Uche Edochie and Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo: Hybrid
First impressions of the domestic Nigerian art scene seem to indicate that much of the work produced and exhibited is, within an international context, deeply conservative. This widely located artistic conservatism relates not only to the artists' choice of materials, but also to the artists' choice of subject matter. Market scenes, landscapes - both urban and rural - traditional dancers and musicians and horsemen. In gallery after gallery, such things appear as the subject matter of choice for many of the country's artists. Of course, artists should always be free to depict or visually concern themselves with whatever takes their artistic or aesthetic fancy. But the examples of subject matter mentioned above are often located within singularly ahistorical (and therefore troublingly depoliticised) contexts. Market scenes offering no hint of modernity, let alone post-modernity, landscapes that indicate nothing of the contemporary realities of the country, traditional views of musicians that show nothing of the influences of international music forms such as jazz on Nigeria contemporary music. It is almost as if many of Nigeria's artists want to present a comforting, unchallenging and unashamedly nostalgic view of their country and its culture. There should of course be ample room for such art - especially if such work has both an audience and a market.
The problem exists when such work becomes almost the only thing that the casual gallery visitor within Nigeria gets to see. For those who would wish to see debates about identity, history, gender, social stratification etc., reflected in contemporary art within Nigeria, the apparently conservative nature of much of the work visible to the public can be both disappointing and frustrating. Perhaps it is the apparently rather limited nature of much of the art produced in Nigeria that has led to the creation of what looks to be a curious situation in which Nigeria tends to be represented within international exhibitions by artists of Nigerian background who live and work beyond the country - such artists tending to be seen as being more challenging, or innovative or contemporary than many of their Nigerian-based counterparts. Of course, such representation is not always direct or straightforward, but one senses that it is artists such as the London-born, London-based Yinka Shonibare, who, as far as the international art world is concerned, are frequently perceived as representing Nigeria of Africa (rather than Britain or Europe) within the world's biennales and other major international exhibitions.
The above extract is from "Introduction" to the catalogue for Uche Edochie and Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo: Hybrid - Mixed Media Paintings, Multi Media Installations, Drawings, held at Galeria Romana, Lagos, 21 October 2000 - 21 March 2001, pp.2-3