where he taught at the Ondo Boys High School for a year.
In October 1957 he was admitted to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, now the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Funded by a Federal Government Scholarship, Onobrakpeya was trained in the Western tradition of representational art. At the same time, he began to experiment with forms in relation to Nigerian folklore, myths and legends. Much of his work uses stylistic elements and compositions derived from traditional African sculpture and decorative arts.
The Zaria Arts Society, later called the Zaria Rebels, was formed on 9 October 1958 by a group of art students at the college led by Uche Okeke with the aim of “decolonizing” the visual arts as taught by expatriate Europeans. Onobrakpeya has said that the college gave him technical skills but the Zaria Arts Society, a discussion group, shaped his perspectives as a professional artist. The society gave him the confidence to seek a personal expressive idiom. He elongated his figures, ignored perspective and evoked the supernatural through ambiguous decorations.
He later attended a series of printmaking workshops in Ibadan, Oshogbo, Ife and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Maine, USA. His first one-man exhibition was held in 1959 in Ughelli in the Niger Delta. Later he exhibited in the USA, Italy, Zimbabwe, Germany, Britain, Kenya and elsewhere. Onobrakpeya was an important force in the renaissance in contemporary art in Nigeria. For many years he taught at St. Gregory’s College, Lagos.
He created the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation, of which he is President, and which organizes the annual Harmattan workshop in his home town of Agbara Otor, Delta State. The foundation is an artist-led Non-Governmental Organization formed in 1999. It aims to encourage the growth of art and culture by giving artists opportunities to gain skills, while increasing public awareness of African art and its benefits to society. The foundation organized the Amos Tutuola Show, Lagos (2000). It has participated in many other shows. ( thepointernewsonline )










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