|dele jegede, Abuja, 2009. Copyright dele jegede
This past weekend a conference (with a keynote by my friend Salah M. Hassan) and book presentation took place at the University of Texas, Austin, organized by the indefatigable and influential historian and scholar Toyin Falola. Though I really hoped to participate in the events, other commitments made it impossible for me to go pay homage to a man who has been, for many years, among the leading lights of the Nigerian art world, and an important voice of that country's conscience. He, in this sense, occupies--along with Gani Odutokun (1947-1995) and Obiora Udechukwu--a special place in the annals of Nigerian art: Artists who with nothing but their palette/shield and brush/sword assailed the sordid beast that was military dictatorship and its small-minded but fat minions at a time their contemporaries--artists and intellectuals alike--looked the other way, enthralled by the spectacular violence of the regime.
|Obiora Udechukwu, Tycoon and Stevedores, 1980. Copyright Obiora Udechukwu
|Gani Odutokun, King, Queen and the Republic, 1987. Copyright Estate of Gani Odutokun
The history of art in Nigeria during those dark has yet to be written (it soon will!), but in the meantime, I want to thank Toyin Falola for making possible this occasion, this festival in honor of a most deserving man and artist. I have not seen the festschrift published in honor of jegede, but I hope that among the many essays therein a few at least will provide critical examination of an artistic life so rich and eventful, as well as reliable and compelling accounts of a man so prodigiously endowed with the power of creativity and a deep sense of what it means to be human.