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An Uli Woman Painter’s Tale in the Igbo Heritage Crisis: The Life and Work of Eziafo Okaro

June 22, 2015 @ 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM


Speaker: Chuu Krydz Ikwuemesi

The over 200 ethnicities in Nigeria are known for their distinct cultures and heritages. For the Igbo of eastern Nigeria, their heritage cannot be fully discussed without a look at the almost extinct uli body and wall painting practiced by Igbo women. Uli is the Igbo name for the indigo dye obtained from several species of plants and used to draw cosmetically on the human body. It is also the name of the traditional mural painted by Igbo women with four simple colours. The decline of uli art in the postcolonial period is a reflection of the sorry state of cultural heritage in Igbo land and Nigeria in general. Yet the story of uli reflects the unsung contribution of women to social development in Igbo land and how this unique contribution has been devalued in the highly male-privileging art field of today. My work, therefore, focuses on the work of one uli woman painter, Eziafo Okaro, and highlights the trans-epochal qualities of her vision. The story of Eziafo Okaro provides a basis for discussing the need to preserve the self while appropriating the other and how the work of Igbo uli women classicists helped to reinforce and preserve Igbo identity.

Chuu Krydz Ikwuemesi, painter, art critic, ethno-aesthetician and cultural entrepreneur, has a BA (First Class Honours) in Fine and Applied Arts, an MFA in Painting and a PhD in Art History from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is the founder of the Pan-African Circle of Artists (PACA) and Emeritus President of The Art Republic (also known as Centre for Arts and Cultural Democracy), Enugu. He has participated in workshops and creative residencies and has directed Afrika Heritage (the PACA Biennale), Overcoming Maps (PACA Study Tour of Africa), and the Mmanwu Theatre in Enugu. Ikwuemesi has researched and published on aspects of Igbo arts and is presently engaged in a comparative study of Igbo and Ainu arts and cultures. In 2009 he researched Ainu arts and aesthetics as a Japan Foundation Fellow in Hokkaido. He is the editor of two major journals: The Art Republic and Letter from Afrika. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and was recently a Visiting Professor at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan. He is a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies African Humanities Program and a Senior Fellow of the IFRA (French Institutue for Research in Africa). He was recently a Coordinator of the Humanities Unit in the School of General Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is currently the coordinator of the Death Studies Association of Nigeria. A committed artist, he has held several solo and group exhibitions and published many articles on art in professional journals.

This event will take place at room 4429, Russel Square campus.

Contact email: cas@soas.ac.uk


SOAS, University of London
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