Ben Enwonwu

Ben Enwonwu MBE was born in Umuese-Aroli, Onitisha, Nigeria in 1917.  He studied at Goldsmith College, London in 1944, attended Ruskin College, Oxford, from 1944 to 1946, before graduating with a First from the Slade School of Fine Arts in 1948. A leading figure in African modernism, Enwonwu was instrumental in defining a new visual language for Nigerian art, which was both culturally relevant and modern. This new aesthetic drew upon Enwonwu's Igbo heritage and his British art academic training.

 

Enwonwu was the first African artist commissioned to sculpt a bronze portrait of Queen Elizabeth II - the artwork received international acclaim when presented to the Royal Society of British Artists.  Other major works by Enwonwu include 'Anyanwu' - his sculpture of the Igbo sun god and The Drummer Boy.

 

Known primarily as a sculptor and painter, Enwonwu was also a prolific writer and art critic who was widely published during his lifetime. During his career, Enwonwu worked as an advisor to the Nigerian government and took teaching posts at Howard University, Washington, DC and at the University of Ife, Nigeria.

 

Ben Enwonwu was awarded an MBE in 1955 by Queen Elizabeth II, and received the National Order of Merit by the Nigerian government for contributions to art and culture in 1980. Ben Enwonwu died in Lagos, Nigeria in 1994.