SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Oguibe, Oluchukwu Olu (1992) The paintings and prints of Uzo Egonu: 20th century Nigerian artist. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (34MB)


This work is as much about ways of looking at 20th century African art as it is a study of one artist and his work. The central thesis is that 20th century African art cannot be fully comprehended using deterministic frames and rigid categories. It begins by tracing the emergence of new art forms in Africa - Nigeria in particular - especially from the turn of the 19th century, a process underlined not by a capitulation to the cultural domination of colonialism but by a nationalist determination to undermine its ideological bases by disproving the artistic superiority of the white man. It then looks briefly at the life of Uzo Egonu, the Nigerian painter and printmaker whose work is the focus of the study. To set out a theoretical frame for studying the artist's art, the dissertation posits that a successful appreciation of 20th century African art is possible not by constructing and imposing grand narratives from outside, but by observing closely, systems of reading and appreciation within African societies. It then advances an alternative theory which ciraws from the Masquerade, a central topos in most African cultures as well as a complex interpretative system. Like the Masquerade, posits this theory, 20th century African art is mutative, fundamentally eclectic, and essentially transgressive, and any tool which ignores this is ineffectual. Also, because the work of art, like the Masquerade, operates on several different levels and defies the linear perspective, no interpretation is absolute. Because art is a masquerading act, reading must remain speculative and open. The work offers an appreciation of aspects of Egonu's oeuvre, tracing his development of a personal language, his strong sense of community, and the diversity of his production and concerns, demonstrating through these the poverty of current approaches to the study of 20th century African art.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:26

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item