|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.