Prof Uche Okeke, Master artist and father of Nigerian modernism, would have turned 86 this year, had he not passed away on January 5, 2016.
Ugoma Adegoke led Bloom Arts, in collaboration with the Asele Institute and Iwalewa Books, gathered artists and thinkers, art collectors and enthusiasts, as well as writers and creative people of various stripes to celebrate the master artist at the well-appointed Bloom Art Studios in Victoria Island, Lagos.
The event witnessed the public presentation of a re-published edition of Uche Okeke’s seminal book, Art in Development – A Nigerian Perspective. It was first published in 1982 by the Asele Archives.
Toni Kan, who reviewed the book, provided insights from the book, while Victor Ehikhamenor and Chinwe Uwatse, both of them visual artists, shared memories of their encounters with the master artist.
Ugoma Adegoke declared open a small exhibition of limited edition prints by Uche Okeke, which she curated. They were mostly drawings featuring in his 1971 book, Tales of Land of Death: Igbo Folktales.” The ongoing exhibition, which started running on April 30, will end on May 19, 2019.
A poet, painter, artist, theorist, teacher and prophet, Okeke was a leading light of the Zaria Art Society and a tireless advocate for a new aesthetic paradigm especially in the post-colonial era. His theory of “Natural Synthesis” was a guiding principle and he appropriated Asele, the mythical Uli artist as his “patron saint” with the earth goddess, Ana, as fountain and creative forge. His practice was influenced by his Igbo tradition which also informed his ethno-aesthetics.